How to Read a Job Description

ID-100111821Looking for a job is a challenging and competitive process.  To stand out, you need to make use of every tool at your disposal.  When used effectively, the job description can be a valuable source of information.  Here are some tips to help you use the job description to present yourself as the best possible candidate:

Review the requirements.  To be competitive in this job market, you should have most, if not all, of the requirements for the positions that you are applying for.  You might be able to get away with missing one or two of the lower priority items or anything that is listed as an asset.  Make sure that you highlight all of the requirements that you do possess prominently in both your resume and your cover letter.

Look at the responsibilities.  There may be things listed in the responsibilities that you haven’t done or that you don’t even understand.  Don’t let that scare you.  Decide if the position looks like something that you could do (and would want to do).  If you have done any of these tasks in previous positions, be sure to highlight it on your resume.

Identify any requests. Employers are often quite specific about how they want to receive applications.  They may request that you download your resume through their online application system or they may ask you to include a reference number or salary expectations in your cover letter.  It is important that you follow these directions because it makes it more likely that the employer will see your resume and it also shows that you have read the job description.

Pay attention to the details.  Before submitting an application, review the details  of the job, such as the days and hours that you will be expected to work, working conditions, location, working hours, and salary.  Usually the employers mean what they say, so if there are any deal breakers here, don’t apply.

Everything else.  Most job descriptions will include a lot of information about the company and about the soft skills that are required for the job.  While some people view this stuff as ‘fluff’, there is valuable information here.  The company information can tell you about the organization’s values and where it is headed.  The soft skills that are listed can give you a clue about what it would be like to work in that organization.  For example, if they are looking for a ‘team player’ then it probably means that you would be required to work and compromise quite a bit with your coworkers.  If they are looking for someone who is ‘customer focused’, then it is likely a position where the customers will be placing a lot of demands on you.  The key is to learn to read between the lines.


(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Basketman at


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