How to “Decode” Job Descriptions

How many different job descriptions have you read during your job search? Hundreds? Maybe even thousands? They can seem pretty confusing! Oftentimes, job descriptions are written by a committee, or by someone inexperienced. Others are prepared by recruiters or staffing firms (like Helpmates) with very specific goals in mind.

Decoding job descriptions to land your next jobHM_DecodeJD_Pic

Regardless of the person writing job descriptions, there are some specific clues you can identify to help you understand what an employer is looking for in a suitable candidate. Here are some of the most important:

  1. Look for words that are repeated frequently. While there are often a range of specific skills or experiences an employer is looking for, those words/skills that are repeated frequently are likely some of the most important skills necessary to succeed in the position. If you notice several skills mentioned throughout a job description and they fit your background, it is wise to similarly highlight these areas in your cover letter and resume.
  2. Keep an eye out for culture cues. Job descriptions can provide great insight into the culture of an organization. For example, a “significant growth opportunity” often signifies a desire for employees who can wear multiple hats. This type of organization is typically smaller, perhaps a startup, and can be a very dynamic place to work. “Flexible work hours” can be a sign of organizations that push hard to meet deadlines, even working past the 9 to 5. If you’re the type of person who likes to go “all in” on a project, this language may be a cue that the organization is a cultural fit. The tone of voice in job description language can also provide culture cues. A more formally-written description may signify a company that’s very professional and structured, while an informal, casual tone may signify a more relaxed, creative culture.
  3. Don’t ignore the requirements section. For some reason, this section tends to fall at the end of a job description, but for many employers it is the most critical. While the opening paragraphs of a job description often paint a picture of the role and the company, it’s in the requirements section where you can often find some of the real-world specifics and expectations that would come with a specific role. Also, ensuring you meet the requirements is critical toward getting a positive response from your resume. Many employers will toss a resume that doesn’t meet the minimum listed requirements. Look carefully at this section for additional insight, and to double check your resume and ensure you’re putting your efforts into the right job opening.

Taking a closer look at job descriptions can have a profound effect on your job search. Partnering with a staffing firm can also help you find the right jobs in Southern California. Visit the Helpmates job board to view our current openings, or contact us to take the next step in your career.

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Understanding Your Value Proposition

When it comes to your job search, your value proposition is critical. What is your value proposition, exactly? It’s that set of skills (soft, technical or industry-specific) that make you better suited for a position. More importantly, they make you stand out from the competition. value prop

So understanding your value proposition – and effectively communicating it – during job interviews is key. These four tips can help you better position yourself for your next career opportunity:

  1. Do research on the company’s main challenges. To understand how you can best perform within a certain role and company, you should understand its challenges or “pains.” What are they struggling with? Where could they improve? Once you’ve identified those challenges or “pains,” take a look at your background and accomplishments to craft a value proposition that directly addresses them. This small bit of research will immediately put you miles ahead of the competition.
  2. Read past performance reviews and ask for more input. Performance reviews are an excellent opportunity for your supervisors to review your on-the-job performance and offer tangible steps for reaching your goals. Review them for critical insights to guide your value proposition. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers with targeted questions. Targeted questions can help you gain some excellent insight into your specific value proposition. When speaking to co-workers, position the question as a method of trying to improve your performance and expertise. Try something like: “What is the one area of expertise or skill where you feel like I’m the ‘go-to’ person in our office?” or “If I focused my attention on strengthening one skill, what should it be?”
  3. Pare down extras. In your written communications and during job interviews, eliminate any extras that don’t support your value proposition. You may have worked really hard to gain some specific experience or accomplishment, but if it doesn’t contribute to your value proposition, it’s diluting the message you want to convey the most. Leave it off your resume and avoid bringing it up during job interviews (Bonus: Recruiters spend an average of six seconds looking at your resume – This ensures they’re spending those six seconds on the most important parts!).
  4. Go beyond your resume. Your cover letter should entice recruiters to read your resume, and your resume should get you a job interview. Don’t head into a job interview ready to simply regurgitate the points on your resume. Instead, illuminate those points. Offer insights into how you achieved certain results or how you overcame challenges to succeed.

Understanding your unique value proposition has tremendous impact, both for job seekers and professionals in every capacity. Following these steps can help you take a closer look at your career and how you’ve developed, and can help you further enhance your value within the workplace. Defining your value proposition now can be a tremendous step toward advancing your career and reaching your goals!

Helpmates specializes in helping professionals in Southern California reach their career goals across a range of disciplines. Visit our job board for the latest job openings, or contact your local Helpmates office for more information.

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