Last month’s Career Focus article reflected on your talents, interests, skills, values, and personality. We then applied that information to frame your job search.

This month, let’s focus on how to analyze a job description. In general, most job descriptions include six key sections that we can look at in detail for keys to a successful job search:

1. Job Title

Even within the same industry, organizations may use different job titles for the same roles. For example, similar positions may be posted as Career Advisor, Career Educator, Career Coach, Career Counselor, or Career Services Specialist. Research the variations within your field, and add them to your search criteria to expand your search.

2. Job Posting Date

Note if a position was posted for more than a month ago. For job posts more than a month old, the hiring committee might have already started interviews or even selected a candidate to hire.

If you are really interested in the position, email or call the contact listed on the job posting or contact the organization’s HR department to see if they are still actively recruiting. If the organization has yet to take down the listing but it is far along in the hiring process, your time may be better spent focusing on newer job postings.

3. Organization/Department Summary

Before applying, review the organization and department’s mission, vision, values, and goals. If these aren’t included in the job posting, check the company’s website and LinkedIn profile. Consider if the mission and values resonate with you and your career goals. This will help you determine if you are a good fit for the organization. A prospective employer might have similar or different goals and values from its competitors.

Also, even if the job appears to only work within one department in the company, notice how that department and your prospective role would interact with others.

4. Duties and Responsibilities

The duties and responsibilities listed on the job description will make up the typical daily, weekly, and monthly responsibilities of the role. Your job application materials should match what you’ll be expected to do.

Don’t be discouraged if you do not have experience in all the listed responsibilities. Employers may be willing to train you if you show competency in other areas.

However, take note of areas where you need more training and experience. You may be asked to address these areas if you’re called for an interview, so be prepared to explain how you are still a good fit because of how your past experiences (paid and volunteer) relate to the job.

5. Minimum and Desired Qualifications

Many organizations use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to screen applications, resumes, and cover letters given that some positions get hundreds or thousands of applicants. If your application matches a predetermined percentage of what they’re looking for, you are more likely to be contacted for an interview.

However, if your application does not explicit list certain qualifications, your application could be filtered out. For example, omitting a software program that is central to the role could determine whether or not you’re selected to interview.

Be sure to review the list of qualifications carefully and include all your related experiences and skills.

6. Compensation and Benefits

Similar to the organization/department summary, review the position’s compensation and benefits and compare it to your list of negotiables and non-negotiables. Does the company cover healthcare and offer personal/paid time off (PTO)? Does the position pay an hourly rate or a fixed salary?

If the job description doesn’t include this information, you can refer to websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed for user-generated salary and benefits information. Note you may be able to negotiate your salary and benefits, but only after you’re given a job offer. Also, it’s essential to know industry averages before attempting to do so.

Final Thoughts

Always include a resume and cover letter with your job application, unless otherwise stated. Some employers prefer them in one document versus separate files. Read the job posting directions carefully for instructions and to see if other documents are required, such as a work portfolio, transcripts (unofficial or official), or test scores.

Attallah students and alumni looking for one-on-one assistance can contact Chapman’s Career and Professional Development Office for help exploring career paths in education, community organizations, and beyond.

We also encourage you to follow Attallah College on LinkedIn for regular career tips, job listings, and industry news.