Sometimes it feels like reading a job description is like trying to decipher a code. No matter how long you look at it, it still doesn’t make much sense. From epic wish lists of skill sets that no one person could ever encompass, to posts so brief and nondescript that it’s hard to tell it’s whether it’s an actual job at all, job boards are often confusing and discouraging.
Before you throw up your hands and resign yourself, follow these tried and true methods
Before you throw up your hands and resign yourself to sending out resumes on blind faith, take a deep breath and step back.
Follow these tried and true methods to help you dig below the surface requirements and hone in on what the role is really about.
Or, what we stand for/ pride ourselves on as a company
We know this sounds counter-intuitive, but you should actually read the “About Us” or “Overview” section. This can offer great insight into the things a company prides itself on, which you can use to your advantage. It may be generated by a PR team miles away from the role you’re applying for, but it does offer insight into how each company views itself and may provide some key tidbits to mention in your cover letter.
Do they tout how long they’ve been in business? Play up the fact that you’re excited by the opportunity to join a well-respected and venerable company. Do they mention a recent merger? Talk about how excited you are to potentially join a company on the cusp of some big changes. It might sound hokey, but one of the best ways to stand out from the pack is to show you’ve done your homework. Most people don’t.
Otherwise known as “The Wish List”
More often than not, these are long lists of skills that would be miraculous in any one person. It’s truly rare that one person would have all of these (the term we use for someone that has every single skill listed on a job description is “unicorn”). So, while you should pay attention to the responsibilities listed and use them as a guide for your application, don’t stress if you don’t check every single box. If you match most of the criteria, send your information over. The worst that can happen is that you’ll wind up on file for a future gig.
These are actually important
There are usually a list of skills that each candidate must have, and they often range from the mundane (“leadership skills,” “highly organized”) to the critical (“must know Omniture,” “will use Ruby daily”). If there’s a specific program or experience that is vital to success in a role, this is where it will be. So if you have what they’re looking for, scream it from the rooftops. Do whatever it takes to get the point across, including calling it out in your cover letter. If you don’t have some of the necessary skills, you can apply anyway as long as you can make a case for being able to work around it.
Everything that’s in a job posting is there for a reason, and every item should give you a clue about improving your chances of getting an interview. Don’t skim them to make sure you tick most of the boxes. Actually read them and consider the impetus behind each section. This insight will help you make your application more competitive, and you can make sure your application materials speak directly to the needs listed in each job posting.
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