How to get your dream job by interpreting the Job Ad or Job Description
By: Richard Penfold
For various reasons Job Adverts and Job Descriptions are not always easy to interpret.
Changes to legislation have meant that often the real message is hidden to conform to legal requirements.
However this article is not concerned with rights and wrongs of advertising verses current employment laws. The intention of this article is to provide a simple "system" for analysis Job Ads and descriptions to better enable you to identify what the employer is most interested in finding.
Enabling you to "tailor" your CV / Resume to demonstrate that YOU are what they seek.
Tailoring your resume and indeed cover letter is a MUST do exercise; it improves your chances of winning an interview 10 fold.
Anyway this is a simple process, an organisation of your observations and thoughts than. This disciplined approach will serve you well.
All that is required for this is the print out of the job description / Ad, a cup of coffee or tea (nothing to do with caffeine), and a notepad and pen (highlight pen if you have one).
A quiet place where you can think and consider.
Step 1 simply read the job description or Ad 2 or 3 times SLOWLY - not the usual skim reading we all tend to do. The idea is you relax and absorb the information into your mainframe (brain).
Step 2 highlight or underline what you consider to be the critical skills, experiences and behaviours required by the role. Some Ads and descriptions will leave you in little doubt by using words like critical, mandatory, or "must have" to describe key elements, others use vague wording such as "some knowledge of" or "experience of".
Anyway don't get stuck with this just highlight or underline everything you feel they are interested in, even the vague stuff.
Step 3 starts getting a little harder. Grab your pad and write a top heading. The job title for example Project Manager.
Then create 3 columns in your page, and head them.
Skills / Function Market / Sector Behaviours / Soft Skills
List all your highlighted points under each heading (most will be under skills and function)
Step 4 weight your perceived value next to each point use 1 for critical points, 2 for quite important and 3 for "nice to haves".
You will probably find that most of the items are listed under skills and function, and market sector as these are the easiest to detail in a job ad.
Behavioural or soft skills are harder to write about, though most will contain "dynamic" or "self motivated".
However Behavioural skills are very important, and thought the job ad / spec may not go into detail, when you are interviewed they will be looking for these skills.
Interviewing is moving increasingly towards behavioural or competency (pretty much the same thing) based questioning, and though this article is focused on interpreting the ad, now is the time to consider the ideal behaviour the role and company would call for.
For example in my example for project manager the ad may concentrate on the type of projects and the market, and offer little in the way of behavioural requirements. But if you are en experienced project manager you will know that there are a number of critical behaviours you can add.
If you wanted to move into project management, and you know a project manager talk to them, because you do NEED to add behavioural context to resume. It will levitate it from being a dull page of facts and figures, by adding your desirable PERSONALITY.
For example if you weave into your resume that you are a good motivator, communicator and are calm under pressure they would great behaviours for a project manager.
Therefore look to identify 5 - 10 desirable behaviours that you can weave into your resume, as long as they apply to you.
You know have a great foundation of knowledge from which to build or to modify your Resume to specifically appeal to your reader.
I hope this helps and good luck!
Richard has been working in the recruitment industry for 11 years and specialises in Risk Management and Business Continuity. For detailed information on resume writing tips visit us
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