How to (Really) Understand Job Postings

Job descriptions: having a hard time reading between the lines?

Here are four tips to help you decide whether a job posting is right for you.

Match your skills and interests

Job postings will include a description of the position and a section about skills and qualifications. These should be taken seriously – after all, employers are looking for someone who matches those skills, and you want to make sure the position matches your abilities and interests too.

Focus on the verbs

Pay special attention to the action words you see. “Manage” or “Lead” signal a senior management position.

“Report to” indicates a more junior-level position.

“Liaise with” means you will be responsible for representing company interests with particular clients or suppliers, and can look forward to using your people skills to build long-term relationships.

“Assist with” (and even the omnipresent “Perform other tasks as required”) is trickier: you could get the chance to learn new skills under a supportive boss or with a team, or you might be asked to take on duties with little supervision.

A quick way to shed more light on the subject is to crosscheck with the personal qualities in the job posting – do they stress teamwork or independence?

Check the years of experience required

“When I create job postings,” says Lynn Johnston, Executive Director of the Canadian Society for Training and Development, “I include the minimum years of experience … I take it seriously and I expect applicants to as well.”

Always look out for the amount of experience the employer is after, because it provides an easy gauge for whether you are in the right ballpark for the position. While you don’t need to have the exact number of years, months and days, knowing what they are looking for can help you tailor your application appropriately.

For example, if you are fresh out of school, it will be much easier for you to write a cover letter explaining why you qualify for a job requiring two years’ experience as opposed to one requiring five.

Know your requirements from your assets.

Another way to decipher whether a given job is for you is by carefully reading the requirements and assets involved – and understanding the difference.

A requirement is a must: for example, years of experience or educational level. Without the listed requirements, you will have to go out of your way to convince employers to look at you.

Assets are a little different, however: they are not absolute must-haves, but if you do have assets employers are looking for, they will likely pull you to the top of the pile of applicants.