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Understanding job adverts

Did you know there is a wealth of information in job adverts that can support you in the job hunting process?

Not only will the job advert give you a sense of what employers are looking for but there are potential clues for how they may shortlist candidates too. Make use of this valuable information and create eye-catching and tailored applications.

Spend time analysing job information to help you:

  • assess if the job duties and responsibilities match your expectations
  • prepare for the question of ‘why do you want to work for us?’
  • determine if the company is the right organisation for you
  • decide if the role matches your interests, skills and experience
  • inform your job application and help to create a well thought out and considered application
  • identify words and languages from job adverts which then can be lifted and used in job applications
  • understand the employer’s recruitment methods e.g. CV (curriculum, vitae), application form etc.

Matching yourself to job adverts

So you've seen a vacancy you'd like to apply for. Now you want to make sure it provides a 'match’ with your skills, experience and interests.

Start with the information you have already; even a brief job advertisement can reveal a great deal of useful information about the job and the organisation. Analysing a job advert in detail from the outset helps to confirm whether you’re interested in taking things further and begins the process of thinking through how to articulate your skills to the employer.

Look through the advert and analyse it using the following headings and questions:

  • Job description: Does the work genuinely interest you? What are the key tasks? What skills are needed? Can you produce evidence of your ability to deal with each task successfully? How will you show your potential for coping with tasks you may not have handled before?
  • Style and language: What’s the general style of the advertisement? Is it formal, low key, creative? How does the company describe itself? Is it “dynamic”, “unique”, “diverse”, “aspirational”? How does this fit with you? Do you get a sense that your values are similar?
  • Qualifications: Are they specific? Are they preferred or essential?
  • Experience: What experience are they looking for? Is directly-related experience preferred or essential? Consider any aspect of your life that demonstrates close or transferable skills.
  • Qualities: Note the language used to describe the ideal applicant. Analyse the nouns and adjectives for their implications. For example, ‘committed self-starter’ could imply there’ll be lots of scope for taking the initiative, but may also mean that limited training is provided and you may have to motivate yourself with little support. Think about what this may mean in practice and be honest about whether your personality and needs match what the employer wants.
  • Prospects: Are there opportunities for progression within the role? Are there indications that the ambition of the applicant is important to the employer?

There are likely to be other important practical considerations too such as the location and salary.

Should you contact the recruiter before sending your application?

If a named contact is provided for further information or an informal discussion about the role, it’s a good idea to follow up these offers; it’s a first stage opportunity to demonstrate your interest. But be prepared in advance as the recruiter will be forming an impression of you from the very beginning. Rehearse your introduction and be prepared for the question ‘What would you like to know about the job?’ and be ready to highlight your suitability.

If the analysis of job adverts draws out gaps in your skills, knowledge or experience, start to think about ways in which you could fill these. You may find it useful to talk to the Careers Team about ways in which you could approach this.

An example of a job advert

This example of a job advert (DOC, 46KB) for a graduate scheme vacancy describes the role, the organisation and person requirements. We have added comments at relevant sections to explain what elements to look out for.

Last updated 6 months ago