JOB SEARCH TIPS
UPDATED ON 12/24/2021
No two job descriptions completely read the same, so it might actually pay off for us to read them the right way.
Whether we search for openings on company websites, on Indeed, or in our inboxes, all job descriptions have one thing in common.
They come in all sizes and shapes.
Some feel just right. Some have grammatical and/or spelling errors. Some have parts that are copy-and-pasted from another description.
In other words, society accepts one standard for job descriptions and expects another for resumes. A double standard.
As job seekers, we are advised — sometimes ordered — to write resumes that are smooth to read without a single typo just to get someone to look at them; yet, no one holds job description writers to the same rules.
I, personally, have read descriptions in which critical keywords are misspelled. Does that mean I should misspell it on my resume just to pass ATS?
I also applied to one in which the word, “accounting” appeared three times. However, when I asked the hiring manager about it during the interview, she said the role did not involve any accounting whatsoever. Guess how eager I was to work for her.
While job candidates spend hours creating and tailoring the perfect resumes to match the job descriptions, many hiring managers and recruiters do not do the same for job descriptions.
We cannot blame them for this. Who wants to write a job description when they may have more pressing responsibilities on their plate?
And we should not criticize ourselves for having that same attitude toward our resumes either.
Nevertheless, just like in dating and relationships, we cannot control what others do. The only thing we can control is what we do, and if our goal is to gain employment, then we need to pass through the gates first with our resumes.
To do that, we still need to read job descriptions.
How to Read a Job Description
First thing’s first.
Read job descriptions carefully.
I know, I know. Job descriptions are “fun” to read.
Honestly, I can say the same about resumes.
That said, however badly a job description may be written, it still tells us what the job will entail, so we better read it.
Ok, now, let’s break the description into its three usual sections: About Company, Responsibilities, and Qualifications.
I read the sections backwards.
Go here first.
Because it is usually written as a bullet point list, making it the easiest and quickest to read.
Highlight all the keywords under this section; in particular, primary relevant experience and tools that are expected of us, the candidates.
Now, just because we are noting all the keywords and requirements in this section, it does not mean we have to satisfy all of them.
In fact, a lot of the bullet points at the bottom of the list are fluff since these show up on every description I have ever read, especially very long lists.
If we feel fairly good about the qualifications, then let’s move on to the Responsibilities section.
Early on, I skimmed this section, believing all I needed was to fulfill the qualifications.
Boy, was I wrong.
Of the three sections, Responsibilities represents the most important.
This is where we find out what the job actually entails — to the best of the writer’s knowledge.
Like with Qualifications, highlight all the keywords, but with special attention.
Moreover, make sure to ask these questions:
- Do these responsibilities sound interesting to me?
- Can I actually meet half the requirements?
- Overall, how would this position be a stepping stone to my ultimate career goal?
- For responsibilities that I do not know, can I learn to do these things in a timely manner?
- For responsibilities that I do know but have not done yet, do I have any transferable skills that would serve them well, perhaps in an unexpected fashion?
Being more mindful of this section benefits us in two ways.
One, as illustrated in my “accounting” incident, it allows us to ask hiring managers more specific questions during the interview.
Two, sometimes the title may be inappropriate for the role. For instance, I once read a job description that wanted an interior designer. However, the Responsibilities section fit a project manager better.
Whichever the case, this section allows us to learn the inner workings of the company or department at any stage in the job search process. If what is written differs from what is said, then we must question whether the hiring entity really know its stuff and, at which point, whether we really want to work there.
If you still want to be considered for the position, then write a resume that fits the Responsibilities even more than the Qualifications. Doing so says, “I know I can do this job better than anybody else. Here’s why.”
I usually skim the About section to see if it is a company I would be willing to join.
The one time that I might size this section up more is when I have to write a cover letter.
The About section provides an introduction to the company, and it may or may not contain something beneficial to note for the cover letter. It may also simplify our efforts when researching the company online or elsewhere.
And as most of us already know, we want to show that we have researched the company on the cover letter so that we indicate our interest in it.
Job descriptions are exhausting, and when we are looking for new opportunity, we have to read a lot of them.
Recruiters can say the same thing about resumes.
Nonetheless, regardless of how intently a recruiter or a hiring manager would read our resumes, we have an obligation to optimize things on our end so that we at least place ourselves at the top of the pile and make an effort to connect intellectually — and emotionally — with them.
And we all know, one of the most important components in communication is active listening, so we better listen to the job description.
Are you reading job descriptions in a new light? Please do tell.