Accessing a job posting online is as easy as connecting to a website and pressing a button, but sometimes these job listings are…less than well-written. However, most of them are full of insightful information that can be used to your advantage on the resume. You just have to pay close attention, read between the lines and pinpoint the right keywords. Here are four tips to keep in mind while reading job descriptions on the web.

Determine the core focus

The vast majority of job listings tell you exactly what the focus of the job function is all about in the first line or two. Typically you can figure out the core essence of what they job is all about quickly. Here’s an example I pulled from a posting for a Finance Manager at NBC Universal.

The Finance Manager position is a dynamic and strategic role on the West Coast Florida Telemundo Stations Finance team. This position will play a key role in ensuring strong financial controllership across the southwest stations, as well as driving operational excellence and supporting new growth opportunities.

The core focus of this job is “ensuring strong financial controllership across their stations, driving operational excellence and supporting new growth opportunities”

Don’t take this lightly. Make sure this main job function is incorporated in your resume front and center. It’s a quick easy way to start tailoring your resume accordingly. You can then go through the resume and make sure evidence of these functions are evident throughout your background.

Find keywords

Regardless of if you’re applying online or sending your resume to a recruiter, keywords are key! I can’t emphasize enough how you need to incorporate the right verbiage in your resume based on the job description. There will typically always be some awesome keywords in a job posting. A bit further down on the same Finance Manager position we used above is a great sentence chock full of keywords:

Additional responsibilities include: headcount and compensation reporting. Including but not limited to HQ/Corporate reporting, Bad Debt/LTL balance tracking, internal audit requests, capital expenditure management, account payable support, quarterly external reporting, revenue support. •Completion of ad hoc reporting requests, analysis and special projects.

Keywords tend to be specific to the job function of the position – not vague terms like communication, dynamic, team player etc (ugh). These are all generic phrases that no one cares about any more.

Anyway, the keywords here are: headcount and compensation reporting, Bad Debt/LTL balance tracking, internal audit requests, capital expenditure management, account payable support, quarterly external reporting, revenue support, ad hoc reporting and analysis.

So now, you’re able to go back and see how and where you can fit these terms into your resume. It will definitely help boost your score in the online application system.

Look for repetition

When a job listing repeats itself, you may want to pay attention. Qualities that are mentioned once may be optional, but those that are mentioned twice or more are most likely priorities on this employer’s list. Therefore, make sure whatever they are repeating is present in your background and emphasized in your resume.

Find euphemisms

Hiring managers are incredibly skilled at mentioning the downsides of a position without actually saying it. If you don’t pay attention to these phrases, you can find yourself hired for a different position than you expected:

“Good sense of humor” → this job can be frustrating for the wrong person. Applicants need to be flexible and able to take on challenge on a daily basis.

“Flexible” → don’t expect to only do your job and be done with it. This word means you’ll be asked to do all kinds of jobs, from running errands to pitching in on other teams.

“Multi-tasking” or “deadline-driven” → the employer is looking for an applicant who can do the work of multiple people. Expect to be very busy if you take this job.

“Fast-paced” → again, this means you will have a lot to do. Expect long hours and sudden changes in company direction. Applicants must be able to work well under pressure.

“Strong communication skills” → applicants need to get along well with others, as well as be able to speak and write effectively. Giving presentations and/or direct contact with clients is likely part of the job.

“Growth opportunity” → usually used to make entry-level jobs with low pay more attractive. However this can also indicate a high turnover rate, so beware.

Read and re-read

When you’re on the hunt, it’s easy to get into a rut of skimming job listings and sending your resume to whatever looks good. Rushing can actually hurt your chances of getting the job. If the posting looks interesting during the initial skim, take the time to read it fully. If you’re still interested, read it again, this time taking notes on the key qualities that the hiring manager is looking for — this is critical for composing a relevant cover letter and resume. If you get called in for an interview, reading it beforehand will refresh your memory and help you prepare to put your best foot forward as well.

Don’t get stuck on the details

After analyzing a job listing to death, you may feel your confidence wilting as you realize that you don’t fulfill every requirement the listing says they’re looking for. Here’s a secret: job descriptions are often little more than wish lists written by hiring managers hoping that somehow they will attract some unicorn applicant who fits their wildest dreams. If you think you can do the job well and that you can be a real asset to the business, apply anyway. You may surprise yourself by getting the job.

Featured image source: BambooHR Applicant Tracking Software

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