Jobseekers: Read, Dissect and Attack Your Job Descriptions!

Published: May 19, 2009

Topics: Job Search       
I was recently coaching a very smart, very engaging, 40+ babyboomer who found a job description that she claimed was her perfect job:  the field:  Creative Director/Event Programming, the location:  Greenwich Village, the company:  a non-profit she deeply respected.

We met for a mock interview session and I asked to take a look at the job description.  We reviewed it together line-by-line as it was almost 2 pages long. 

Job Hunting Tip 101:  read the job description thoroughly before applying – right?! 

As we reviewed it together, it became clear to me that she hadn’t read it through completely.  To quote Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman:  BIG MISTAKE!!! 

If you haven’t read EVERYTHING in a job description, you are on unstable footing.  It’s the only way to ensure you can do everything required!  This information bolsters your confidence, helps with your interview delivery, and adds to your determination to get the job.  It’s absolutely critical!

Job Hunting Tip 202:  most hiring managers have 3 – 4 non-negotiable/critical deal breaker aspects to a job and you should be able to identify these in a job description.  Usually, about 10 – 20% of the job description is negotiable.  So if you can deliver on the majority of the requirements, apply for the job and lead with your strengths during the interview.

Back to my client:  she put a check mark next to almost every aspect of the job description as she recounted her past experiences and successes.  I also ensured that she quantified everything possible, and told her story in a compelling way. 

Job Hunting Tip 303:  review the job description line by line, and match them to your accomplishments and abilities.  During the interview, discuss them in a compelling way and quantify whenever possible.   

Practice, practice, practice how to demonstrate your strengths, and practice how you will respond to those components of the job description you haven’t done in the past.  Be ready for this so your response is calm, cool and composed.  Perhaps you can say that you are a quick learner and that this particular component is not rocket-science.  I myself used that once and landed the job.  Always be authentic and it’s not the worst thing in the world to say you haven’t done this task exactly, but you’re confident that you can.

Job Hunting Tip 404:  If you don’t have strong examples or any examples of some job requirements, decide if they can be easily mastered and practice your response to this in advance.

There is no such thing as preparing too much for an interview and it starts with the job description.  Preparing lowers your stress level so you can interview with confidence and ease.  As an employer, I would choose an enthusiastic and engaging person over someone whose nerves got the best of them almost every time – even if the later had more experience.  This is not the time to have an average job search effort!

Connie Thanasoulis (on-campus expert) is co-founder of SixFigureStart (