When hiring, many organizations take time creating job descriptions internally or through a recruiter. It is not just for the sake of it. This process helps them get the ideal profile they are looking for clear. The JD also acts as their guiding document during screening and making hiring decisions. Their ideal candidate could be you. However, many times, professionals fail to internalize the nitty-gritty of the job description and thus end up positioning themselves in a less compelling manner.

Which is why we advocate for job seekers to take the time needed to decipher said job descriptions to determine how their experiences and skills align with what the employer is looking for, prior to submitting their applications. We outline three things you should ALWAYS pay attention to when interpreting job descriptions. Get this right, and you might increase your chances of scoring yourself a job!

1. Match responsibilities with your skills & experiences – Don’t just go off by the title of the position; different titles mean different things in different industries. Avoid mere skimming through the document or posting and assuming it is similar to what you already know. Ask yourself –From the responsibilities shared; what can you do with your eyes half-closed?  Which areas may you need more support in if hired? Use this information to review your CV and see how laid out responsibilities measure up to your past and/or present role. Ideally, you should be able to carry out at least 70% of the responsibilities. Whereas certain organizations are willing to hire people less qualified and invest in their development, they’ll usually have this stated in the job description. Now, if you find yourself having more questions than answers about your understanding of the role’s responsibilities that may either indicate you are unfamiliar with the role or that the language is not clear for you. Should it be the latter, then it’s worth trying to reach out to the respective organization to understand the role a little bit further. Finally, always have a lookout for job descriptions that are fake! Here’s a guiding article on how.

2. Align the requirements with your qualifications – Organizations often list the qualifications as a must-have and preferred. For instance, if they require expertise in a certain skill or specialized qualifications such as a particular degree or certification or language, they will have that listed. ALWAYS pay attention to keywords when reading the qualifications – you should use this information to customize your CV and cover letter to clearly and precisely show how you are aligned to the role. Keep in mind that your application also goes through the Applicant Tracking System, which filters out certain keywords before a recruiter/hiring manager looks at your application. Learn more about customizing your application to beat the ATS here.

3. Gather information about the organization – Most job descriptions provide background information about the organization. This should be your starting point to conduct more research about the organization prior to any application.  Go to their website, their social media pages, see if there are any articles or YouTube videos about the organization that can help you see what kind of place it is to work in, the kind of culture they have, their vision and goals, the values they hold, etc. You can also check out Glassdoor to see if they have reviews from past employees to see how they treat their staff. If an organization has not included an ”Äbout us” section on the job description, use other means of research as indicated above to learn more about them. Here’s an article we wrote about the importance of assessing an organization’s culture when job hunting.

For further reading; wondering why you always make the shortlist but don’t get hired? This may be why.