What to Review in a Job Description Before Applying for the Position

what to review in a job description

There’s no getting around it: job descriptions aren’t exactly the most exciting things to read—when you’re a busy parent with very little spare time, it’s tempting to gloss right over a description and apply to the job without much thought. Sometimes it can work out just fine. But if you’re doing this with every single job application you submit, you’re likely inadvertently missing out on some potential good positions. 

Plus, when you’re in the midst of a job hunt—postings will start to blur together and look the same. It’s especially true for anyone whose job search focuses on a specific role, title, or industry. When it gets to this point, you may start to feel like you know the requirements of these roles without even having to read the job description. It may be true that you are well-versed in the overview of these roles, but that’s not a good reason to bypass a closer review because it’s going to be the key to optimizing your resume and application. 

Job Descriptions 101

What Are They?

A job description—sometimes referred to as a job posting, is essentially a one-page summary of the job and its requirements. Every posting is a little different in layout and the information part of the summary. But no matter what, you should have a decent understanding of the role and its requirements from reading the description (if this basic information isn’t included in the job ad, it’s a red flag). 

What Is Its Purpose of a Job Description?

Job titles can sometimes be misleading, so one of the purposes of a job description is to clarify the job and responsibilities. For example, if you’re job searching and see a clinical manager posting but don’t have any kind of healthcare credentials, you might be inclined to pass right over it. However, click on the job description. You will learn that the job doesn’t require any healthcare certifications because it’s an administrator role overseeing the operations of a private clinical practice. 

The other purpose of a job description is to provide insight into what the hiring manager is looking for in an employee. They often list out must-have qualifications, including degrees, years of experience, etc., and sometimes also include a list of nice-to-have qualifications. 

What’s Else Is Included?

The majority of job descriptions have more details than just the basics. However, the information the company chooses to include in its description(s) varies. In addition to the job overview and candidate qualifications, here are some extras you might find in a job posting:

  • A more detailed list of job responsibilities and or duties
  • Notes on significant events or times of year that can affect the job (i.e., busier during the holiday season or off-site conventions every quarter)
  • Nice-to-have candidate qualifications/experience
  • Company and or department overview
  • Summary of stand-out employee benefits and or perks
  • Salary or salary range
  • Schedule expectations (full-time, part-time, shifts, etc.)
  • Work location 
  • Job classification (permanent, contract, etc.)
  • Travel information
  • Statements on where the company stands on diversity, family leave, flexible schedules, etc. 

Using Job Descriptions In Your Search

Anyone who spent time job searching knows that filtering through jobs can seem like a job in itself. Once you’ve set all of your specific search criteria, you can then use the job descriptions to narrow down your list of possibilities even more. You just need to know what and where to look.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal template for job postings (wouldn’t that be nice?), so you have to pick and choose where to put your priorities when you’re weeding through them. For example, more often than not, job descriptions don’t include salary information. So it’s not a good idea to cross opportunities off your list just because the pay is missing from the job posting. On the other hand, if it lists salary information and is too low, then it’s perfectly okay to remove it off from your list. Instead, examine the job classification, location, schedule, travel information, and or the company’s overall mission. If any of these things don’t fit your needs. Then you can stop reviewing and move on to the next job listing. 

If the job posting passes the initial once-over, then it’s time to do a little more in-depth review. First, you need to comb through the job requirements to determine if you’re a good candidate or not. Some positions make it very clear which qualifications are must-haves versus nice-to-haves. if that’s the case and you don’t tick most of the boxes—move on to the next job posting. For the postings that simply list qualifications without any distinction, as long as you meet around 75% of them (give or take a few), you can assume you’d be a good fit for the job. 

Of course, even if you don’t meet all of the qualifications for a job, still apply. Suppose it’s an opportunity you’re interested in because it’s with a company you’ve wanted to work for or it’s within an industry or niche career path you’re hoping to get into—then it’s worth applying to regardless of how qualified you are. When it comes to a dream job, you should never eliminate yourself by not applying—leave that up to the hiring manager to decide. 

Once you’ve determined that you’re qualified for the role, the last step is to carefully read through the job summary and responsibilities to make sure it aligns with what you’re looking for. Is it something you’d enjoy doing? If so, then get your resume ready and apply. Are there any apparent deal-breakers that jump out at you? It’s worth passing over. Maybe the description lands somewhere in the middle, it’s not the dream job, but it’s still something you’d be okay with doing. In this case, it’s worth pausing the job until you’re ready to submit a qualified application. 

📖Read more: Learn how to turn “overqualified” into an advantage by refrmaming your experience in job applications and interviews

Tailoring Your Resume and Application to the Job Description

When you’re ready to apply for the job, remember to make quick edits to your resume (or the application) before submitting it. Look through the job description again and take note of any keywords that are mentioned repeatedly throughout the posting, then make sure to add those keywords into your resume/application to increase your chances of making it through the talent management system’s algorithms. Additionally, if there are any qualifications you have experience in, whether they are required or nice-to-haves, make sure your resume/application reflects it. The best thing you can do at this point in the application process is to mirror your resume/application to the job description as much as possible so that a recruiter or hiring manager can quickly decide that you’re an ideal candidate. 

📖Read more: Use these practical resume tips to help you quickly tailor your resume for various job positions

Apply For Jobs With Intention

More often than not, applying for a job takes a bit of time. It’s usually not as simple as uploading your resume and going on your way. Every spare minute is precious for a busy parent who works outside the home, so you don’t want to waste them applying for jobs that aren’t going to be a good fit. A job description certainly isn’t going to tell you everything you need to know about a role, but it can paint enough of a picture for you to decide if it’s worth your time to apply. By being intentional throughout your job search, you’re setting yourself up to land a job that you’ll love. 

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