Bridge Insights

The Ultimate Guide to Decoding Job Descriptions

Apr 30, 2020

If you’ve spent any amount of time searching for a job, you know that job postings come in all shapes and sizes. You can learn a lot about a position and a business based on what an employer decides to put in (or leave out of) that space titled, “job requirements”. Even if a job description is informative and it quickly makes you want to join a company’s team, before you hit apply, read that job post again.

There are certain things that companies with poor working environments are guilty of doing when creating job postings. Often these “red flags” have more to do with how information is presented than the information itself. If you come across a job description that is guilty of any of the following, it may be time to do some extra research on the company before hitting apply.

Spelling Errors and Format Inconsistencies

If you catch a spelling mistake in a job post, your first reaction is probably something like, “Who proofed this”? On top of that, it’s a little hard to take a job post seriously if the description lists “attention to detial” as a must for the job.

Proper grammar and spelling are important no matter what you’re writing. There is also a level of professionalism that goes along with this.

What this tells job seekers

If you see a job posting that reads more like a draft than a final version, it may speak to a lack of organization and internal communication within a company. Additionally, this could be a symptom of a workforce that is stretched thin.

[blockquotes color=”highlight” quote=”yes”]What an employer chooses to put in their job posting as well as how they choose to present that information can tell you a lot about an organization.[/blockquotes]

Requirements are REQUIRED

We’ve all seen the job descriptions that have five years of field experience as a “MUST”, or list a proficiency with a specific program as “REQUIRED”. The all caps trick in and of itself is not a reason to run the other way; a lot of employers will use this tactic to emphasize a certain job requirement to deter those who don’t have these skills from applying, and that’s fine. Even though the “spray and pray” technique of applying to jobs is not effective, it is widely used by job seekers.

Where this formatting starts to become an issue is when it is used excessively. Not only can writing in all caps come across as overly aggressive, but it also diminishes the emphasis on those “REQUIRED” bullets. If a certain skill or proficiency weren’t important, it wouldn’t be mentioned in the job posting in the first place, right?

What this tells job seekers

Companies that go overboard calling out the importance of a job’s requirements, might not have the greatest understanding of what it takes to be successful in this role. This may also be a sign the business is very rigid in their vision of what success looks like, and could mean a very strict working environment that does not allow flexibility, respond well to change and/or encourage new ideas.

Stating the Obvious

Job postings are meant to be quick posts that sell job seekers on the company and the position. That’s not to say that corporate policies and operational specifics aren’t important to share with applicants, but more often than not, informing job seekers of details on the corporate smoking policy is unnecessary at this stage.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule: if you were applying to a job as a journalist, punctuality and timeliness are essential to the function of the job itself. The same thing would apply to a manufacturing job that complies with specific OSHA or ISO guidelines.

However, if you see a note about showing up on time to work for a job post for a customer service position, that should raise a few flags because, in this instance, punctuality falls more in line with being a professional than it does a requirement for the position itself.

What this tells job seekers

If you see “common sense” expectations explicitly listed in a job post, it is because the employer deemed it important enough to mention in the initial stages of the applicant search and hiring process.  The question you as a job seeker should ask is, “Why is this so important to this employer?”

Does the company struggle with this issue, or is the company culture such that these things need to be explicitly stated? Either way, seeing these types of statements in a job post isn’t a great sign that your colleagues will be the most collaborative, professional, or, possibly, trustworthy teammates.

[blockquotes color=”accent” logo=”yes”] Did you know?
82% OF Bridge candidates interviewed receive job offers

Bringing It All Together

Finding a position where you are going to be happy long-term is about so much more than being able to successfully perform the responsibilities of a specific role. As a job seeker, it is vital to research a company’s culture, work-life balance, employee benefits, etc. before applying to a job.

What an employer chooses to put in their job posting as well as how they choose to present that information can tell you a lot about an organization. Now that you know a few different ways to read between the lines of a job description and what to look for, you can more effectively review job postings and make more informed decisions about the job opportunities that are a good fit for you.