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Guide to effectively interpreting job ads

Accurately deciphering recruitment notices is one of the first skills a job seeker needs to master for two major reasons. Firstly avoiding discouragement and wasting yours and the recruiter’s time, you should only apply for positions where you clearly possess the requested skills, experience, education and abilities. The job should also meet your personal preferences and individual plans for development. Secondly, all the information you can successfully interpret from the ad empowers you to tailor your cover letter and CV to get interviewed for the position.

Let’s make sure you target your search for the right job with this handy check list based on the general structure of most job adverts.


Section Description

Ask yourself


Job Description

  • Contains title and basic description of the job, including location.
  • Company profile often gives clues to their corporate culture, check for key, trigger words to get to know the company better.
  • Is this the position you are looking and qualified for?
  • Does your personality fit the conveyed corporate image?
  • Is this job in the geographic region where you wish to work?
  • Full or part-time?
  • Will this position help you achieve your long-term career objective?

Experience – Qualifications-Proficiency

This details the basic qualifications for the position:

  • Previous experience,
  • Management skills,
  • Proven results,
  • Educational level,
  • Training and certificates,
  • Language,
  • Travel,
  • Driver’s license,
  • and more.


  • Work experience is more than actual jobs. Internships, volunteer work, and student activities are all forms of experience.
  • If you meet the majority of requirements, but have a weakness in a certain area, you can explain on your CV and cover letter how you can quickly gain competence on this issue.
  • Don’t claim proficiency in anything if you are uncomfortable or unable using the skill.
  • Don’t overestimate your language skills! If you are not fluent but have a basic understanding, mention that your are conversant in the required language. 



  • Do you possess the qualifications?
  • Check each requirement, if you don’t have it, or a plan to make up minor short comings, don’t apply.
  • See ‘knowing your strengths’ for insights of over and under estimating your abilities.
  • Often there are personality traits stressed ‘able to work independently’, on a team etc. Make sure the position is a match with your personality.
  • If you possess an official certificate for a skill mentioned in this section, be sure it is on your resume.


Explanation Section

  • Briefly describes what the employee will do on the job.
  • Have you performed similar functions in the past?
  • Do you have a ‘good story’ to tell of any success in completing these tasks?

Application Requirements and Contact Information

  • Explains what you need to do to apply for the job.
  • Include the address and/or phone number of the employer.
  • When the position is closed.
  • Picture required?
  • Personal data legal clause?
  • Supplemental material requested? Diplomas, copy of driver’s license, references? Are you able to provide all supporting documentation in a timely manner?
  • Reference number?
  • Check the required date, if the job is expired, it is not recommended to apply.


Now that you know that you possess the qualifications for the advertised job and it’s a position that meets your career development plans, it’s time to reexamine the advertisement. Reading ‘between the lines’ gives you clues on how to distinguish your candidacy from the dozens if not hundreds, of other job applicants.

The ad is a window that reveals each company’s unique personality. Successful candidates respond accordingly to ‘trigger’ words. For example, two of the most common descriptive phrases providing a glimpse of the company’s corporate culture are:

  • ‘Young and dynamic’ (less formal and a more assertive tone can be taken, ‘I can drive the sales to fuel your growth’).
  • ‘Well established’ (formal, a more deferential approach is advised, “eager to contribute to the team’s efforts in maintaining and growing your leading market presence’).

By fully understanding job adverts on this deeper level gives you the power of perception. Is the company bold and aggressive or modest and unpretentious? Are they assertive, ‘Join our team’ or more reserved ‘We are looking for’. Speaking the same corporate language ensures that nothing gets lost in translation, helping your CV to capture the recruiter’s notice, prompting an interview and hopefully an offer of employment.

Before you can actually review and respond to job advertisements, you need to know exactly what you are looking for. Review the following tips from our career counselors. 


Applying the Lessons of ‘What are my strengths?’ – Guide
After completing the exercises in the previous guide ‘What are my strengths’ you know what skills and character traits you possess to narrow down your job search. You will also know what positions you are interested in, qualified for and how they fit on your overall career plan.

A concrete profile of a job seeker who used the SWOT analysis and career objective tools in the ‘what are my strengths guide’ illuminates how to carefully apply for opportunities that give you the best chance for success. Meet Anna, who is getting ready for her first “real’ job search as soon-to-be graduate.

I am a fifth-year student of Business Administration at the University of Economics. My degree courses provided me with the latest theoretical knowledge regarding modern management techniques as well as the practical information on what steps I have to complete to in realizing  my professional goals. 

