Here is a word of advice: You should always read a job description more than once, at LEAST twice.
First Things First!
Analyze all available data from the top of the job description to the bottom and make two decisions based on that information. The first thing you have to decide as a potential candidate is whether or not this is a job you can perform. Are you up for the day-to-day tasks that the description requires? The second decision is, “Is this something that you want to do?” And be honest with yourself because applying for a job is time consuming. Once you make it past the ATS system and to the desk of the employer, you have to go through the interview process, which can be strenuous depending on how many interviews an employer wants to hold before deciding whether or not they want to hire you. You want to be sure that this job is worth it before you put all that time and effort into applying.
Let’s hone in on the basics, the title of the role, the name of the company, and the description of the company. Will this be full or part-time employment? Are you being hired on as a contractor or an employee? This information is necessary because contractors have different privileges than employees; they may receive higher initial salaries. Still, fulltime employees tend to have more benefits and job security. Where is the job located? Will you be in the office, hybrid or remote? If it’s an in-office position, is it in your area? Again, benefits and salary are essential to know if the job meets your requirements. Now, thanks to COVID-19, some employers are asking to verify your vaccination status and may be mandating proof of vaccination before hire.
You want to note the qualifications and requirements that the employer is seeking. Qualifications and conditions can be satisfied by experiences, skills, education, and training that enable you to handle situations while working in this role. Positions may require specific certifications, agency experience (you may see this in Public Relations or Marketing roles descriptions), or certain degrees or minimum years of experience to qualify for the role.
Finding the company’s values may require a little digging on the website, but it’s essential to know if you’ll fit in with an organization’s corporate structure. Do they value family? If not, it may be difficult for you to get certain days off for your family vacations. Some companies list a few of their values at the end of a job posting. If they do, you should pay attention to them and see if the company’s values are compatible and resonate with your own. You’ll find it easier to support something that you’re aligned with.
Have you been seeing “Microsoft Excel experience required” listed several times in the job description? Skills that are important to the position tend to be repeated throughout the posting. It’s as though they want to find someone that enables those qualities! Pay very close attention to repeated words and themes because they tend to be abilities necessary to thrive in the role. If you see it more than once, you can almost bet that it’s a critical trait the employer wants their preferred candidate to have.
Pay attention to the order of the job duties. The first few bullets are likely what comprise a large portion of the job role. For example, if you see “responsible for creating media lists and pitching to media,” you can almost guarantee you’ll spend a majority of your day writing or delivering pitches and maintaining media lists. This is true regarding job qualifications as well.
Vague catchphrases can be a red flag in a job posting because they could highlight a company trying to mask a toxic work environment. For example, things like “must be able to juggle wearing multiple hats,” “seeking a candidate that will always go the extra mile,” or “Rockstar Analyst needed” are phrases that can indicate a company may put more stress on a worker than necessary. Be wary of postings that say these things because the company may not have the staffing to distribute tasks and evenly maintain an ideal workload ratio.
Suppose a job posting has an extensive list of strengths and skills that could split up into several positions this can indicate a hiring manager with unrealistic expatiations. For example, who wants to be the manager, cashier, and fry maker? Jobs that require 3-5 years of experience for an entry-level role may indicate a company that may be less willing to train actual entry-level employees, or they want to pay experienced professionals less than what they are truly worth.
Last But Not Least
Please pay attention to the application instructions! You don’t want to lose a potential opportunity because you didn’t upload your portfolio or convert your cover letter into a PDF before attaching the file. Attention to detail is vital, and it shows your possible future employer the time and consideration that you’ll likely bring to the job.
Job descriptions can be highly detailed or highly vague. Key things to focus on are if you are genuinely qualified and want to do the job, if you are compatible with the offer and company, and pay attention to how they want the application submitted! Best of luck with your search!