A job description, sometimes also called a job ad or job advertisement is nothing more than a preview of the job opportunity at the specific company. If you’re actively searching for a job it can get very time consuming if you have to go through tens of job position descriptions on a daily basis. Of course, this is frustrating and they can be very tough to get through, and depending on your skills and job needs, a lot of work for possibly little return if the job is not what you’re looking for. Your goal should be to use your valuable time as efficiently as possible and select the opportunities that are worth pursuing.
Depending on the company, and sometimes even the industry and complexity of the position, some job descriptions are longer and more in-depth than others. Regardless of the size of the job description, it is essential that you know how to efficiently go through it, and how to analyze it carefully before applying to a job. So how do you read a job description and how do you analyze one to boost your job search? Read all about it in this blog that you can use as a guide to efficiently read job descriptions.
What is a job description exactly?
Sure, you know what a job description is; it’s a description of a job at a certain company that you can apply for. That’s true, but the definition of the words job description is a bit more elaborate. A job description is a written statement put together by a company that explains an open position. Just like any other descriptions; there are good job descriptions and bad ones.
Good job descriptions include information about the company, job duties, required educational level, work experience, and skills. The duties to be performed by the employee, its purpose, and the scope of the work to be completed are usually included. Sometimes, the person who the employee will report to is also mentioned in the description, together with the working conditions of the job.
How to find important information
The job title is the start of your research on the job description. Make sure you fully understand the title of the job that is being advertised.
The introduction section is usually the part where information is given about the company that has the job vacancy. This part should form the basis for the questions that you can ask during the job interview. When researching the job description there are a couple of things that you should pay attention to:
The company name
The company name is always an important section of the job advertisement. Once you know the company that has a vacant position you can start your research by visiting the company website. There you will find more information on their company structure, goals, mission and values.
The company history
Some job descriptions include information about their history and when they were established. Read through it and look up the company website to get some more information on where the company started, where they are now and their future plans.
The company achievements
Sometimes achievements are mentioned in the job description as well. usually, these are recent achievements that could help attract the best and most ambitious job applicants. Achievements will give you a clearer image of the standards that the company has set in recent years.
In this part, the general tasks, related duties, and responsibilities of the specific positions are discussed. You should be familiar with key responsibilities but it’s possible that you do not have experience with all the things mentioned. Research the duties part and make sure you have a clear understanding of the majority of them.
In some cases, the job description also specifies the functionary to whom the job position will report to.
The requirements mentioned in a job description might include educational level/qualifications, years of experience and/or industry knowledge. You can use these requirements to your advantage in your cover letter. In your cover letter, you can discuss how you match the requirements and why they should invite you for an interview.
Skills and abilities
Usually includes a list of hard and soft skills. In this part of the job description, your required (technical) skills for the role are discussed.
When reading through and decoding the skills and abilities section it is important to understand that it’s possible that you do not possess all the skills and abilities just yet. Use this to your advantage and prepare to answer questions on how you plan to achieve them.
Usually, the job application process is pretty straightforward. This section of the job description contains on how you are supposed to apply for the job.
Also, the requirement in terms of what you should send with your job application letters, such as a curriculum vitae, cover letter, and academic documents, are discussed here.
Study this section carefully to ensure that you send the right documents to go with your application letter and that these documents are up to date.
There are jobs that have special instructions regarding the application process. If there are any special instructions for job candidates in order to apply for the position they are mentioned here.
Always look for the set job application deadline. Most of the time an application deadline is definite and cannot be changed. Therefore, make sure that you follow the deadline and apply before that specific date passes.
Some job descriptions provide a salary range and some don’t. What’s the reason behind this?
A salary range gives you as a candidate some insights on what to expect. Depending on your experience and skills you bring to the position you can figure out if you will be on the lower or higher end of the provided range.
A common strategy that hiring companies use is advertising a lower salary. They do this to attract candidates who have a sincere interest in the position and are not just looking for the highest salary in the market. Companies hope that by doing so that candidates will apply who are more concerned with being happy at a company instead of making the most money.
Other companies post a salary range because they believe it’s necessary because they think qualified candidates will not apply without having some sort of indication on salary.
Another strategy is not posting a salary or a range at all. This way the company is free to offer what they feel is most appropriate in that position. In addition, this strategy gives companies the upper hand in salary negotiations. It allows them to offer the right candidate for the position more than they would be prepared to offer a candidate with less experience.
Tips how to read and act on a job description
Thoroughly read through the job duties
A catchy job title might catch your eye, but it’s important to look further than just the job title. Employers use creative titles to get your attention, which is the equivalent of click-bait you find on the internet.
Make sure that you read through the specific job duties to get a clear idea of what’s expected from you. For instance, if you’re applying for a management-level position but in the job duties no appropriate responsibility range is determined, the job advertisement might be misleading. The same goes for an entry-level position where specific experience is required or excessive accountability is allocated in that role. The duties described in the job description should be interesting to you, match your skills and abilities and need to be consistent with the level of the position and title.
