The job description is often your first introduction to a potential employer when job hunting, and it’s your window into what they’re seeking in an ideal candidate. Mastering the art of decoding job descriptions can be a game-changer! It enables you to fine-tune your resume and cover letter so that they align perfectly with the employer’s expectations and needs.
Let’s unravel these descriptions, reveal hidden insights, and uncover what employers genuinely desire in their ideal candidates.
Don’t Just Skim and Apply Right Away
Have you ever wondered why your inbox remains silent despite the barrage of job applications you’ve sent? Well, that could happen if you’re focusing on quantity over quality.
Endlessly scrolling through job postings without any feedback or sign of an interview offer can be disheartening. It’s tempting to go for the quick and easy solution, sending out the same cookie-cutter application to every opportunity that comes your way. However, sending out generic applications is a common mistake that can seriously impact your chances of landing your dream job.
According to Zippia, 63 percent of recruiters prefer receiving resumes tailored to the specific job they’re offering, and 61 percent of hiring managers rate a customized resume as the number one strategy applicants could utilize to increase their chances.¹ Yet, 36 percent of applicants are still using generic resumes, playing the copy-paste game, and submitting the same application for every job.
Every job listing has a unique mix of requirements, qualifications, and expectations. If you truly want to shine in a crowded field, you’ve got to customize your application—and that means diving deep into the job description to make it pop.
How to Decode Job Descriptions
Job post decoding requires a careful approach. Here are steps you can follow to draw important insights:
1. Understand the Job Title
When you stumble upon a job listing, the first thing that catches your eye is the job title. For instance, when you spot “Software Engineer,” it’s clear that you’re looking at a technical role.
But there’s more to unravel. Titles often carry hidden clues about the level of responsibility. Terms like “Entry-Level” or “Junior” can be pretty revealing. Some titles further spell out the job’s specialization or focus. A prime example is “Digital Marketing Specialist,” which zeroes in on a specific expertise within the broader marketing realm.
2. Analyze the Job Summary
The job summary is like the trailer for a movie—it offers an overview of what the job is all about. It gives a quick snapshot of the role’s purpose and primary responsibilities. When scanning the summary, keep an eye out for keywords or phrases that offer additional insights into the job’s focus.
3. Read the Entire Description
Don’t get stuck on the title; what really matters is the description. The cornerstone of effective job description decoding is thoroughly reading all the details. This step is vital for making informed decisions in your job search, as it helps you assess whether a specific position aligns with your skills, interests, and career aspirations.
Don’t just skim through it. Immerse yourself in every word, phrase, and section. Sometimes, the magic is in the details, and skipping over them can leave you in the dark.
4. Examine Key Responsibilities
Reall dive into the heart of the role—the critical responsibilities section. This is where you’ll find the most information you can use to tailor your application.
- Keep an eye out for action verbs like “manage,” “develop,” or “analyze,” as these indicate the skills and tasks required for the role.
- Some job descriptions get specific about the scale of the job, such as “manage a team of 10” or “oversee a budget of $1 million.”
- Take note of how often specific responsibilities are described, whether daily, weekly, or occasional tasks.
- Identify which tasks are deemed high priority by the description. These are the core responsibilities you’ll need to focus on.
5. Scrutinize Qualifications and Requirements
Job prerequisites can be a mixed bag, varying from employer to employer. Some might require specific degrees or years of experience, while others prioritize skills above all else. The rise of the gig economy has prioritized skill-based hiring, so be sure to highlight your skills that match the job.
The Silver Lining
Not a 100% match for everything listed? You might not have every qualification, but still feel capable of handling the responsibilities outlined in the job description. Our advice is, if you have 80% of what’s listed and 95% of the most important items, apply anyway.
Most job descriptions are wish lists and are sometimes crafted by someone other than the hiring manager. So you might still be a good fit even if you don’t have every requirement on their wish list. Research shows that 62 percent of employees have secured jobs even when they didn’t meet all the qualifications.²
So, if you’re really interested in a job where you don’t tick all the boxes and truly believe you’re qualified (be honest with yourself!), focus on your skills, relevant or transferrable experience, and the value you can bring to the company. Show how the skills you do have make you more than capable of doing the job.
6. Look for Nice-to-Have Qualifications
Many job descriptions will break requirements out into what is a “must-have” vs a “nice-to-have.” While not mandatory, the nice-to-have qualifications are bonus skills, and having them can set you apart. These could be additional certifications, multilingual skills, or specialized industry experience. If you’ve got any of these, be sure to highlight them in your application or on your resume.
7. Learn About the Company
A comprehensive job description doesn’t stop at just the role itself; it also provides a glimpse into the organization’s world. This includes a brief overview of the company, its mission, culture, and values.
Why is this important? Because you’re not just looking for a job; you’re seeking a partnership with an organization that resonates with your career aspirations and personal values. Right? So, getting to know the company’s background and values is a key step to ensure you’re heading in the right direction. Google is your friend–with a few searches, you can find so much useful information about any company you’re interested in.
8. Note How to Apply
In this section, you’ll find the vital details on submitting your application, complete with contact information and application deadlines. Paying close attention to these instructions is paramount. It’s your chance to make a stellar first impression, so be meticulous in following these guidelines. Just follow the directions, and your attention to detail could set you apart right from the start.
9. Pay Attention to Deadlines
Always keep a watchful eye on that application deadline. Missing it could mean your application gets lost in the shuffle or is not considered at all. In cases where a job description doesn’t specify a deadline, try to find this information or get your application in as quickly as you can. Time is not on your side; companies often are moving swiftly to fill an open role. Proactive efforts can make all the difference in ensuring your application is considered.
SIMPLIFY YOUR JOB SEARCH WITH THE HELP OF PORTFOLIO CREATIVE
Imagine finding your next great opportunity without having to break a sweat. Who wouldn’t want that?
Portfolio Creative helps a wide variety of companies find their next skilled creative team members. Whether you’re a copywriter, marketing expert, graphic designer, project manager, or any other creative pro searching for a full-time position, a flexible gig, or something in between, we’ve got your back.
1. Kolmar, Chris.”40+ Awesome Resume Statistics : What Job Seekers Need To Know” Zippia, 2 Feb. 2023, www.zippia.com/advice/resume-statistics.
2. “Survey: 42 Percent Of Job Applicants Don’t Meet Skills Requirements, But Companies Are Willing To Train Up.” PR Newswire, 19 Mar. 2019, www.prnewswire.com/survey-42-percent-of-job-applicants-dont-meet-skills-requirements-but-companies-are-willing-to-train-up.