Job listings are quite obviously a crucial part of finding your next gig. Yet it’s staggering how few job seekers properly analyze the jobs they find online before hitting apply.
Many just glance through the bullet points, see some words and skills in common with their resume, and decide that the job is right for them. Others simply look at the title and say “Hey! That sounds like my ideal role!”
What both miss out on is the crucial information held within a job listing that could make or break their application. Here’s how to analyze a job listing from head to toe:
Verify that it’s fresh
Don’t be fooled by that “3 hours ago” tag on an Indeed job opening. That could very well be a repost of an old job opening that the company already paid for. They could have already made their hire in the time since, so it’s on you to make sure you’re not wasting your time applying to a stale job posting.
Instead, highlight a small chunk of the job description, copy-paste it into Google, and see if you can find the listing on other sites. If you do find it across the web and each one says 3 hours ago, you’re golden. If you find one that was posted significantly earlier, you might be part of a secondary batch of applicants. It's your own time and effort that's on the line, so take the extra minute ahead of time to verify you're applying to a truly fresh listing.
Don’t necessarily let a reposted job listing discourage you, however. A lot of hiring managers get excited by new highly qualified candidates submitting their application, even if it’s a few days or weeks late. Judge the opportunity appropriately, do a bit of clever research on LinkedIn and social media to check if a hire has been made, and decide how much time you want to dedicate to that listing.
Read the entire thing
No, really. Read it. A well-written job listing has a wealth of information that is crucial to submitting the best possible application. Don’t let your eagerness to apply force you down a path of undue haste and avoidable mistakes.
Just by reading the description carefully, you can find out not only the requirements for potential candidates, but also the things that will make you stand out. For example, maybe you have a master's degree or PhD and the description says candidates with advanced degrees are highly preferred. This is a great hint that you should highlight your education in your application documents.
Or, just as important, you might miss a key set of instructions for your application. Some companies want you to answer a few questions directly in your cover letter. Others ask you to insert some humor or tell a fun story. Others even tell you whom to address your cover letter to.
They do this to weed out the inattentive applicants. It helps them quickly narrow the pool of candidates just by judging them on their attention to detail. Not reading the job listing in detail just gives companies and recruiters any reason to say no from the get-go. Don't allow them that opportunity.
Make yourself a ranking list
Use the experience requirements, responsibilities, and other details in the job description to make a list of the different skills and traits that are needed from a successful candidate. Draw out some details about the company’s culture from the tone and style of the writing, and add those details to your list.
Finally, rank yourself on each point, from unqualified, to qualified, to highly qualified. This will allow you to accurately gauge your fit for the role.
Once you compile your list and cross-reference it to your past experience, write down one or two compelling reasons for why you are qualified or highly qualified for certain parts of the job description. Then write down one or two reasons why your experience, drive, and teachability translate into success when considering the points you ranked yourself as unqualified for.
This ranking list and the supporting details for each point will allow you to put together a great cover letter and an effective resume.
It will help you adjust and reorder the bullet points of your work experience to match up with the importance of each skill and accomplishment. You can highlight the reasons why you are a great fit both culturally and in terms of skills. And when it comes time to interview for the role, you will already have a treasure trove of research to help you prepare.
When you’re applying to job openings online, the very baseline level of effort you need to put in is to completely and accurately understand the job listing. It’s the first step towards ensuring you don’t make any embarrassing errors. But even more importantly, the job description is a gold mine of important information that can help you put together an amazing application.
Don’t ignore it - it was written that way for a reason!