6 Tips for Reading Between the Lines of Entry Level Job Descriptions

By Aaron Swartz on September 21, 2022

Job hunting is difficult, especially if you’re in college and looking to enter the workforce in a few short years. Getting the experience required to start being offered jobs is an important step, so most students start their journey by looking at an endless assortment of entry-level positions to start building up their careers. One of the biggest hurdles for starting a new job — especially if you haven’t filled out many applications before — is the job description. Businesses put out listings for the positions they’re looking to fill and it’s up to you to parse through the information, decide if you’re a good fit, and fill out the application. However, there’s a lot of info in job descriptions that aren’t easily available on the surface, so to help you read between the lines and figure out what makes you a great applicant for the position, here are six tips for reading job descriptions to help you get hired.

 

via Pixabay

1. You Don’t Need to Meet Every Requirement

The most important thing by far you can remember about applying for any job is that you don’t need to meet every requirement set out in the description. While it may seem intimidating, especially if you’re a college student with a less than full resume, job descriptions aren’t inflexible laws. In reality, they’re a list of preferences set out by hire ups and HR departments in whatever business you’re applying for, and a lot of those preferences can and will be waived if they want to hire you. That doesn’t mean you should apply for jobs you have no background in though; most sources recommend you meet around 60-70% of the requirements in a job listing, so if they’ve got ten requirements and you meet six of them, you’re all good to try your hand at it.

2. Requirements are Usually in Descending Order

Requirements are in reality just preferences a business sets out for their applicants — both to attract good candidates and scare off those who are afraid to apply — but not all those preferences are created equal. Generally, the higher up on the list they are, the more important it is that any prospective candidates meet them. For example, if Microsoft Word proficiency is number one on the list you should probably know your way around it, but if it’s ten bullet points down then you’ll probably be ok without it. Keep that in mind while reading job descriptions, and if you don’t have every requirement don’t worry, just focus on the important ones.

3. Repetition is Key

Job descriptions are written by people, and if you keep a careful eye you can get some hints about what the people who want to hire you are looking for from their employees. Keep an eye out for any repetition in the job description. If there’s repeated mention of being a “team player” or “team oriented” then you should stress your team-building skills in your application. Just looking for motifs in the wording can tell you a lot about how to structure your application, which can be a huge help in getting the job.

4. Watch for Buzzwords

In the same way you should keep an eye out for repeated phrases or themes, there are also buzzwords you should be on the lookout for when reading through a job description. Hiring agents put in these words to specify what kind of tack you should take when applying, so being aware of them is crucial. Some words which you should immediately take note of include:

  • Detail-oriented

  • Team-player

  • Results-oriented

  • Good communication skills

  • Works Independently

  • Passionate

  • Hands-on

  • Self-Motivated

Any permutations or variations of these are important for you to keep an eye on and utilize in your application so you can fit what the company is looking for.

5. Scan the Language

It’s important to remember, especially when you’re still in the process of building up your resume, that the company you’re applying for should fit your needs as much as you fit theirs, and their job description is a great place to start figuring out whether you want to work there. The language a listing uses can tell you a lot about the priorities of a business. Maybe they use a lot of technical jargon which alienates them from people outside of their field, or maybe they’re very performatively inclusive. Regardless, scanning the listing can tell you a lot about the culture of a company, including whether or not you actually want to work there.

6. Follow the Application Instructions

Finally, one of the most important things you can learn from a job description is how to actually apply for the position. Most listings will have specific instructions for how to apply which you should take special note of. There may be some discrepancy between what the listing says and what the website hosting it says (if you’re applying through sources like Indeed or Handshake). Still, it’s important you prioritize the info in the description itself rather than the website. Following those directions completely and accurately will give you your best chance of being hired for the position you’re looking for.

College is a great time to start getting some experience under your belt, and entry-level jobs are great both before and after graduation. With these tips, you’re ready to start reading job descriptions for the information hidden between the lines, so you have the best chance of being hired for the role of your dreams.

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