Read it thoroughly and consider whether the position is truly a good fit for you.
People often just quickly scan job advertisements, get stuck on single words and then immediately relate them to one’s own expectations. But you run the risk of overlooking important clues in doing this. Due to the limited space, job announcements are often very compactly written and employers naturally use the limited space to present the position as attractively as possible. While flat hierarchies may sound good at first, it may also mean that the place is run by interns for the most part. So it’s worth taking a closer look.
To start, it can make sense to structure the information from the text in your own table. This may seem pointless at first, but it does help you to keep an overview—particularly when you’re applying for several positions at the same time. There’s nothing worse than being invited to a job interview and then no longer exactly know which position it was you were applying for.
If you do start the analysis, these are the following points you should focus on:
What does the job advertisement tell you about your exact duties? Are specific tasks named (“organizing events,” “put together press reviews”) or just a rough outline in which it isn’t terribly clear which of the functions mentioned will definitely be within your areas of responsibility (business development, PR)? Very general wording is sometimes used such that it makes it difficult to grasp the role within the establishment (“The association promotes a vibrant democracy”).
To get a clear picture, imagine the following scenario: imagine that you’ll be starting work for the establishment this coming Monday. What exactly will you be doing there?
When, after reading the advertisement, this becomes clear to you, you can then consider where you have already completed these or similar duties in the past—they are valuable examples for your cover letter. If after reading the advertisement you still don’t have a clear picture of the position, now’s the time for deeper investigation!
2. Skills and experience
What expectations does the employer have of you? Note the listed requirements and differentiate between “essential” and “desirable.”
The choice of words for the job advertisement help you to evaluate in which category an expectation falls: wording such as “You have…,” “It requires…” or “We expect…” show you what the “must haves” for the position are. More low-key terminology such as “…would be desirable…,” “Ideally you would have…” or “comparable qualifications” indicate that there is leeway in these areas.
Following this, consider whether you feel up to filling this position and make a note of where you’ve previously been able to demonstrate your capabilities regarding the skills required.
3. Workplace culture
A job advertisement also often tells quite a lot about the workplace culture, but these clues are sometimes best found reading between the lines. Yet there are also very specific descriptions, for instance, that may disclose something about the team structures or the company culture (“young, dynamic team,” “established company with a long tradition,” “small local association”). Furthermore, the general linguistic style and choice of words convey a large amount of information. Mark the adjectives and phrases you find in the text and think about what impression they make on you or what image of the working atmosphere it creates for you (“demanding, challenging, dynamic, established team structures, flat hierarchies, self-reliant” ).
Are you basically favorably disposed to the employer?
4. General conditions
Take note of the key parameters of the position (pay, employment duration, hours of work per week, work location, working hours) and consider if these work for you. Don’t allow yourself to be blinded by euphemisms, but instead try to judge what may be hidden behind them. In the case of doubt, “performance-based pay” means nothing more than being paid on commission and a “highly flexible working schedule” means that you must always be available to work and won’t be able to plan your working hours. Thus be attentive when reading such phrases and check them against your overall impression of the job advertisement.
5. Things to research
Is there anything that is still unclear or is some important information missing? Then you’ll have to do some research, for instance on the company’s or institution’s homepage. For truly relevant questions, you can also ask by calling. However you should abstain from calling just so that you’ll be more present in the people’s minds at the institution.