Home > Employment > Getting to Grips with Job Descriptions – Part One

Getting to Grips with Job Descriptions – Part One

This week Jonathan walks us through one of the challenges of finding jobs to apply for; how to decipher a job description to find out what an employer is after.

The hunt for a job always throws up challenges and the overall task can be an overwhelming one at times; however there are a number of ways to become more confident when searching for work. One of these ways is to gain a better understanding of job descriptions. They are the first thing we see when looking at a job prospect and they are filled with clues which can be used to our advantage when applying for the position. The question then becomes how we can use these clues to help us.


Firstly, it is important to consider the idea of context when it comes to job descriptions. There are many repeated phrases and trends across plenty of job descriptions and while it may seem simple to some on how to decipher and use these phrases when it comes to the application process the idea of context can often be overlooked. Suzanne Ball, Careers Adviser at the University of Hertfordshire, explains that we should always take into account the title of the job that is being applied for. Two completely different jobs may ask for the same traits or skills, however the title of the job tells us more about how they want you to apply those skills or incorporate your traits.

If the job description is the question, then the application is the answer.

Looking at the context being used within a job description we can see how to show employers that we understand these phrases, as well as being able to express them. Many of the skills that employers desire in candidates appear in their job descriptions and we pick up a lot of these from our time at university; interpersonal skills, organisational skills, self-motivation, just some of the skills that can be expressed through explaining challenges faced during your degree.

If you have been employed part-time throughout your degree this can also help especially with skills relating to the work environment. A key point is the idea of having evidence of these skills. Many students and applicants will get caught in the trap of reflecting the job description and just stating that they have a desired skill or trait but being able to apply them to experiences in life, like at university or the workplace, is very important. State the criteria that you meet and then provide evidence to back it up;

large_3086892145 “I feel confident working a s a member of a team, and enjoy working collaboratively with others. (The Statement)

For example, I have worked for two years in a team at my local supermarket and have learnt the importance of communication in order to ensure different tasks are completed to the correct standard. I have also had experience of working in a team at university as a Refreshers Rep. This year I was one of the Head Reps and this experience enabled me to learn about leadership and motivation, and taught me the importance of taking time to listen to the concerns of each of the individuals within my team and make sure they knew what had to be done.” (The Evidence)

When speaking with Suzanne she put the connection between the job description and the application simply as, “If the job description is the question, then the application is the answer” and while there are many similarities between job descriptions, taking the context into account as well as reading between the lines enables us to see the question differently and answer it appropriately.

Next week in part two we’ll continue our look at job descriptions, finding out what common phrases mean and the main attributes employers are looking for. But for the moment here are some resources on CareerHub to help you with crafting a winning application:

Application Forms

Personal Statements for Job Applications

Professional English for Applications

Power Words for Applications

photo credit: pixelhut and Bill Selak via photopin cc

Jonathan Brown Image

Jonathan Brown is a final year Mass Communications student at the University of Hertfordshire.

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