How to Interpret a Job Description

Estimated reading time ~ 2 min
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It’s job hunting season! There are so many opportunities available in a variety of interesting fields. There’s just as much variety in the types of job descriptions you’ll encounter. However, interpreting a job description can be easier said than done.

Below are suggestions on how to interpret different sections of a typical job description.

Job Title

When it comes to corporate structures, most roles have similar hierarchical titles such as assistant, coordinator, analyst, specialist, lead, or manager. However, though titles may sound similar, the responsibilities for an analyst at one company may be different than an analyst at another. Be sure to thoroughly read the job description to understand the responsibilities at that specific organization.

Don’t be thrown by non-traditional titles! Creative names like rockstar, guru, ninja or magician are calling for specialist or individuals with a particular skill. Titles such as evangelist or advocate are seeking ambassadors who will become an expert on the organization.

Description of Company

This portion of a job description will inform your understanding of the organization as it typically clarifies the organization’s industry, culture, and values. Read closely to understand the role’s function within the organization as well. But keep in mind — you can learn a lot more about the company by going to their website and doing research.

Responsibilities

The responsibilities section is where you’ll find more information on the purpose of the role, as well as an overview of broad responsibilities and some specific tasks.

There’s no way to get all of these responsibilities down on paper - so you may see statements such as perform ad hoc duties as assigned. This means that you should expect to be assigned responsibilities that are related to the role but not specifically listed in the job description.

Qualifications/Requirements

If you are passionate about a certain role or organization, you don’t need 100% of the qualifications to apply. The qualifications section can differentiate between which experiences and skills are required for the role and which are preferred.

Don’t be deterred if you don’t have the exact experience listed. Take the opportunity to think of similar skills or tools that you already have or can be transferable. For example, the job description may call for Java, but C# is very similar and worth considering comparable.

Diversity and Inclusion Statement

The diversity and inclusion statement is a proclamation from an organization that they are an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate against potential employees based on race, religion, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, veteran status, and other protected statuses. From this declaration, you can learn the company’s value of diversity and intention to review qualified candidates.

Uninformative Job Description

You will definitely encounter a job description that makes you say, “Huh?!” If the job description is unclear in certain sections, reach out to LinkedIn connections who work within the organization for more clarity on the role. If you do not have connections, you can always reach out to a listed recruiter, or even ask someone who is currently in the role if they can provide more information.

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