If you have spent any time searching for a job, you have likely realized that position descriptions look similar. Job descriptions are mundane. Companies typically lack creativity when writing a description. When you try to shake it up, some hiring managers are not impressed because it is out of the norm. In the end, it is another boring description that is intended to excite a potential candidate.
While you may see a lackluster description, do not overlook it. And don’t toss your resume out there without reading it in its entirety. A description hold clues that can help save you time and evaluate the opening for suitability before you apply. It is also your best weapon when it comes to aligning your resume to showcase your experience and expertise.
Deciphering the Components of the Description
THE COMPANY DESCRIPTION: A company describes itself the way they want to be seen to the public.
What to look for: If a company describes itself as a new business with a potential for future growth opportunities, the company may be a start-up. If that matches your personality, then define yourself equally in your application.
JOB DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: In this section, you will find a bullet list of duties that an employee is expected to perform.
What to look for: Titles can be misleading so scrutinize duties carefully. Will you be happy performing these duties? Let’s say you want an executive assistant position supporting the C-level, but the job requires ordering office supplies, answering the office phone, and greeting customers. If this is not what you want, how happy will you be? Secondly, if the duties are exactly like the ones you perform now and you are looking for career growth, would this be the best step for you? Lastly, use the duties to align your resume with the description so that the recruiter can easily see the match. If you have the experience, your resume should easily showcase your background.
REQUIRED EXPERIENCE/SKILLS: This area defines what the company has deemed as an essential background that is necessary for the job. That may or may not be true, but it is what they want to see in applicants. Companies are notorious for not wanting to train new employees, so they write the description for a perfect person – a person who generally does not exist.
What to look for: How many of the requirements do you meet? If you only meet a couple requirements, it may not make sense to apply. Oh, I know what you are thinking – you can do the job. You are most likely right, but the hiring manager is looking for certain key items.
I am not the person who would ever hand down a recruiting edict. Just make sure they will see you as qualified. My best advice is to make sure you are realistic. If the requirement is for a PhD in Chemistry and you have a BA degree in English, that probably will not work.
On the flip side, don’t hold yourself back if you do not meet every requirement. Employers have a way of making descriptions aspirational rather than realistic. If you meet 60-70 percent of the key items, go for it. Be ready to highlight what you offer in your resume, cover letter, and interview. At a time when recruiters spend less than 10-seconds on resumes, you must have a resume or interview so powerful that it convinces them to hire you.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE ORDER OF ITEMS LISTED: Whether it is the duties or the requirements, the first few bullet items listed are generally the most important to the hiring manager. Descriptions are instinctively written in order of importance. As you get further down the list, these bullet items typically represent a smaller percentage of the job duties and requirements.
What you need to think about: If you see that the first two or three job duties are the ones that you least like to do, will that matter to you in terms of job satisfaction? Secondly, order matters on your resume as well. List your skills/experience in a manner that aligns with the important items on the job description. If you meet the criteria, mirror your resume to the top requirements on their position description.
KEYWORDS OR BUZZWORDS: You may notice buzzwords and phrases that keep popping up, like “strategic” or “self-starter.” These phrases are terribly standard, but it will help you sell yourself in your cover letter or interview. Be prepared to give examples of how you are a “self-starter” or how you have an “innovative” approach to your work.
What to look for: Pay special attention to all technical requirements that are listed, i.e. JIRA, Costpoint, etc. If you have experience with any technical item they list, be sure that your resume has that listed as well.
HOW TO APPLY INSTRUCTIONS: Some companies ask you submit your resume through their applicant tracking system while others may ask for a resume and cover letter. If they ask for something specific, do it. Hiring managers want people who have “attention to detail” – another buzz word.
Learn to Spot the Fakes: There are many job scams floating around. Be careful. If something sounds too good to be true, do your research. If you are promised 10K a month with no experience necessary, proceed with caution. Similarly, ads that promise such things as “great compensation for performance” may be a commission-only role. Don’t waste time on jobs you don’t want. Many scammers exist to collect personal information from you, so before you send your resume, do a search to ensure the company is legitimate. Focus your efforts on high-quality responses to positions you qualify for and would enjoy doing.
THE MEANING OF ‘OTHER DUTIES AS ASSIGNED’: This is a typical ending for a couple of reasons. Firstly, a job description cannot cover everything that you may be required to do. Ultimately, the company doesn’t want to get into a spat with an employee if they say “that’s not in my job description.” In an interview, it is okay to ask what duties this might entail. If you are happy with those potential duties, use the time to stress your flexibility to do what is needed to help the company excel.