Decoding job descriptions to effectively use in your job hunt!

Updated: One month ago
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Have you been applying for jobs lately?

If so, you may have noted that most job postings or job descriptions look similar. Identical roles from different companies have more or less the same language being used to explain the job and the organisations’ expectations from a candidate.

So, is it important to closely examine a job description? Is it going to help in your job search?

The definite answer is a yes!

A job description (JD) elaborates the job details, candidate requirements and specifics regarding the application process. Utilised effectively, it can serve as crucial information for aspirants to customise their application and prepare themselves for the hiring process.

What does a JD actually contain?

  • Position title - the designation, usually flexible depending on work experience and other factors.

  • Employment type - is the job full-time, part-time, freelance or an internship? In case of a part-time/freelance assignment, it may even mention if and when the position will become permanent/full-time.

  • Job location - is the posting is located in office, operating remotely or a mix of both (hybrid)?

  • Job summary - overview and primary objectives of the role.

  • Job responsibilities - often mentioned as a bulleted-list indicating the daily, weekly, monthly and activities that the person in the role will regularly perform.

  • Job requirements - work experience, educational qualifications, certifications, credentials, skills.

  • Preferred/additional qualifications - a nice-to-have, not a mandatory requirement.

  • Application instructions - documents needed, hiring process that will be followed.

  • Company name/description - founded, type of business, growth, culture etc.

Points to pay attention to while going through a JD

Treat the job description like you’d read a comprehension - skim through all the way then do a thorough analysis. Read more than once and read between the lines.

Decode the JD in these 4 ways to understand not only what the company desires but who they want:

1.   Focus on what’s most important for the job

Qualifications and skills are often listed in the order of importance, so concentrate more on what’s mentioned at the top of the list.

Repetitions of words/phrases offer another clue for securing and thriving in a role, the more a particular skill/qualification appears in a JD, it’s that critical for the job.

2.   Know what’s required and what’s just desired

Watch out for the mandatory requirements indicated as “required”, “must-have”, “do not apply if”. These are non-negotiable conditions for the position.

Similarly, items mentioned as “preferred”, “added advantage”, “desired” are extras, having them is just a plus and optional to the role.

3.   Get hints about the company’s culture

The tone of a JD and manner in which the company talks about itself can provide valuable inputs about the working environment and organisational values.

If there’s extensive information about diversity and inclusion, expect the company to take these issues seriously. Use of conversational language, exclamation marks, narratives of team-building events reveal that they lay emphasis on employee morale.

4.   Look for keywords you can use later

Companies use certain words frequently to describe the position/person. Terms like business development, team management, revenue generation are essential requirements for say a marketing manager’s position. Employ these while tailoring your résumé/covering letter.

Be mindful of vague statements like, opportunities to grow, results-driven, dynamic individual etc. Instead of these jargons, express your achievements as demonstrable, measurable outcomes.

How to use the JD effectively in every phase of your job search?

Once you’ve gathered requisite information from the JD, utilise it to help you in every stage of your job search.

  • Decide if you are going to apply

If you think you possess the mandatory requirements for the job, go ahead and apply. However, don’t waste valuable time and energy in the process if you are not a match to begin with.

  • Customise your application material/s

Personalise your résumé and covering letter for every application. Highlight specific words/phrases/qualities in the résumé; cite evidence of skills and articulate your accomplishments in the covering letter.

Doing this grants you a formidable position amongst the hordes of applicants.

  • Prepare for your interview

You are shortlisted for the interview, great! Still, continue to look at the JD to prep yourself for this round. Get ready to stress on your strengths that make you a right fit for the job, recount examples of relevant experiences and be precise about the value-add you bring to the company.

Bottom line: decoding the JD offers multiple insights into the company/job. Used effectively, it can become a vital link to prepare you in your job quest, while giving that decisive edge.

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