What to target in the job listing

What if there were a way to know what was most important to an employer? Good news! Job postings contain more than just hiring criteria. 

By taking a closer look at job postings, you can identify topics of importance and pick up on nuanced information to help you prepare better applications. Here is what to look for when deconstructing a job posting:

Job Title

Align your experience with what the company is looking for by using the same language they do in the job title. For example, if you are a public relations officer and they are looking for a communications specialist, call yourself a communications specialist or utilize parentheses on past similar roles to match the job title if applicable (e.g. Public Relations Officer (Communications Specialist).

Job Number

If a job number is available, include it in your email, cover letter, and even filenames. This will make it easier for those receiving, searching, and processing applications to pay attention to your submission.

HR Manager’s Name and Contact Details 

Use this information to personalize your application–specifically, your cover letter. This not only shows that you paid attention and read the job posting but also demonstrates professional courtesy and respect.

You can also use this information to research the hiring manager with the goal of finding a way to connect with them. If the posting does not include this information, be resourceful. Try locating it online, through your network, or even by calling the company and asking for it.

Location

If you are applying for a position across town or across the country, be proactive and address any concerns the employer may have about daily commutes or plans for relocation in your resume or cover letter.

Posting Date and Application Deadline

Show employers you are prepared and serious about finding work by submitting your application ahead of the submission deadline.

Research shows that, on average, 60% of applications are submitted within seven days of a position being posted. Applications submitted early in the application window do better than those submitted later, because there is less competition and employers are not yet overwhelmed with candidates. 

Application Instructions

Be on the lookout for specific application instructions such as, “Submit your resume, cover letter, references, and a sample of your work”; “Please indicate your salary expectations”; or, “No follow-up calls.” There is always a reason behind these requests and applicants whose submissions follow the instructions are more likely to be considered.

Qualifications

When reviewing job requirements, a good rule of thumb is that you should satisfy 75-80% of the duties listed for the role. That said, understand that “credential creep”–when employers include an excessive list of hiring criteria–is a real thing.

Pay special attention to the duties listed first, as job ads are typically written in order of importance. Be sure to highlight your experience in these areas early in your resume. Focus on position-specific duties. For example, “Manage the purchase of building materials and land acquisitions,” rather than more general catch-all phrases, such as, “Perform extra duties as assigned.”

Does your resume pass the test?

Keywords

Take note of the terms and vocabulary used throughout a job posting. Start by identifying the hard, soft, and technical skills the employer wants, and include that terminology in your resume and cover letter. Using the same language as the employer will help target your application and increase your resume’s rank if you are applying through an applicant tracking system (ATS). 

You can also use resume keywords to get a sense of what skills the employer prioritizes. For instance, if you see the words analyze, analysis, and analytical repeated, this may indicate a key part of the role, and you can focus on demonstrating your competency in this area.

Jobscan’s resume optimization tool helps automate this process. Just paste in your resume and a job description to get a detailed report of which skills are most important to your application and whether or not your resume has you covered.

Assets, Must-Haves, and Deal Breakers

It is common for specific knowledge or experience to be listed as an asset. This information is often listed toward the end of a posting, but if you have that skill set, you should highlight this early on your resume. This is a quick way to stand out among other applicants.

You should also be on the lookout for must-haves and deal breakers. If a posting states, “Must have own vehicle,” not having a car will likely prevent any further consideration. Similarly, if a posting outlines “50% out-of-town travel,” and that does not work for you or your household, it could be a potential deal breaker.

Tone and Company Culture

Job postings traditionally have been written from a neutral perspective. Fortunately for job seekers, companies have started to realize that by writing job postings in a way that reflects their culture, they can attract applicants that fit their organization.

Take note of how the job ad is written–for example, formal versus informal, professional versus humorous–and demonstrate fit by mirroring that sentiment through the language in your application.

Font, Colors, and Branding

A unique way to target your application is to design your resume so it matches or subtly mirrors the company’s brand. By using the same resume font, colors, and design elements, you can align yourself with the employer early on in the application process.

By deconstructing a job posting, you can get a more complete picture of what the employer is looking for.  Use all the information available to write stronger, more targeted applications that will get you noticed!


Matt PurdeyMatthew Purdey, BA, CCDP, has 15 years’ experience in language, educational and vocational guidance and is the Founder / Principal Consultant at Foresight Career Coaching.

Matthew helps people understand and apply best practices in job search so they can search smarter, perform better, and take control of their career.

Through his work with non-profit organizations, universities, and private clients, he has helped over 1,000 people, including professionals, newcomers and students, to start and grow their careers.

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