If you know what to look for in job postings, you’ll be able to skim them more quickly to find opportunities that are right for you.
Looking for a job is a huge time and soul suck. For many of us, there are few activities more miserable than scanning through job ads wondering which companies will look at your resume for more than two seconds, and if they do, whether you’d regret applying within the week.
One solution to this is to apply for everything and not worry about fit. . It’s miserable for you because you’re setting yourself up for an ocean of rejection, one that’s as time consuming as it is pointless. It also sucks for the hiring manager who’s bombarded with off-the-mark resumes and wondering whether foolish applicants even bothered to read the ad.
So what’s the better solution? Improve at reading job ads. Sure, it may never be a fun task, but with a little knowledge and practice it is possible to hone your skills: learning how to quickly scan opportunities, discovering what the HR folks are trying to say through all that jargon and understanding how much energy it’s worth investing in an opportunity. You’ll conserve your time so you can use it on the opportunities where you really want to shine.
Step one: Scan and filter
Job ads are often filled with pointless fluff about the need for organization and excellent communication skills. Can you think of any job where those aren’t a plus? “Fluff is typically the last half of the job description…These aren’t ‘real skills’ and won’t land you an interview, so skip over them and focus on the important parts of the description,” recommends .
Ignore this filler and scan quickly for significant keywords like education, experience and serious skills. If skimming an ad turns up a few interesting words that fit what you’re looking for, make sure you have the hard and fast requirements like years of experience, fluent French or a particular certification. Then, if necessary, read it carefully in full.
Step two: Read between the lines
No one’s getting nominated for any Nobel prizes based on the quality of writing in most ads, which are generally neither clear nor compelling ( might be an exception).
So to find out more about the jobs you’ve deemed interesting, “you need to be able to extract what hiring managers implicitly want,” according to The Wall Street Journal’s Dennis Nishi. “This requires you to .”
Nishi’s article goes on to offer a suggestion from USC professor Mathew Curtis: “Peruse other job ads from the same employer. This can give you a better sense of the tone of a company.”
Tone is important because it’s your first clue whether you’re a good fit for a company’s culture. If you’re a flip-flops at work sort of guy (or gal), an ad full of ultra-serious biz speak is probably a sign that you would need to start shopping for wing tips. Noticing tone will also help should you decide to apply, allowing you to tailor your response to match the mood, vocabulary and focus of the ad.
The location of the job ad can be another clue whether it’s worth your time to apply. “If the ad is posted somewhere that required money to change hands, the position is real and unlikely to be filled internally by the boss’ brother,” says .
Step three: Do the dating profile test
To check whether you’ve really gotten a sense of the ad, think of it as akin to a dating profile, full of euphemisms designed to present the opportunity in the best light. Just like you’d mentally translate “free spirited” on Match.com to mean possibly unemployed, or “vivacious” to mean loud in public, it’s worth taking a moment to try to .
Does “lots of growth potential” mean a miniscule salary and long hours in exchange for the hope that this tiny company takes off? Does “self-starter” mean a boss who expects you to stay out of her hair? Can you imagine what day-to-day life would be like in this role and what tasks you’d be doing?
Just like with online dating, being incredibly picky is often counter-productive because we’re rarely good at predicting exactly what will make us happy. The dating profile test is just a check to make sure no alarm bells are ringing and you’ve thought through and understood what sort of company this is, what sort of person they’re after and whether you fit that description.
Still psyched for the job? Great, now use everything you’ve learned to apply, spending the extra time you didn’t use on spamming all those other jobs with resumes to craft the perfect pitch and find just the right person to get it to.
is a freelance writer based in London and is the author of column.