Going through job postings can be a tedious task, especially when there are hundreds – if not thousands, to sift through.
But before you start to get overwhelmed at all the choices, just know that there are ways you can narrow down your search just by noticing a few things that appear – and do not appear – in those postings.
“There is no common format to job descriptions,” senior career coach Lee Weisser at Careers by Design says. “So it’s important to read through it because you can get a sense of the company culture, the sense of how formal or informal they are, whether there is a sense of excitement or if it seems very dry – so you can see if it suits your personality.”
It’s important of course to look at the qualifications and responsibilities, Weisser adds. Those, she says, will actually give you a lot more information about the position than just the job title alone. This is because the same title could mean different things to different companies.
So how do you know if you should apply for a job? What things should you look for that tell you if this job is a good fit for you? Here’s what Weisser and Salvatore Ciolfi, editor-in-chief at Workopolis, say.
1. The job title and description
Yes, job titles can mean different things to different companies, as per what Weisser pointed out. However, it is still an important thing to pay attention to.
“This is what should entice you to read the job description,” Ciolfi says. “Is it clear and aligned with your career ambitions and experience?”
If the job title is confusing or overly complicated, that could be a glaring flaring red flag, Ciolfi adds.
Sometimes, however, postings will only give you a brief job description which doesn’t tell you anything, Weisser says.
“That may be a red flag because maybe the organization hasn’t really thought about the job and what they want that person to do and what kind of influence they want that person to have on the organization,” she says.
This tends to be the case with a lot of startup companies, Weisser points out. They clearly need people right away but they may not have thought out exactly what they want.
2. Daily tasks and responsibilities
This, Ciolfi says, is the most important part of the entire posting.
“Read these carefully and try to imagine yourself in the role,” he says. “Do you have experience with this kind of work and would you be happy doing it?”
If not, then maybe it’s best to move on to the next job posting.
3. Your values should match
“It’s really important to articulate your values, strengths and skills to see if they’re really a good fit not only for the role but for the organization,” Weisser says.
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You have to think about what’s going to be right for you. So if you see something in the job description that you are not interested in doing or are not comfortable performing, then you may be wasting your time in applying for that job.
“You really need to know yourself before you can confidently apply for something and know that you’re making a good choice,” Weisser says.
4. Your qualifications
Are you qualified? Do you have the necessary experience and/or education?
These are questions you should be asking yourself, Ciolfi says.
However, keep an eye out for an abundance of credential. If the company is asking for more certifications and degrees, do your research to see if it’s necessary.
5. How you’ll be paid
Will you be getting a base salary, or is this job on a commission-basis only?
Some jobs may not post the salary along with the job description, but if you see that you’ll only be paid based on commission, you’ll have to ask yourself if this can sustain you financially, Weisser says.
These types of jobs tend to be more sales-oriented.
“You might also want to be careful with ads that mention ‘earning potential,’” Ciolfi adds. “This might be fine when discussing a sales position, but otherwise, it can be a red flag.”
6. Have you seen this post before?
If you’ve seen the job posting come up repeatedly and frequently, this may be a sign to avoid applying, Ciolfi says.
“If this is happening, they can’t keep someone in the role, which can indicate something wrong with the role, management or the culture of the company.”
You might be tempted to get your resume out there to as many people as possible, Weisser says, but it’s best if you don’t. Rather, take the time to apply to positions that really speak to you and that you know you’ll be a good fit for.
“If it’s not something you want and if it’s not something for which your skills and strength are a good fit, there’s no good reason why you should be wasting your time applying for those things,” she says. “Sometimes, people are desperate and apply for everything in hopes of getting an interview. That’s not a great strategy – it’s much better to be focused on what you want.”
Also, don’t be deterred from applying for senior positions and don’t sell yourself short, Weisser says.
Applying for these jobs may seem intimidating but if you feel you meet the description, qualifications and believe you are capable of performing the listed tasks, Weisser says go for it.
“If it says you need seven years of experience but you only have three to five years for example – I think that if you can make a convincing argument about your qualifications and experience, you may actually be able to apply for that,” she says. “Sometimes, people underestimate their experience.”
However, if you’re switching careers and don’t have that much experience, you may have to apply for more junior positions, Weisser advises.
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