How to Read a Job Description

How to Read a Job Description
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Whether you’re a fresh graduate or an experienced professional, by now, you’ve read many, many job postings on your job search, but have you wondered how to read a job description properly?

If a common question in your head is how to tell if a job is right for you, then you need to be more aware of what to look for in a job description. But first, understand the basics about a job description and what it should include. 

What is a job description? 

Even if for many people it’s obvious, it’s essential to define what a job description is during the hiring process. Also known as job postings or listings, job descriptions hold the information an employer shares about their openings, outlining the job role details. Usually, companies share these on their LinkedIn profile, job boards, or send them directly to associated recruiters or candidates in their database. 

For organizations, a job description is the most straightforward tool to showcase their available job roles and attract the ideal candidates for those positions. On the other hand, job descriptions allow job-seekers to know what to look for in a job in every term, from what the company has to offer —culture, benefits, salary, etc— to the requirements and responsibilities. 

In contrast to job specifications, job descriptions offer a broader picture of the company and the role; therefore, due to job boards and web search engines, these postings contain specific keywords that make them easier to find for people interested in a certain position or company.  

Once a candidate finds them, the job description should be enough for them to know if they’re a potential match for the role and if it’s worth applying for. 

What should a job description include?

Although each hiring manager or employer is responsible for writing the job descriptions for their open roles, they should include some items that will allow candidates to know if the position is what they are looking for in a job. 

Here are a few key elements a well-crafted job description should include to attract top talent for a company’s job openings. 

  • Position/job title: In terms of keywords, this is a vital aspect that allows people to find a job ad. On top of that, the title gives a glance at the level and general nature of the role.
  • Company name: Even though most job descriptions include the company offering the role, not all job ads include this information. If this information is available, it allows candidates to do more research about the employer branding and its EVP
  • Overview: This is a quick preview or brief description of the position’s daily life and role within the company. It helps candidates decide if they want to look deeper at the job specifications. 
  • Responsibilities: Every job description should include an outline of the daily tasks. If you, as a candidate, feel qualified and attracted to these duties, then you have another box marked to submit your application. 
  • Qualifications: Aside from how attracted you are to the company and the position’s routine, a list of qualifications lets you know if you have the core skills for the role or need specific training or certifications.
  • Experience: Even though different backgrounds can fit the same role, many job descriptions include the employer’s experience expectations for the role, whether in a particular role or industry. This allows candidates to identify if they’re under or overqualified for the position.
  • Salary: Although not all job descriptions include details about compensation, this information clears doubts about whether the role’s value is within your salary range and how the company values its employees. 

Aside from these vital components of job descriptions, here are a few more items that provide more insight into whether candidates are making the right choice by applying. 

  • Company culture or description
  • Job location
  • Employment type
  • Bonus or additional preferred qualifications
  • Legal disclosures
  • Corporate perks
  • Application instructions

What to look for in a job description

Since some job descriptions are longer than others, sometimes candidates will find what they’re looking for in a job role faster. When job postings are organized by items, you don’t need to go through them and learn every detail like studying for a test. 

Instead, approach job postings as if you’re doing a comprehension exercise; read the job description from top to bottom to get an overview of the position. Then, check what caught your eye again and ask yourself if you’re interested in the job role. 

Reading between the lines is essential as you go through the job ad. Here are a few things to take note of and look for in a job description. 

  • Qualifications the employer wants: Highlight or write down details about what hiring managers are looking for in experience, skill set, education or training, and values. 
  • Essential aspects for the position: Look for repetitive points, clues, or hierarchical information that unveils qualities, tasks, or other key elements about the role. 
  • Keywords you can use for your job search: If you come across a job posting that matches your job search expectations, be mindful of phrases or keywords that tell you more about the job and employer that you can use to search for similar openings.
  • Red flags, buzzwords, and vague phrasing: Be aware of any tip-offs that unveil if you’ve come to a fake job posting. Unrealistic expectations, desired experiences that don’t match the position, or words associated with a stressful work environment are a few signs you should be aware of. 
  • Non-negotiables or important aspects for you: Keep in mind what matters most about your next role: salary requirements, benefits, culture, duties, or remote work policies. Whenever you’re checking a job description, keep an eye open for any of them. 

How to tell if a job is right for you

Job descriptions are a great start when it comes to determining if the opportunity matches your expectations and career plans. Once you’ve read the posting and reunited the main takeaways, it’s easier to weigh in if you should apply or pass on it and continue your job hunt. 

If you’ve analyzed the items of the job descriptions and collected the ups and downs of the role, start asking questions that allow you to pinpoint if you’re a potential fit for the company. Ask yourself if you have the years of experience, training, and education required to get an interview; also, evaluate if the pay is worth leaving your current company or making a career change

A gut check is a must before deciding. Make a checklist with all the elements you crave for your new job role, from the room for growth to if you can negotiate your starting salary. Once you’ve cross-checked this listing, not only will you know if the job is right for you, but you’ll find out if you still want this job. 

Knowing what you’re looking for in a job role and reading job descriptions thoroughly is enough to spot hiring fraud or determine if you should apply. Most importantly, remember that job descriptions are just the starting point of an application; therefore, it’s essential to keep all the vital information you read on the post during the hiring process, as well as use it for the rest of your job search. 

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Contributed by Luis Arellano

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