How to read a job posting


Help_wantedJerome Young, Contributor Forbes Magazine said it well a few years ago.

Decoding a job posting is a skill they don’t teach it in school.


Parts of a job posting


Company Logo

(Usually with a link to the company’s website.  Go there – read the whole thing.  Is this a company that you would like to work for?  Why?  While you are on the web, do a search for the company, check with Google News, look on LinkedIn and see who you are connected to inside the company.)


Title of the job

(most jobs have “normal” titles, but some can be “creative” and not really tell you what the company is looking for.  But this does tell you a bit about the culture – “not boring”.  Is this the same title you have now or had last?  Is this a reasonable next step?  You can’t go from Research Associate to VP in one step.)



(This is not always in a job posting, so check their website. If it is not within your commute distance, be sure to look for a relocation benefit or be prepared to move yourself.  Many, even most, companies do not want to relocate someone; it can get expensive.  Relocation is 50 or more miles. )


When it was posted

 (This too is not necessarily on the posting, but like house for sale ads, the longer it has been out there, the better for you.  But check to be sure that it is still an active opening and not simply one that someone forgot to take down.  Applying first may, or may not, do you any good – the person that looks at “today’s applicants” may not do it until there are X number anyway.)


Position type

(full-time, part-time, etc. What do you want?  Would a part-time job get your foot in the door, or would it be a sidestep off your career path?)


Job Code

(This is an internal code to keep things straight in the HR department.  Make a note of it; you may need it later.)


Area of expertise

Some job boards require this.  It is doubtful that you will see this on the career pages of the company.



This should be the place where the writer of the job posting tells you what you would do, why it is important and exciting and who you will work with.  Some writers are much better than others.  It should tell you what has to happen in the job, what problem needs to be solved, how you can tell if you have solved it.  Mostly they don’t.  The first three items listed are usually the most important. 


Look for keywords and phrases.  Print out the position description/job posting and take a highlighter to it.  What words/phrases make this job description different from another one?  Yes, there will be “fluff” – “works well with a team”, “responsible for owning and achieving interim and final contractual deliverables for assigned projects/programs, according to the time, quality/scope and cost constraints”, etc. Use the words somewhere in your resume, but don’t use too much fluff.  While we know that your resume will only get about 10-30 seconds of viewing time, you need to spend at least 15 minutes on each job posting you think looks good. 


Do you “own” at least 85% of the keywords?  If not, this is not the job for you. 



These are the “have” items usually, rather than the “can do” items.  Yes, sometimes the education requirement seems rather unnecessary, but if they ask for a PhD and you only have a Masters, this is not the job for you.

Or on the other hand, if you have a PhD and they are asking for a Masters, it probably means that they will think that you are overqualified.  You need to “own” at least the top three qualifications and use them on the top half of your resume.  Otherwise, the human that looks at your resume may not see them.


Pay attention to the words used.  The Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that will parse your application and resume only understands synonyms if the HR department has programmed them.  So use the ones in the job posting.  If they want an old software and you know that one and the next one, please remember to mention the old one!  If they spell out something, you should too.


Do you know what your keywords are?  I’ve done a video on using to find your keywords.  Click here to view it.  And do leave a comment. 

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