When you are researching a potential employer, there are numerous sources of information: the company’s website and social media presence, reviews on Glassdoor, and of course, good old-fashioned Googling. But don’t overlook the power of job descriptions—there’s a lot they can tell you a lot about a company.
Just like your resume is a marketing document, selling you as the product, job descriptions exist to sell candidates on a company and a role. A job description’s content and tone can provide job seekers with a number of insights about the employer.
For example, start-up and tech companies often highlight their open and collaborative work environments. In many cases, this means they have an open office layout. Open offices have both huge fans and huge detractors. If you’ve never worked in an open office environment, be sure to read up on the trend as part of your job research.
These companies want to attract top talent, so they offer unique benefits, and advertise them in their job descriptions. (Think in-office beer fridges; on-site chefs preparing organic, locally-sourced meals; or airfare allowances of thousands of dollars. These are all actual benefits offered by various start-ups and tech companies in Seattle.) But if you prefer to not blur the lines between work and play—and between your work life and your home life—such companies might not be your best bet.
Company culture is an important consideration, because succeeding and advancing at work often comes down to not just ability or results, but to how well you fit in with the company culture. Many times, job descriptions can clue you in on what that culture is.
Clarity and goals
If you come across a job description that’s full of jargon and buzzwords, but light on detail, you’ve likely found a company that doesn’t know quite what it’s hiring for. Another possible indicator is a job description that asks for impossibly wide-ranging skills, or numerous different types of outputs expected on a regular basis. Measuring success in a role that’s loosely defined can be tough—and it can mean that you miss out on chances for advancement.
Overly broad or especially unclear job descriptions can also indicate that a company is trying to stretch its budget and hire one person to carry out the functions of multiple jobs. Some might view that as an opportunity, while others might see it as a burden. It all depends on your goals and expectations.
Pace and focus
Constant deadlines and constant pressure do not directly translate into meaningful work; they often mean busywork, and many small tasks in place of larger goals. If you are a big-picture person, a company that focuses on daily deadlines might not give you the time or opportunity to focus on anything else.
If you find deadlines exhilarating, you might thrive on that tempo and feel aimless in a slower-paced job. Or maybe you want a job where you work hard while you’re there, but don’t take your job home with you.
Reading job descriptions carefully can give you a sense of whether a role is focused on numerous short-term goals or on fewer long-term ones. “Fast-paced,” “urgency,” and “deadline-driven” are just a few common terms that should be red flags for job seekers more interested in big-picture roles.
Whatever pace you prefer, make sure your resume demonstrates it. Echo the keywords from the job descriptions throughout your resume wherever they fit to help build your candidacy.
Knowing what you want in your next job is important. If your job search tactic is to submit as many applications as possible, you’re incredibly unlikely to ever be among the top candidates for any job—even if your qualifications are a match. Only the top 2 percent of job applicants are offered interviews, according to Robert Meier, president of Job Market Experts. To be among the top 2 percent of candidates for a job, you need to not only be qualified, but to have customized your application for that specific job.
To gauge how well you’ve targeted your resume for a specific job, run it through Jobscan’s online resume analysis tool. It offers not just a match rating, but personalized feedback on how to improve your resume.
Read job descriptions carefully and then apply for the best jobs, not the most jobs. Submitting targeted resumes to carefully-chosen roles dramatically boosts your chances of landing in that top 2 percent of candidates. That’s how you’ll get an interview—and a job.