How to Read & Respond to Job Descriptions

As you look through job listings, you’ll start to see the same format popping up again and again. If you’re just starting your search for your first job, you may be unsure about how to use the information in these job descriptions. To help you out, here are some tips for reading and responding to job descriptions.

Pay attention to the preferred and required qualifications

The job qualifications list is one of the most important parts of the job description. This list may include:

  • Education level
  • Work experience
  • Required licenses or certificates
  • Required skills

This list will typically be broken up into preferred and required qualifications. The most important qualifications will often be listed first, so if you meet those qualifications, be sure to emphasize them in your cover letter. If you have a qualification that’s similar to one the employer listed, also try to mention it in your resume or cover letter.

Read through the job duties

Employers will also often include a list of duties required for the job. These duties can vary wildly from job-to-job, even if the job titles are the same. Similar to the qualifications, the job duties are often listed in order from most important to least important. As you read through the job duties, make a list of the one you’ve done in your previous jobs. Then, include some of what you listed in your cover letter.

Check for questions or keywords

Sometimes, employers will ask candidates to answer a question or use a certain keyword in their application to make sure that they thoroughly read through the job description. This question may be something simple, or it might be an important part of the application. Before you move away from the job description and start writing your cover letter, be sure to double check all the requirements in the description.

Use the description in your cover letter

Employers want to know that you carefully read the description and understand what the job entails. One way to show this is to use the description in your cover letter. Put some of the description into your own words, and say how your skills match what’s being described. For example, if one of the job duties is managing meetings, you could discuss a particularly successful meeting you organized at your previous job. Or, if you’re just coming out of college and don’t have professional experience yet, you could discuss club meetings you’ve held, or class discussions you’ve led. When you use the description in your cover letter, you’ll show the company that you spent time thinking about their job listing, and that you understand how your unique skillset will fit into the company.

Know the lingo

When you’re looking at job descriptions, you may notice certain buzz words and phrases popping up again and again, like “must be a self-starter” or “opportunities for growth.” These phrases may seem standard, but they may not mean what you think. To parody what employers actually expect, GetVoIP created this visual on what descriptions actually mean.

When you’re reading through job descriptions, be sure to look out for common phrases, and carefully read through the job qualifications and duties before deciding if you want to apply for the job. Doing this helps ensure that you’re applying for jobs that will be a great fit for you.

About the author: Reuben Yonatan is the founder of GetVoIP, a leading VoIP provider comparison resource. As an entrepreneur and tech enthusiast, Reuben’s expertise is in helping small to mid-size business owners build, maintain, and scale their communication infrastructure.

What Those Job Descriptions Actually Mean


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