April 11, 2008

Effectively analyzing a job ad to maximize your success!

I believe that one of the most important skills that all job seekers must learn is how to effectively analyze a job ad. After all, not every job is posted on Workopolis or Monster with flashy fonts and graphics with information on the hiring company and the position they are hiring for (e.g. what the job duties are, who the resumes should be sent to).

In fact, with the increasingly popularity of websites like Craigslist, it is imperative that job seekers know how to breakdown a job posting and analyze it to uncover hidden information that will be extremely useful and could move your application to the front of the line.

If there is a job posting that you are interested in, take a good look at it. See if there are any clues as to the type of company that might have placed the ad.

Here is a sample ad that I have created for the purposes of this posting. This was based on an ad that I recently saw on Craigslist. I'll offer four key things that are missing from the ad and how you can get around it.

A well-established Toronto-area boutique graphic design firm is seeking a part-time office clerk to assist with daily office duties. Must be able to work in a fast-paced environment and multitask. Please e-mail your resume and your availability to info@tdam.ca

If you take a good look at the ad, you will notice a few things that should spark your interest.

1) The name of the company is not listed, nor is the name of the person that resumes are being sent to

How to handle it:

Begin by typing ‘tdam.ca’ into a Google search. Usually this will work – especially since many businesses have their own websites now. Sometimes, it will not work, and unless you personally know who made the posting, the name of the company will remain hidden. Accept it and move on.

If you do find out the name of the company, congratulate yourself. Now you can at least put the name of the company in both your cover letter and in the objective part of your resume.

In terms of finding out the person who the resumes are being sent to, should you find the website of the company, you can try and find their phone number. However, be aware that this can backfire on you, especially if you end up being bounced around to 10 different people who aren’t sure who is getting the resumes. Trying to find out the name has both its good and bad sides – the decision is really up to you!

No in-depth listing of the required skills/experiences or job duties

How to handle it:

First off, you know that the job posting is for a part-time office clerk. Since you already know that, I would head over to Service Canada’s Labour Market Information website. You can just type in ‘office clerk’ and it will show you the job duties often associated with that title.

Upon searching on the website, I found out that office clerks answer telephones and type correspondence. If that’s the case, then I know I need excellent communication skills, which I’ll be sure to highlight on my resume. As well, I’ll need to know how to use various computer programmes, so that too will go in my resume.

And since the job ad states that the applicant must be able to work in fast-paced environment and multitask, I’ll make sure to point out my ability to organize and meet deadlines.

3) Posting only asks for a resume – not a cover letter

How to handle it:

Well I know that the most successful applicants have a cover letter included with their resume. Because I know the name and address of the company (due to my successful Google search), I can create a quick cover letter that highlights my skills and experiences.

But here’s where I know I’ll run into trouble – I don’t know who to send the cover letter to. I could put “Human Resources” but I know that it’s a smaller graphic design firm and it’s likely that they do not have a dedicated H.R. person. Instead, I just put the name of the company and their address – and below, I’ll put that my resume is in regards to the part-time office clerk job posting. It’ll look like this:

April 11, 2008

Toronto Design & Marketing Ltd.
123 Main Street

, Ontario

M1A 2B3

RE: Part-time office clerk job posting

To Whom It May Concern:

And since I know what the job duties are and the skills required, I know that I can make a cover letter that really highlights the important things that the company would want to know.

If you find yourself wondering if you should send your resume with a cover letter, think about this. Let’s say you cover letter as the message of the e-mail and attach your resume. When it finally arrives in the hiring manager’s inbox, he or she cannot open the attachment. Would it not be better for them to at least read the cover letter to get a sense of who you are as well as have your contact information?

And just so you know, that’s happened to me once and I got a phone call from an H.R. clerk wanting me to submit my resume again due to issues with their e-mail server. And guess who got the job in the end - that's right, me!

4) E-mail must include availability

How to handle it:

If you think about this, it’s not too hard. Just simply state what days and times you can work. Right?

Wrong! This could very well be one of the screening mechanisms the company is using. You have to be careful.

If it was me, I would state my availability in my cover letter, but would avoid using the word ‘only’ as it is very restrictive. I could give some ideal days and times I am available to work, but only if I can work the entire day – not an hour or two here and there.

At the same time, I would emphasize my willingness to come in as the company’s needs dictate. I would be sure to stress my flexibility and possibly my ability to report to work on short notice.

However, if I was unsure of my availability due to other activities, I would mention that my availability can be discussed in an interview. But this has the potential to backfire on me because the company might be looking for a particular availability.

In the end, what it really boils down to is one simple rule …

“Make sure you read the job posting and understand it. Take about 5 minutes to really analyze it - ask yourself questions like, 'what is the ad saying and/or implying' and 'what is the ad not saying'. By doing so, you can maximize your chance of finding your perfect job.”

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