You’re probably not reading job descriptions right

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You're probably not reading job descriptions right

Job descriptions def. a page of information about what you might find yourself doing for 40 hours a week.

It is obviously difficult for employers to sell who they are and what they want you to do in sub 800 words, whilst also trying to keep the best talent interested and put off those who might be unsuitable.

So, over time, job descriptions have developed, and writing job descriptions has become an art. Well, not an art, but a finely honed craft for all switched-on job seekers to carefully deconstruct and analyse. Employers are fully aware of what they are doing when they upload mammoth or miniscule job descriptions in the hope for applications and they will have no issue with trying to catch you out either.

But most graduates can find themselves getting frustrated with job descriptions and job adverts. They can be mysterious or ambiguous, but what's worse is they will miss the point of the advert and get themselves in a tangle because they're unsure what's going on.

Graduates can often fall victim of not playing the game when it comes to reading and looking through job descriptions because they don't even know what they're supposed to be looking at.

Graduates need to understand that job descriptions, like you will see on this site or others similar, are not the complete package of these offered opportunities. If anything they are usually sign posts for graduates to progress and submit their application elsewhere.

Realistically, you're probably reading job descriptions wrong, here's why:

Beware of the fluff and the guff

All graduates are looking for different things from their debut employment. It could be looking to make a bit of money for their first few years, it could be looking to start a career with great training or looking for a bit of responsibility. When flicking through job descriptions, exercising a little cynicism could be advised. If something appears too good to be true it probably is. This is not to suggest employers are conning applications out of you, but don't expect the earth when you are looking at jobs.

What employers are guilty of is putting too much fluff and guff in job descriptions. Whether this is putting too much fluff into employment specifications or spewing up a thesaurus on every line. This can be because they are crafted by recruitment teams rather than the department you might be working in.

Not to slate the HR Teams across graduate employers, but they will be looking for self-starters and ambitious graduates, rather than saying you might be doing a lot of droll work early on while you cut your teeth. It is difficult to sell some roles, but employers do have to try, so graduates to have to expect a certain level of fluffy dressing-up and turd polishing.

Another part of the fluff and guff that is imparted on job descriptions is while these skills common in job descriptions, great communication and interpersonal skills for example, graduates can find themselves bending what they are see to suit themselves.

This is not a totally unforgivable feature, but graduates need to be aware they're doing it. What is there is there, and not malleable to their own personalities and skills.

Usually there is a lot to wade through. A quick bit of research on my part has found in the past year graduates have spent as little as 1 minute 15 seconds looking at job descriptions. This is worryingly short and shows that either graduates have found themselves falling short of the requirements and binning it off, or, more likely, they've just skipped through to the apply now, skim reading as they go looking for the big apply button.

The insert on the right is a highlight from an American careers resource and shows the how people read job descriptions, by tracking their eye line through it. As you can see people are skimming and not paying too much attention to the detail. This is not, I can almost guarantee that if you spend more time reading through job descriptions carefully, your applications will be improved and the likelihood of success will also increase.

Dutiful graduate positions

Along with job title and requirements, job descriptions usually contain a list of duties or responsibilities of the role. Varied in detail and depth, graduate job descriptions can highlight what the successful applicant might be doing. Graduates should pay close attention to these as they will shed some light on and give some examples for where the specified requirements might come into use.

The obvious mistake here is thinking you'll spend your time doing the glamorous side of the position without the laborious legwork. This is wrong. While requirements can sometimes be circumnavigated slightly, when crafting covering letters and amending CVs graduates should approach the duties head-on and as a whole.

Although, in reality, the duties of a role can be a lot more fluid. What's specified as a vitally important part of the job could in 6 months be a duty shared by the team or a new role created for a new member of staff. This should be of no concern to prospective applicants, as reading job descriptions and tailoring your approach is really a comprehension exercise.

Just markers

As mentioned before, sites like ours are used by employers for the excellent resource of excellent graduates, like you! We are essentially the hosts for these opportunities with optional but fantastic blogs, news and advice. And while we don't tend to limit how much employers can post on their job postings, they're not going to put all their information on one page.

Many employers use as a mediator for getting the attention of graduates, but will expect them to pursue further research. The majority of destinations for "Apply Now", especially with bigger companies, links off to their Careers Sites.

With this graduates should expect to put more research in and scout out more information, not just ploughing straight on to the bit where you fill in the boxes.

Traps and tricks

Employers are not daft and they are looking to weed out the impressive from the impotent early on. They will lay a series of traps in job descriptions and will lead you astray where they can. This is not to say all employers are doing this but it is something that graduates need to be aware of, if not looking out for.

I wrote about this in more detail last November, but graduates should be careful for looking out for not necessary deceitful wording and phrasing but a bit more truthfully inaccurate statements. Some employers love to promise graduates they will be earning the equivalent of a small countries GDP every month, while others will give you a 500 word mini-essay on the virtues of the company and barely a line on the job.

Other things may be the inclusion of a name. If there's a name or a reference to direct applications to a specific department you should definitely do that. It may only be mentioned once in the middle of a paragraph, but the omission of this from your covering letter could be fatal to your chances.

Job descriptions are tough nuts to crack, but it is worth paying close attention to every word. Of course you should read around the job and the company, but using the job description as a guide to help you craft your CV and your Covering Letter is an absolute must.

By James Howell