Job Search Tips for New Grads: The Anatomy of a Job Posting

Job Placement

Wouldn’t it be nice to graduate and immediately move into the job of your dreams? For some new college graduates, that’s exactly what’s happening! Between employee shortages and employer competition for talent, major employers estimate hiring at least 30% more college grads this year than last, the highest increase in over a decade. The surge in interest has led to an applicants’ market, with college grads earning the upper hand in their job search, negotiations, and job offers.

With so many employers hunting for employees, it’s more important than ever to fully understand and prepare for the duties, expectations, and responsibilities of potential job roles during your job search. A job posting is the best place to start diving into the details of a potential position. Every job posting holds a series of descriptive data segments that stay fairly consistent from organization to organization. Each segment provides applicants with critical, position-specific factors to weigh when conducting a job search and deciding whether or not to apply.   

Job Summary

A job summary details the basic purpose of the job. This is a great place to find general info about the role and organization. Expect a job summary to include items like:

  • Main points of the job posting, including key responsibilities and functions
  • Summary of a few general, required qualifications and skills
  • Company culture, goals, and metrics
  • Education requirements
  • Travel requirements or remote/hybrid/in-person work requirements

A job summary is intended to only introduce the important parts of a job posting. When skimming through multiple job postings during your job search, consider scanning the job summary for words and phrases that applicably jump out and gain your interest. If you’re searching for a new teaching job, for example, ensure the posting’s job summary captures the type of teaching you want to do. This will help you save time and ensure you’re focusing on roles that best align with your needs. 

Pay specific attention to the company culture, goals, and metrics. Determine if their values and business operations align with your own idea of a best-fit employer. This area also is a key place to connect the dots between your soft skills and their mission, especially when writing the cover letter.

Job Responsibilities

A posting’s job responsibilities segment includes the essential duties required for the position. Job responsibilities are carefully worded and convey hints about a potential employer’s top priorities. Typically, employers put the most important job responsibilities at the start of the list.  

Pay attention to specific phrases and industry-specific words listed within the responsibilities segment of a job posting. Hiring managers love to see key responsibility phrases reflected in a candidate’s resume and interview question answers. For example, if you’re applying to a manufacturing facility that lists adhering to safety protocol near the top of the job posting’s responsibilities segment, highlight your safety training on your resume and pull out specific safety-aligned examples during your interview. When applicants do not review this section and send the same resume to every posting, they’re missing out on the opportunity to identify their work achievements in relation to the posting. Clearly tie your work history to their priorities.

Some job postings end with general, up-for-interpretation statements like, “Any and all other responsibilities and duties as assigned.” Don’t let general statements about job responsibilities turn you away from the role. Oftentimes, statements like these open the door to constructive conversation about the role and give you and the employer the opportunity to consider your other potential value-added contributions. General responsibility statements are also great jumping-off points for candidate interview questions.   

Required Skills and Qualifications

One of the most vital job posting segments all new grads should focus on is the required skills and qualifications segment. Too often, job seekers believe required skills and qualifications are flexible, pliable elements of a role that exist simply as guidelines. They try and twist their experiences to somewhat match the requirements, only to face rejection and wasted time.

The reality is, required skills and qualifications are just that – required. Blindly submitting a resume to a job you clearly aren’t qualified for is a waste of everyone’s time. Instead of ignoring the required skills section and hoping your potential employer won’t notice (they will), try meeting the required skills perfectly and with specific examples. Pay attention to:

  • Required Years of Experience: Internships and volunteer roles count unless specifically specified otherwise. Check the job posting’s wording to see if they indicate the required experience environment and type of work. 
  • Required Educational Background: If the posting indicates a specific college degree and you don’t have it, don’t apply! If the job posting states something like, “college degree or equivalent experience,” you might earn a chance to bypass the degree requirement with a few well-cited, metric-based examples of your expertise. 
  • Technology Requirements: These requirements are fairly black-and-white; as a candidate, you either know how to use the technology a potential employer needs or you do not. Don’t apply to roles that list unfamiliar technology in the required skill segment of their job posting.  Be sure to note your technology and software proficiencies on your resume. Don’t expect them to fill in the blanks here.
  • Level of Experience: Almost every job posting lists whether the role is entry-level, managerial, or executive. Avoid applying for management roles that require management experience if you’ve never managed a team before. That said,  it may be worth applying if you have clearly applicable, translatable leadership skills on your resume (like leading a team in college-level projects, military roles, or other well-reputed, professional organizations). 

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

Preferred skills and qualifications are “bonus” qualifications potential employers would like to see, but don’t consider required, essential components of the job. These bonus skills range from high-level technology knowledge to specialized industry-specific experience. Don’t be afraid to apply to a job posting with preferred skills that sit outside your qualification level, especially if you’re a fast learner. Highlighting quick-to-grasp qualities within your resume and during the interview process assures potential employers you’re willing to earn those skills soon after hiring.

A  job posting’s preferred skills segment offers candidates the opportunity to gain a competitive edge over their peers. When you find yourself meeting both required and preferred qualifications in a job posting, use your success to your advantage! Boost preferred qualifications within your cover letter, resume, and LinkedIn profile. It’ll help you stand out and earn interviews.

Are you a new graduate hoping to land your dream job? Zoetic Resume and Writing Services can help! With customized packages ranging from resume and cover letter writing to LinkedIn profile improvement and resume auditing, Zoetic’s services bridge the gap between your individual experiences and your future employer’s required skills and qualifications. Start your job search on the right foot by partnering with a professional to take your resume to the next level. Connect with Zoetic Resume and Writing Services here to learn more.

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