How to Read a Job Ad

For many job seekers, the strategy in their job search is to apply to everything and anything. This method is not only very time-consuming and mentally draining, but also sets you up for a wave of rejection. Instead, Brazen Careerist suggests improving at reading job ads, which will help you sort through jobs quickly and focus on those opportunities that are right for you.

Here’s what they suggest:

Step one: Scan and filter

Ignore 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

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 read between the lines of job ads.”

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. 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.

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 to mean possibly unemployed, or “vivacious” to mean loud in public, it’s worth taking a moment to try to restate job ad jargon in everyday language.

Now that you’ve scanned through the filler, read between the lines, and discovered the tone of the company, you can tailor your resume and cover letter specifically for that position. This shows not only that you read the job ad thoroughly, but also that you are enthusiastic about the job. This is a much better alternative to sending a generic resume to hundreds of job with little or no response.



WAI Staff

Whitman Associates is a professional staffing agency serving businesses and job seekers in the Washington, D.C. area. Since 1972, we’ve been dedicated to matching highly qualified candidates with a wide variety of temporary, temp-to-hire and permanent positions. We prioritize the needs of both our clients and candidates to ensure successful, lasting relationships.