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How do I read job advertisements carefully?

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One way to learn about a company and what it values is to carefully read the job ad. Job advertisements describe the qualifications and skills a company is looking for in a candidate. Therefore, they are good resources to learn what a company values...they spell it out for you.

Here are some tips to help you pull important information from a job ad:

  • Identify and circle key words in the ad, words that signal what an employer considers as important.
  • List how you can meet those skill qualifications and perform the required duties.
  • List proof of specific skills by describing an experience in which you gained/used that skill.

Example: What are the key words in this job description?

"Looking for a highly-motivated, customer-oriented individual with excellent communication skills and multi-tasking ability to write public relations material."

Key words: highly motivated, customer-oriented (customer service), communication, multi-task, public relations material

Proof you can offer to meet these keywords:

  • I have kept a 3.8 GPA while being treasurer of the Liberal Arts Honors Council and tutoring other students (motivated, communication, multi-task).
  • I have worked as a waiter and as a sales manager at a computer store (customer service, communication).
  • I have written brochure, catalog, and newsletter copy for various communication classes (public relations, communication).

As you can see, the key words include implications about the skills, accomplishments, personality traits, and levels of education/experience your employer desires. Once you know what the company wants, you can start that list and be one step closer to your cover letter!