If you are serious about applying for a particular role, you need to make sure you analyse the job description carefully to understand what the employer is looking for. Once you have done that, you need to use that information to create a great application for that role in terms of a targeted resume and strong cover letter.
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As you go through the key steps below, keep in mind that the most important elements are almost always placed up front. So, if the job description lists 5 qualifications you need to have, there is a very good chance that the ones the employer feels are most important will be the top 2-3 that they have specified. This holds true for the education, skills, qualifications and responsibilities listed.
How To Analyse & Respond To Job Descriptions:
1. Identify & List Your Strengths
Before you start to analyse the job description, you need to have a good think about your qualifications and experiences because you will need to match these up against the ones asked for in the job description. Spend half an hour creating a list of your key skills, qualifications and responsibilities in your current role. Think about what you can include under these headings:
- Your Education – Include all college, university courses plus any job related activities.
- Your Key Qualifications – List the years of experience you have with each skill. Also consider soft skills such as leadership Eg 4 years leading a project team etc…
- Your Current Responsibilities – List the most important responsibilities you have in your current role or past roles if relevant.
2. Review & Highlight The Key Points
Now that your key skills are top of mind, grab a highlighter and a copy of the job description. Job descriptions tend to follow a pattern – education and qualifications are up front, duties and responsibilities come next and they finish with instructions on what to do next. As you read through the job description, highlight the following items:
- Education Level – Highlight the education levels they list as mandatory and then consider of you have those qualifications or something equivalent you can use. Remember, this is easy for the recruiter to check so don’t lie about it in your resume or cover letter.
- Qualifications & Skills – Highlight all the specific qualifications they ask for and the exact skills they are looking for. Look for hard and soft skills like teamwork, leadership, creativity etc…. Take note of the wording, do they say ‘minimum x years experience required’ or is it worded as ‘prefer x years experience’. This will give you a clue as to how much flexibility they may have. Match these up against your list of skills and qualifications and take note of the matches, you will use these later on.
- Key Responsibilities – Highlight all the things they list as a normal part of the job. Make sure you can complete those tasks and have examples from your list that you can use to prove it later on. Also, ask yourself if these are the things you want to be doing everyday. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you want to do 5 days a week for years on end. Make sure this job will make you happy.
- Keywords and Industry Buzzwords – Use a different highlighter to identify all the keywords and industry buzzword included throughout the job description. This is especially important if your application and resume go through resume screening software. Your resume will never make it through to the recruiter if you do not include the relevant key words.
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3. Look For Questions
Once the analysis of skills and responsibilities is done, look carefully for any obvious or subtle questions in the job description. Sometimes recruiters include subtle questions like ‘Are you a team player…’ in the job description to see which candidates actually read the job spec carefully and which ones just cut and paste information and apply for every role they see. If there is a question in there, highlight it and make sure you answer it carefully in your application cover letter and resume.
4. Confirm Submission Requirements
Checking the submission requirements is a simple task but you would be surprised how many job candidates ignore it. Recruiters tell us all the time this is one off the things they find most annoying. Highlight how they want you to apply as stated in the job descriptions. Do they ask you to upload a resume online and click apply? Do they ask you to email a copy of your resume to a specific email address?
5. Create a Job Specific resume & Cover Letter
Once all that analysis is done, go ahead and update your resume so that it is specifically written for the job description you have just analysed. Include relevant keywords, make sure you list the educational qualifications you have that match the job description and list all the skills and qualifications you have that they are looking for.
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Create a cover letter that directly relates to the job description, answering any questions they ask and using examples to address the skills and qualifications they are looking for.
To improve your chance of being invited in for a first interview, you must read every job description carefully and make sure your application is directly targeted to the role that is advertised. A generic ‘cut and paste’ approach is a waste of your time and the recruiters, and just means your job search process will take so much longer.