It’s good to understand that you should not just turn down a job because the description is a bit too flashy for you. You need to figure out what your career goals are and in which position you can achieve those goals. Get acquainted with reading and analyzing job advertisements by just going through them and reading what the job duties are. With a little experience, you will be able to pick out the job positions that are most likely a good fit for you, regardless of how shiny the ad may look.
Check for keywords and hidden questions
As soon as you get some experience with analyzing job descriptions you will see red flags quicker too. There are a few things you should check for in order to save yourself valuable time and effort. By quick scanning the job description you will be able to determine quickly if the job is something for you, or not.
Firstly, look at the level of detail and if the description of the position is clearly described. Companies who are experienced with writing well thought out job descriptions will always tell you in the text what your day to day responsibilities will be and how your performance will be judged. In addition, the skills and qualifications you need to succeed in the job are mentioned. Basically, a well-written job description will not leave you with any questions about the basic requirements for the position. In case there are still any unclarities for you or if any details are missing, don’t hesitate to contact the hiring manager or the human resources specialist to get more information
Look at what’s expected from the employee in the job position that the description regards. Sometimes there can be contradicting information in job descriptions. For instance, if the position calls for an entry-level candidate with several years of experience in a specific field, the contradiction is pretty clear. A job candidate cannot be entry-level in his career with an expert level of experience in that specific field too. In such a case you should be cautious about two things. Firstly, either the hiring managers in the company do not exactly know what they want. Secondly, the company is hoping to find someone who has less experience than an actual expert and expect him to perform at an expert level for an entry-level salary. Both are not good starting points so approach with caution.
Every job description has a list of requirements that you, as a candidate, should understand before you apply for the job. If the mentioned requirements look more like an unrealistic wishlist than achievable and realistic credentials, this might be a red flag.
What you should gain from the require credentials part is that you get to understand what qualifications are relevant. Also, you should understand how success is defined in the role that you’re applying for. This will help you gain more understanding of performance requirements based on which you can ask questions during the job interview.
If the description is not clear you can always ask your contact person at the company or recruiter, but it might also be an indication that the hiring manager does not fully know what qualifications actually matter and define the success in the particular role. Good job descriptions usually have three or four bullet points that capture the essence of the position.
Determine how close of a match you are
Try to capture the essence of the role that you’re reading the description of. You can ask yourself a couple of questions to determine how close of a match you are to the job, being:
Can I develop my career at this company?
This is a key question to ask yourself because you should avoid being stuck in one position for too long. Determine what your options are and figure out where you can go and grow from the position that you’re applying for. Make sure you get to understand the team structure and where the position fits within the organization. If the job description does not describe the room to grow you should ask about this if you get to the interview stage of the application process.
Will this job fulfill my passions?
Just like the company is looking for an ideal candidate, you should ask yourself similar questions to see if the company offers what makes you happy and if the job is satisfying. It’s the company as a whole that affects your passion for a career there, not just the job position. Go to the company website and see how the job duties line up with the company statement. What are the company goals? Where is the company heading?
Do my skills meet the requirements?
What are the specific job requirements and what skills are asked? Do you possess these skills already or do you have to develop them further in the future? A job description is not a ‘black and white’ list of requirements, there is always a bit of wiggle room when you apply to the job. This means that if, for instance, the job description requires a certain range of years of experience you can creatively approach this. Besides your work experience, think of your volunteer work, education experience, and skills you acquired during previous jobs. Once you feel that you are qualified enough to apply for the job, go for it.
Will I fit into the company culture?
The best to figure this out is to create a list of what you’re looking for in a job and employer. Do your values and behaviors align with those of the organization? Do your qualifications, and ethics align with the priorities of the organization? For instance, if you prefer to work alone on projects you will probably not excel in a workplace that values teamwork and collaboration, and vice versa. Also, if you’re a person that requires guidance and direction you might not be the person to work for a fast-paced startup where you’re expected to take initiative and be a self-starter. This is something that only you can figure out and make your decision on.
Is the salary worth this career move?
Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with taking a drop in pay if the career move advances your career in the long run. However, this has to be thought through thoroughly and you need to decide what amount you’re willing to sacrifice. If the mentioned salary range is not up to your requirements you should not rule the job out immediately. A lot of companies are willing to negotiate on salary if they feel that you’re the perfect candidate for the position.
Refer to the description in your cover letter
To demonstrate that you understand the job requirements it’s always a good idea to use the job description in your cover letter. Employers want to know if you carefully read the job description and would like to see that you understand what the job you’re applying for entails.
Therefore, use some of the descriptions, put them into your own words, and say how your skills match to the job position. For instance, if one of the job duties is organizing events, you could discuss a particularly successful event that you organized at a previous job. By using the job description in your cover letter you show the hiring manager that you spent some time thinking about the job opening and that you understand how your skills match the job description.
Common Job Interview Questions & Answers
Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!
- Career Change
- Career Goals
- Conflict Resolution
- Creative Thinking
- Cultural Fit
- Customer Service
- Growth Potential
- Honesty & Integrity
- Job Satisfaction
- Entry-Level & No experience
- Prioritization & Time Management
- Situational & Scenario-based
- Stress Management
- Telephone Interview
- Work Ethic