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Interpreting Job Postings

Articles > General Job Tips

Job postings are available in many formats and if you are not careful, you may eliminate yourself as a possible applicant by not interpreting the job posting for what it really conveys.

This career article by Nathan Newberger offers four tips on finding the deeper meaning of job advertisements. Learning how to interpret these four components of job postings is the first step to successfully applying for them:

  • Experience Required
  • Salary Required
  • Organizational Skills Required
  • Proficieny Required


EXPERIENCE REQUIRED

The single most common requirement stated in job advertisements is experience. Some positions require no experience at all, while others might require 1-2 years of experience, while the most senior positions might require 10 or more years of experience! These numbers can be very intimidating, but the right approach can make a difference. When thinking about the experience required by a job, consider these three options:

  • Work experience is NOT just typical jobs. Internships, volunteer work, and clubs are all valid forms of experience. Any learning opportunity is considered work experience.
  • Tailor your resume to fit the job description. If an advertisement says that a position requires 3 years of experience in sales, make sure your resume highlights the fact that you have 3 years of experience in sales.
  • Not meeting experience requirements does not take you out of the running. More than anything, companies want good employees. Between your resume and your cover letter, if you can persuade a company to think you are diligent and quick to learn new skills, you have a good shot at the job.


SALARY REQUIRED

In addition to a resume, many job advertisements ask that you submit your "minimum salary required." This request strikes fear in the hearts of the timid. If you give too high a salary, a company may not be interested in you. If you give too low a salary, you may not be able to make ends meet financially.

When you are caught in this dilemma, you have two options:

  • Many times you can get by just saying that your salary requirement is "negotiable" without giving a specific number. Putting off salary negotiations until you actually have the job is a good stress reliever.
  • Call the employer anonymously to get information. If a specific number is absolutely necessary, provide a salary range.


ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS REQUIRED

Anytime a job advertisement makes a point to mention "organizational skills" or "communication skills", the employer actually wants to know three things: do you get the job done on time, do you do the job correctly, and do you work well in teams. Now if employers were that direct, job hunting wouldn't be so difficult.

Since life just isn't that easy, you have to be sure to answer the secret questions you are being asked:

  • Be sure to incorporate your ability in working with deadlines and working on team projects into your resume. Your resume creates the first image an employer will have of you. That image must be what the employer is looking for.
  • Employers love multi-tasking. Convey the fact that you had many responsibilities at previous jobs, and you always succeeded.
  • Don't beat around the bush. Explicit examples are always good. If they do not fit in your resume, work them into your cover letter. Otherwise, be sure to mention them in your interview.


PROFICIENCY REQUIRED

Besides the generic traits that employers like to see in applicants for any position, job advertisements will make statements about specific skills related to a specific job. It seems that the most favorite description to use is "proficiency in". Other popular descriptors are "command of" and "working knowledge of". These phrases might be used to describe understanding of software, industry expertise, etc. They all mean the same thing, but many people don't realize what that is.

Whenever you see specific skill requirements and wonder whether or not you meet them, consider these issues:

  • Certain skills have official certifications. If you have an official certification, be sure it is on your resume.
  • Being proficient means being comfortable using something on a day-to-day basis and being able to answer simple questions about it.
  • When it comes to languages, there is a difference between being fluent and understanding most things. There is no shame in saying you have a "conversational" understanding.
  • If the same skills continue to pop-up in job postings, it may be time for you to acquire them.


CONCLUSION

Perhaps job advertisements are not as direct as they should be. Nonetheless, there is now an industry standard on how to write them. It's up to you to be able to read them correctly. The language may be a little tricky, but it is not impossible to understand. These tips should give you a good starting point for tackling new job advertisements that come your way. Keep them in mind, because deciphering the language of a job advertisement will put you a step ahead of everyone else.

About The Author

Nathan Newberger is the job and career expert at WorkTree.com. Nathan has over 10 years of experience in staffing and human resources. He has worked both as a recruiter and career counselor. Mr. Newberger has been the Managing Editor at WorkTree.com for the past 5 years and his articles have helped thousands of job seekers.

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