How to Analyze a Job Description Before Applying for a Job


by Hannah Dickins,

You aren’t going to get very far if you’re blindly sending out your resume to whatever job openings you see. What you need to do instead is fully analyze a job description before applying. Doing so will allow you to determine whether or not you’re the right fit for that company – and paying close attention to the job description will help you see the role and company for what they really are.

Instead of just uploading your resume and clicking submit, carefully target your prospective employers by taking the following steps:

Look for Jargon and Cliches 

You may think you understand a job description sufficiently, but look carefully at the wording. How much of it is slang that specifically relates to the company? Are you entirely sure what these words mean? If the job description is buried under complicated jargon, they company may not be representing itself or the role in a totally honest light.

The same goes for cliched statements. If a company can’t be bothered to write an original job description, you’re not going to find anything worthwhile at the office.

How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? Familiarize yourself with a good sample of job descriptions in your sector. Read a wide range of job postings. Take note of the common themes and language. By reading widely, you’ll be better able to tune into the good job descriptions and block out the bad ones.

Study the Requirements – Are They Clear?

Somewhere in the job description, you’re going to see that long list of requirements. A lot of them will be fairly obvious, and you won’t have to worry about whether or not they apply to you.

Some job postings may have unrealistic requirements for entry-level jobs, and you’ll need to weed these openings out of your search. In other cases, you may find perfect jobs that require things you don’t have. Look at common requirements for jobs in your field. To make progress in your job search, you may have to add some commonly requested skills or qualifications to your tool belt – if you don’t already have them, that is.

Know What You’re Prepared to Offer

Look at the list of preferred traits. Go past the basic ones – those simple traits don’t work as bargaining chips. Check out the more obscure traits. Do you have any of these? You aren’t the only in interested in the job, so it’s a good idea to increase your changes of landing the role by offering some traits or skills that most of your competitors won’t have. Prepare to utilize your unique strengths, and figure out how the things you have to offer will fit in with the company.

Weigh The Company Against Its Competitors

A certain job description may sound like everything you’re looking for, but how hard have you been looking?

Read multiple descriptions of similar positions advertised by competitive companies. Consider the culture and values at each potential employer. Never settle for the first opening you find – keep looking until you find roles and companies that really align with your values, needs, and strengths.

It doesn’t hurt to cast a few lines simultaneously, but what does hurt is selling yourself short by latching onto the first advertisement you see. The grass may, in fact, be greener on the other side – a side you may not have ever even looked at.

Understand the Responsibilities Involved

Employers have a tendency to decorate job descriptions. They often glamorize menial tasks to give the impression that the role is more important than it actually is. What you think is a prestigious position may turn out to be nothing more than well-dressed grunt work.

On the other hand, some companies do the opposite, playing down serious responsibilities as if they were nothing. If you take time to really investigate the responsibilities listed in any job description, you’ll be able to prevent any unfortunate surprises that may arise if you land the job.

At the end of the day, you’re looking for more than just a paycheck when you’re on the hunt for a job: You’re looking for the right opportunity, the right salary, and the chance to advance in your career. Misunderstanding a job description can get you stuck somewhere that doesn’t fulfill any of these needs. Read carefully when you’re searching for a new job!

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