Job Postings: How to Read Between the Lines and Beat the Odds

job postingFinding a suitable job posting online is tough. Getting called to come in for an interview is even tougher.

You sift through the daily job ads, searching for jobs you should apply for. When you finally find a job that seems right, you feel pressured to apply quickly so you don’t miss out on the opportunity. You attach your standard resume, hit send, and wait… and wait… and wait.  This can be frustrating and discouraging, but what can you do about it?

I’ve got an answer, but you probably won’t like it… analyze the job posting! That’s right… learn how to read between the lines and beat the odds.

How long do you spend reviewing a job posting to determine if you are qualified and interested in the job and company? Probably not long enough. 44% of job seekers said they spent between one and five minutes reviewing a job posting according to TheLadders study.

In reality, the eye-tracking study found the time spent looking at a job posting was only 49.2 – 76.7 seconds.

Most job postings are broken into several sections:

  • A general overview or summary of the company and the role
  • A key responsibilities section, listing job duties
  • A qualifications section, which includes educational requirements, certifications, years of experience and other skills.

To get ahead, you must take the time necessary to dissect the job posting to verify it’s worth applying for the position… and to determine if you are really qualified.

Job Titles Can Be Misleading

Skim through the entire job posting and pay attention to the years of experience the position requires. Years of experience usually equates to the level of position. One to three years is usually considered entry level. Four to nine years is mid-level. Over 10 years usually indicates a senior level position. This should also help you determine if you’re under-qualified or over-qualified. Applying for a job you are over-qualified for is just as bad as applying for a job you are under-qualified for.

Understand If You Are a “Fit”

Usually listed at the top of the posting you’ll learn about the company and get basic information about the role. This helps you determine if it’s the type of job and company you might be interested in working for. While you may not read this section first, definitely go back and read it if the posting seems interesting.

Check The Job Duties

Review each job responsibility and highlight the things you have already done and want to continue to doing. You do NOT need experience doing everything the job ad is asking for. You do need to have over 60%. Take the time to underline or highlight the things you’ve done to help you assess how well you match. This also helps you modify your resume to address each requirement you meet. Yes, you need to modify your resume for every job you apply to!

Do You Meet the Requirements?

You will see educational requirements, general skills and experience in this section. Some requirements will be critical or non-negotiable to the employer. And some may be flexible. But you won’t know the answer unless you speak with the hiring manager.

That is to say, not all requirements are required!

Also note if the requirements ask for industry or job specific experience or whether relevant experience is acceptable.

Identify any requirements you’re missing. Then write a reason how other skills or experience compensate for those you lack. You may choose to use these answers in your cover letter. If you’re lucky enough to get an interview, you will need to provide these answers then.

Accentuate Less-Common Skills

Many applicants will be tossing their hat into the ring for the same jobs you are interested in. You want to meet the requirements. You must also add information that will knock the employer’s socks off. Or at least get them to notice you. Is there a technology listed as optional that you possess? Be sure to include these rare skills on your resume. And call attention to them in you cover letter. Specifically, explain why those skills will be valuable to your future employer.

Reading Between the Lines of a Job Posting

You may notice some job descriptions sound very generic. The lack of specifics shouldn’t hurt your chances of hitting the mark.

For example: a business analyst job description might state that the candidate must possess “excellent communication skills.” What does this really mean? It means the job will require you to compile your research and analysis into a written summary. Rather than generically listing “communication skills” on your resume, use the words “report writing” or “written analysis” in your summary. And in your experience section, write a that is an actual example of a time you produced a written summary:

“Conducted industry research and wrote executive summary used to present analysis to senior leadership. Led to entry into new consumer market worth potentially $5 Million in revenue.”

Research the Company

Once you decide the job is interesting, investigate the company’s products and/or services. Specifically, know who their customers are and read testimonials. You want to do your due-diligence on the company before you apply. Ask your network about the organization. Then look for articles written about them. Check out Glassdoor for employee reviews. Discover news about products, services or industry focus that matches your background, then include that in your resume. In other words, find intelligence that will enable you to convey how you are a match for the role.

Showing You’re A Match

Researching the role and company helps you customize your resume and cover letter. Your resume must prove you have the specific experience and skills requested. So revise your resume to include as many of the job responsibilities as possible. And use your cover letter to show the reader that you are qualified and well-versed on the company.

Take the time to fully analyze every job posting. So put in the work. Read between the lines. Then beat the odds!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Career Sherpa.


Career Sherpa


Hannah Morgan hiring prosAbout the Author: Hannah Morgan is a career sherpa, guiding new job seekers through the treacherous terrain of job search. If you are looking for no-nonsense advice, check out her site Career Sherpa. And follow Hannah on Twitter for the latest job search news and trends!



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