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How To Focus Your Application on the Most Important Part of a Job Posting

Dive In
  • Writer's pictureThe CareerBeacon Team

Reading through job ads can be discouraging. All too often candidates see a high-level job title and a lengthy list of degrees, certifications, and years of experience in the requirements section and get scared off from applying.

The thing is that job titles vary widely from company to company. In some companies a ‘manager’ might have 30 employees under them in their department. Somewhere else, they might have none; they simply manage the project, with no direct reports. One company’s specialist could be another’s manager, expert, lead, or even coordinator.

Job requirements can also be misleading. Often, they are just a ‘wish list.’ Employers imagine some absolutely perfect candidate who can do the job and help out with future company needs as well. Then they list all the credentials that dream candidate would have. They’re unlikely to find that actual person.

Frequently, advanced credentials can also be used as a screening tool. Especially for competitive jobs where employers know they will have many applicants, they will add advanced degrees to the requirements just to filter out less-qualified candidates. They’re counting on applicants screening themselves out before even submitting an application so that they will have fewer resumes to read through.

Don’t do this. Don’t reject yourself. Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.” So, take your shot.

Of course, you don’t want to be hired for a job that you can’t actually do, and employers would be unlikely to offer it to you anyway. So, read between the lines. Focus on your ability to do the job, not your exact fit with the requirements list.

The most important part of a job posting

Skip the requirements and read the duties of the job first. What will the person who lands the role actually be responsible for doing day-to-day, and what are their deliverables? That should clarify some of the ambiguity surrounding the job title and what credentials are actually required.

Based on the posted description, can you do the job? Can you accomplish what needs doing?

If the answer to both is yes, then apply and prove it. Write a resume and cover letter that highlight how the credentials and experience you do have demonstrate your ability to be successful on the job.

Consider what else you being to the table. What else in your range of skills and experiences can be useful for the employer? Think about potential challenges that the incumbent might face, or that could be issues for the employer. Then point out what you can do that could put you above and beyond just being able to meet the needs of the job description. These can include abilities such as budgeting and organizational skills, team leadership or event planning, communications or advanced technical skills.

If you don’t quite meet the employers’ theoretical list of credentials that they would prefer candidates have, you can augment your application with practical skills and experiences that demonstrate why you would nonetheless be a standout team member.

You won’t get hired for a job that you have none of the qualifications for. But if you have most of them and can make a solid case for how you would be an excellent choice for the position, then apply. The fact that you have studied the job posting in such detail and written a custom resume highlighting how your assets are relevant will help you stand out from more generic applicants regardless of how many credentials they have.

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