During my studies I took advantage of temporary employment opportunities and internships. The most satisfying job I had was as a hostess on many in-store FMCG promotions. This gave me both pocket money and experience in combining knowledge gained from studies, (promoting brand awareness in a retail environment) with sales skills won from interacting directly with customers in getting products off the shelves and into their shopping carts. From this, I know that I have the motivation, persistence and personality suited to pursue a sales career.

Personally, I like being behind the wheel and always on the move. I am an accomplished and enthusiastic driver, having a driver’s license for the past five years. Plus, I enjoy the freedom of having a job with flexible work hours. I am young and a “people person’ who is persuasive and can build interpersonal relationships. In addition to my degree, I also went through basic training in effective sales techniques.

I am aiming high for my ultimate career goal of being appointed as a Director of Sales at a large company. My plan to gain the necessary experience to be considered for such a responsible position consists of several stages. Working in the field in an entry level position of sales representative is the logical first step. The next rungs up the ladder would be as a product specialist, then as a key account/product manager and eventually to leading a team of sales reps as a department manager. After successfully completing these jobs, I then I can confidently submit my CV for serious consideration for a director level position. 

My parents support me both morally and financially, allowing me to concentrate my job search on securing a position that gives me hands-on experience necessary to achieve my long-term professional goals. Since I am only starting out, I am looking for the lowest-level position in the sales structure. At this moment the position of sales representative would be most suitable for me.
Now that Anna knows exactly what she looking for, she can select the job ads meeting her professional and personal criteria. When launching the search, Anna has to keep in mind that companies speak their own internal language with various job titles essentially carrying out the same functions. In Anna’s case “sales representative’ translates as van seller, retail market representative, sales consultant, field sales personnel, etc. depending upon the employer.

After carefully reading dozens of job ads, carefully comparing the position’s educational and skills requirements with her qualifications, Anna narrowed her list to five that most closely matched her personality and career goals. To increase her chances to be interviewed, Anna researched each opportunity to be able to tailor the cover letter and CV to best fit the unique corporate structure of each company.

Steps on your professional development stairway

A step by step, long term approach is proven to be the best method to climb the career ladder. Professional development can make you more effective in performing your existing tasks as well as grooming your for a well deserved promotion or a more challenging position at another company. With a clear vision of what you wish to accomplish in a certain time frame, you can map out a strategy to accomplish even the most ambitious career plan. Separating each successive stage on your developmental path makes it easier to achieve short-term goals while not getting sidetracked in reaching your long-term destination. Remember to keep your over-all plans in mind while filtering the recruitment ads for response.

We strongly advise you to complete exercise 3: Create your individual career goal objective statements in the previous guide, this will put your career on the steady road to success.

What would you like to do and how to do it?
In the process of seeking employment, it is important to determine your interests, capabilities, as well as to realize in what direction you wish to pursue in your individual professional development plan.

At this early stage your should seriously consider the type of work contract and conditions that are most suitable and rewarding for you. The choices are many and range from a permanent, fixed time or temporary work, performing tasks as an individual or in a group, flexible or fixed shifts, full or part-time. It is also possible to combine these elements. Another decisive factor in reviewing the recruitment advertisements is the nature of the work. Are you available for travel or prefer to be based in your home town? Would you be happy in a desk job or want to be mobile? How about pay? Are you confident enough about your abilities and the employer’s products to work on a small salary with a large commission or do you wish for stable income?

Knowing both your professional and personal motivation and what you expect from the job prior to applying will make your job search more successful for both you and the potential recruiter.

Your when and whys of looking for a job

Your stage of life also plays a major role in targeting the jobs to apply for. As a student, you may have had completely different priorities than as a recent graduate. While juggling classes and exams, flexibility may have been the most important criteria, you worked for pocket money and for some references to put on your CV. After graduation, you may only apply for full time jobs that meet your developmental plans.

Learning to read and respond to selected recruitment notices, answering the questions above and completing the exercises in the ‘What are my strengths?’ guide will help you narrow your job search to those positions that matches your expectations with those of the potential employer. This is the most effective start to find your dream job.


Now that we know our strengths and have created a targeted shortlist of potential employers with a careful reading of the recruitment notices, it’s time now to get hired. Next step, preparing an effective CV.








You can always change jobs to work for a brighter future. Our training, permanent placement and temporary work services give you hundreds of possibilities for a successful career change. See what we can do achieve together. more

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