How to Use a Job Ad to Your Advantage


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Has your job search left you feeling like a deflated balloon? The thrill of excitement you had when you first started out job hunting has transformed into helpless panic-stricken anxiety. You’ve diligently replied to job ads by the bucket load yet none has received a positive response, leaving you scratching your head in disbelief. 

Here’s the thing. There is a lot more to a successful job search than sending out an infinite number of job applications. Considering the overwhelming number of job applications hiring managers receive for an available position, typically 250 to 400 per vacancy, your first job is to ensure that your application does not disappear down the ethereal black hole - that your application captures the attention and interest of the HR manager. Increase your chance of employment success by starting with a careful and critical look at the job description provided.


The purpose of a job description

According to The London University International Programmes web page, job descriptions are defined as written statements that outline the duties, responsibilities, required qualifications and experience wanted for a particular job role.

There are two important roles that a job description plays. Firstly, a job description is a critical hiring tool that helps the HR manager to identify the most suitable applicant for the vacant job position. Think of it like you would a wish list of what they are after. And secondly, a job description gives you vital information that helps you decide whether this is an opportunity for you to consider.

 So, how do you use the job description to your advantage in search of your next job?


Tip 1: First, review your skill set

At the start of your job hunt process, review your skill set and identify your career goals. This will help you align your goals to job adverts that match your skills. Job descriptions are carefully crafted adverts designed to match a suitable candidate to the required skillset and expertise. It is not just the job ad title that should capture your attention - the entire ad text should be looked at closely.

Many descriptions include the use of keywords that are pertinent to the skills the HR manager is looking for. Including these keywords into your CV and cover letter will help make your application stand out. This will increase your chance of being shortlisted and getting called in for an interview.


Tip 2: Are you a perfect match for this job?

It is typical of many hiring managers to list their required skills criteria in order of importance. Tick off each of the skills mentioned that you meet. How many of these do you have and most importantly, do you meet all of the main skills wanted? Can you provide concrete evidence of your capability in each? Do you have supporting academic qualifications and work experience?


Tip 3: Be wary of job ads that are short on details.

If the information supplied in a job listing is important, then it follows that a lack of information should be a red flag. A professionally-crafted job description should provide essential information such as daily duties and responsibilities in addition to the skills, qualifications and experience required for the position.

It should also give you a brief background or idea of the company and its company culture. Aligning with a company that offers you your ideal of the perfect work environment is the critical ingredient of your future success and greater job satisfaction. Company culture has been found to play a significant part in employee engagement. Anything less than giving you an idea of what the position entails should be a telling indicator of the professionalism of the company you intend working for.


Tip 4: How well do you follow directions?

In highly competitive fields, a favourite way for top companies to find top talent is to insert questions or very unusual application instructions, sometimes seemingly irrelevant ones, into their job descriptions. For example, in applying for a technical position you are asked to supply a joke along with your application.

This is a subtle method of discerning how well you are able to read, understand and follow directions. Inappropriate jokes or applications with none submitted at all quickly find themselves in the eliminated pile. Following directions is a soft skill in demand in almost every type of job. If you’re asked to use a particular phrase in your cover letter, make sure you do.


Tip 5: Use job ad information to empower your application

Use the information provided in the description to draw up questions you can put to your interviewer. Asking relevant questions in a job interview is a convincing way to prove your desire and interest in the job and in the company. Your questions will allow you to gain more information on what the job requires, the company you intend working for and making a favourable impression on the hiring manager.

Paying close attention to the job description, and using the top tips listed above, will empower you to put forward a high-quality application. A proper read through and analysis of a job ad is key to a successful job search and will set you well on your way to a multitude of interviews.


Zulfar Abrahams writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate marketing jobs are currently available, as well as their graduate jobs Manchester page for further opportunities.

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