Interpreting Job Postings

Bob Larson, CPC

Career Report

June 2018— Issue 220

Guidance for Interpreting Job Postings

Trying to figure out the language of job postings is one of the biggest challenges that job seekers face. That’s because job postings are presented in many different formats. If you’re not careful how you interpret them, you may easily eliminate yourself as a possible applicant.

Job and career expert Nathan Newberger believes there are four key components to job postings — requirements for experience, salary, organization skills and proficiency. Learning how to decipher the specifics of what each conveys in an ad is a critical first step in applying for jobs advertised. Newberger provides the following guidance and insight from his newsletter on each of the requirement components, offering deeper meaning to job advertisements and help for job hunters in addressing such ads that come their way:

  1. Experience Required

The single most common requirement stated in job advertisements is experience. Some positions require no experience at all, while others might require 1-2 years and most senior positions might require 10 years or more. These numbers can be intimidating, but the right approach can make a difference. When thinking about the experience required by a job, consider these three options:

  • Work experience is not just typical jobs. Internships, volunteer work, and clubs are all valid forms of experience. Any learning opportunity is considered work experience.
  • Tailor your résumé to fit the job description. If an advertisement says that a position requires three years of experience in sales, make sure your résumé highlights the fact that you have three years of experience in sales.
  • Not meeting experience requirements doesn’t always eliminate you. More than anything, companies want good employees. Between your résumé and cover letter, if you can persuade a company to view you as diligent and quick to learn, you have a good shot at the job.
  1. Salary Required

In addition to a résumé, many job ads ask you to submit your “minimum salary required.” This request strikes fear in the hearts of the timid. If you give too high a salary, a company may not be interested in you. If you give too low a salary, you may not be able to make ends meet.

When you are caught in this dilemma, you have two options:

  • Many times you can get by just by saying that your salary requirement in “negotiable.” Putting off salary negotiations until you actually have the job is a good stress reliever.
  • Try calling the employers anonymously to get information. If a specific number is absolutely necessary, provide a salary range.
  1. Organization Skills Required

Anytime a job advertisement makes a point to mention “organizational skills” or “communication skills,” the employer actually wants to know three things: do you get the job done on time, do you do the job correctly, and do you work well in teams. Now if employers were that direct, job hunting wouldn’t be so difficult.

Since life isn’t that easy, you have to be sure to answer the secret questions you are asked:

  • Be sure to incorporate your ability to meet deadlines and work on team projects into your résumé. Your résumé creates the first image an employer will have of you.
  • Employers love multi-tasking. Convey the fact that you had many responsibilities at previous jobs, and you always succeeded.
  • Explicit examples are always good. If they do not fit in your résumé, work them into your cover letter. Otherwise be sure to mention them in your interview.
  1. Proficiency Required

Besides generic traits that employers like to see in applicants for any position, job advertisements will make statements about specific skills related to a specific job. It seems that the most favorite description to use is “proficiency in.” Other popular descriptors are “command of” and “working knowledge of.” They all mean the same thing, but many people don’t realize what it is.

Whenever you see specific skill requirements and wonder whether or not you meet them, consider these issues:

  • Certain skills have official certifications, so if you have one be sure it is on your résumé.
  • Being proficient means being comfortable using something on a day-to-day basis and being able to answer simple questions about it.
  • When it comes to languages, there is a difference between being fluent and understanding most things. There is no shame in saying you have a “conversational” understanding.
  • If the same skills continue to pop-up in job postings, it may be time for you to acquire them.

Perhaps job advertisements are not as direct as they should be, Newberger points out. Nonetheless, there is now an industry standard on how to write them and its up to you to be able to read them correctly. These tips should give you a good starting point for tackling new job advertisements that come your way, he explains. Keep them in mind, because deciphering the language of a job advertisement will put you a step ahead of everyone else.


Bob Larson, CPC  recently was one of the presenters at Seton Hall University  for a program sponsored by the NJ West Point Field Force on Ethics & Leadership on June 3rd.   Bob’s reaction to the high school students who attended ” I was extremely impressed with the young women and men’s exceptional talent, articulation and maturity beyond their years.  If this is sample of our countries future we have a lot to look forward too.”

As the summer weather begins the job market remains hot and probably the best conditions for job-seekers in the past decade.  Employer ‘s are challenged to attract top talent in a wide verity of technical and leadership positions.  We at Berman Larson Kane thank our clients and candidates for their support it is truly and honor to assist the hiring process and career enhancement challenges of job-seekers and employers.  Enjoy your summer.