Figuring out how to interpret a job description can sometimes feel like trying to decipher the blueprints for building a NASA rocket. Which tasks or responsibilities will comprise the majority of the work? How strict are the years of experience requirements? How can I tell if I’m qualified? So. Many. Questions.
Here are some insights to help better interpret a job description before you send in your resume.
A job description is a wish-list, not a check-list. When a manager has an opening in his or her department, the manager will write a job description that describes the absolutely perfect candidate for the job. This absolutely perfect candidate probably does not exist. No two professional jobs are identical so the odds of finding a worker with the exact experience in every skill set area are slim. If you have experience in most of the areas listed, you could be a top contender.
You’re overqualified if you can check off every skill on the list. If you find you have done everything on the list of responsibilities in excessive depth, this job might be too easy for you. It’s better to apply to a job you are not 100% fluent in. Lack of challenge in a position often leads to job dissatisfaction. Try to find a job description somewhere in between. A new job should challenge and inspire you, giving you opportunities to continue growth.
Find the keywords. Many jobs with online applications often go through resume robots that screen for keywords and relevance before a human ever lays eyes on the application. Keywords are typically vibrant, proactive words. You should always tailor your resume for each job to adjust for the appropriate skill-set. If a word or phrase is used more than once in a job description, pay attention and incorporate it into your resume. If it’s repeated, it’s an important skill.
Years of experience are not always literal. If the job description asks for five to seven years’ experience and you only have four but you have experience in most of the responsibility areas, you’re a highly-qualified applicant who’s ahead of the curve. Managers are always more concerned about finding the person with the right applicable experience than finding the person who has put in the ideal amount of time in their career. On the other side of the spectrum, if a job description is labeled as entry-level but asks for five to seven years’ experience, be wary of applying. There’s a high probability the manager’s expectations of performance are going to be much higher than you might be capable of. In other words, years of experience should closely match the skill level. If you often find you’re lacking the experience for the jobs you want, take some time to gain additional experience outside of your regular job.
Keep an eye out for responsibilities you despise. Fact: every job you ever have will always have at least one little thing you would rather not do. These are small sacrifices you make in exchange for having a job you mostly love. The key here is recognizing these sacrifices are manageable because they are a small portion of your job. If a job description lists a task or responsibility you already know makes you absolutely miserable, don’t apply. If it’s listed in the job description, it’s going to be a decent portion of your job. Usually skills and responsibilities are listed in order of importance, so the higher up on the list, the more weight it’s going to have in your day-to-day work.
Now that you know what to pay attention to when trying to interpret a job description, it doesn’t need to feel like rocket science. Take a second look at job descriptions you’ve read recently to find more clarity in them. With a tailored resume and a more realistic understanding of what seem like unrealistic expectations, you are well on your way to your next big opportunity!
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