The key to a great application? Correctly dissecting the job description

The vast majority of job adverts currently out there use some sort of a job description. What purpose does it serve and how can you use it to maximise your chances of getting shortlisted for an interview?

Employers: what’s in it for them?
It’s important to know that an employer/recruiter will use the criteria and person specification outlined in the role job description as the basis of the initial shortlisting stage.

Very often the feedback we get from employers we work with is that candidates who hadn’t been shortlisted didn’t use the job description when completing their job applications.

Candidates: What’s in it for me?
Write your job application/support statement using the information in the job description as a prompt and you may have just increased your chances to getting invited to an interview.

For example when it says that they are looking for someone who can use their own initiative it means that they expect you to demonstrate, in your application/support statement, how you meet that either through previous work experiences or elsewhere in life.

A job description is also there to help you decide whether this is a job you are actually interested in, it can give you an overall understanding of:

  • The nature of the role (is it fast paced; is it monotonous; are you going to find it interesting?)
  • Who you’ll be working with (will you be in a team; how big a team; who will be your manager?)
  • How much responsibility you’ll have (will you have targets to meet; will you have budgetary responsibilities or line management responsibilities?)
  • Whether there’ll be any room for progression (could you get a promotion or more responsibility later on down the line or will you have to look for work in another company when you want to move up?)

Remember, job descriptions:

1)      Are used by employers/recruiters in order to shortlist.

2)      Are  important! Read them carefully and respond to the criteria via your application or supporting statement.

3)      Are just that: descriptions, they are not intended to catalogue every single task that you’ll be doing in a job. If it’s not in the job description, think whether the task you are being asked to carry out is relevant to your role and whether it would help you progress professionally or learn a new skill that could be useful to you.

4)      Are not fixed and could change as the nature of the role evolves.

Get stuck in
Take the online Prepare your Application quiz to find out how you can make job descriptions work to your advantage. Click here to take the test!

Check, check and check again
Like with any essay, proofreading your application is vital. Only last week was I looking through applications for a job I was recruiting for and found a candidate had put the wrong job title in their supporting statement – where copying and pasting can go wrong! A simple error can mean your application goes straight into the bin, so take your time to make sure you there are no obvious mistakes.

To make sure that you have addressed each area of the job description and provided clear evidence to show that you have the skills the recruiter is  looking for, book to get feedback from a Careers Consultant. Phone 0207 882 8533 or visit the Careers & Enterprise Centre in Queens’ WG3.

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