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How to use job descriptions to your advantage

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 14 Jun 2023

Making the most of job descriptions

You’ve probably heard the phrase “use the job description” a million times during your job search but understanding how to do this is a whole other kettle of fish. It’s easy to be told to do something but sometimes, understanding the potential it can truly give us, is another. We want you to be able to do your best during interviews and throughout the job process, so this article is here to discuss exactly why and how you can be utilising the job descriptions in job postings. 

What’s the point?

The job description posted with a new role is there to summarise the responsibilities, skills and qualifications that are needed or desired for that particular job. It gives you information as to what you’ll be doing day-to-day and what the employer expects of you as a candidate. It’s a really important insight as to whether you should be applying for this role or not. A good job description is there to summarise the important parts of the job, the company and overall, if you’re qualified. Hopefully, giving you a good enough overview to be able to make an informed decision on your application. 

A decent job description should also include details about the company mission, their culture and benefits the candidate would receive if they were successful. It’s there to inform you and persuade you that this company is the place you should be working.

Make sure you’re reading the whole thing

When you’re spending a lot of time working through vacancies, job applications and everything else that comes with a job search, it can be easy to try and speed things up a bit. However, it’s not wise to simply skim-read a job spec, you should be absorbing all of the information they give you. Make sure you’re analysing and assessing your skills (critically but fairly) to see if you’d truly be a good fit. You also have to want it. If you take the time to read and digest job descriptions, hopefully you can get a feel for what the job may be and if you can see yourself doing it. If unsure, take note and bring it up in interviews later in the process. 

Is this something you’d like to do?

The job description should be able to give you an idea of what the job is. After reading it all, what are your first impressions? Is this something you feel you’d do well, would there need to be some training or is this role something you’d see yourself doing in future, after some more experience? 

There’s no right or wrong answer. You need to be able to make this decision yourself. If there isn’t enough information to help you make this decision, maybe that’s a red flag in itself. The employer should be making the application process as easy as possible. 

How do you use this to your advantage?

The answer is simple - use their job description to tailor your approach. 

Your CV - This is usually the first line of communication when looking for a new role. Just like the employer has persuaded you with their job description, you need to persuade them with your CV. What better way to do this than include all the same details they did on their advert? You need to be honest about it. You can’t just be copying everything they’ve written, inaccuracies are likely to come out one way or another. So make sure you’re taking time to analyse the job description properly. If it’s useful to you, try putting your CV next to the job spec and comparing them that way. What similarities are there and what could be worked on?

Basically, if the employer has asked for a certain skill and it’s not on your CV - add it. (If it’s honest of course) Don’t miss out on easy brownie points because you aren’t tailoring your CV. The job description is there to be used, utilise it!

Your research - The job description should also provide you with information about the company. The day-to-day responsibilities listed on the document will hopefully be able to guide you as well. What is it you’d be working on? Are there any projects the job description mentions that you can learn more about? What is it the employer is actually looking for? Is this role new or is it replacing someone? There are so many different things to learn and the job description is there to help guide you on where to start. 

If the job description mentions a certain set of skills or a project, try and find other projects like this in the news. This information may be able to help you figure out more about their competitors. All very useful information during interviews. 

Your interview - it’s probably common knowledge that you should be preparing in advance for interviews. But much like your CV, now is your time to shine and persuade the employer why it would be a good idea to hire you. You want to be taking key points from the job spec, your CV and research to have a really successful interview. The employer gives you so much information in the job description but it’s your job to apply it. 

When planning your interview answers in advance, make sure you’re taking time to examine the job description and weave key points into your answers. So if they were to ask about your soft skill set, make sure you are pulling the skills they require from their job description and mention them here. This can be applied to almost any interview question, bar a few. So try and do this in your preparation. It can really help you!

The job description is really useful and how you use this is up to you. But you really should be giving it the time it deserves. Take the time to read it, make notes if you find it useful. Pick out key points and use these throughout the interview process. You’ll be surprised at the difference it can make, because the employer’s notice.