These days many people supplement their job search by searching for and responding to online job postings. Largely because they are in such plentiful supply, and also because there are whole websites dedicated to helping job seekers search for jobs by industry, target compensation, location, and any conceivable keyword, online job postings are often irresistible, even to the most seasoned and savvy professionals who otherwise might resort to headhunters and their professional network. However, when daring to find your ideal next job via online job postings, it can sometimes be daunting to figure out how to determine if the job is really a fit for your background and skills, or not. In fact, when surfing your favorite job search site, how can you tell if the job posting is worth responding to; and if you do apply, will it actually help you to get to the interview stage?
Experience – How Much, and What Kind?
Before applying to an online job posting, one of the first things to consider is whether you have enough of the right kind of experience that the company is looking for. It’s really that simple, and is the very first thing to assess before hitting the ‘Apply’ button. Anyone who has ever been tasked with reviewing resume responses to a job posting will likely say their biggest complaint is the number of applicants that are in no way qualified for the role, and simply don’t match the experience that is described in the job posting.
For example, if a job posting specifically calls for at least 5 years of project management experience, then don’t send in your resume if you’re an accountant, have no project management experience, but really want to break into the field. Even if you have more than 5 years experience in another field, have 6 months of project management experience, and want to get more, don’t send your resume. If you just graduated with a degree in project management, but have less than a year of experience, don’t send your resume.
Even though the value of your collective career experiences is more times than not more important than the amount of time you’ve spent in a particular role, most of the people behind job postings have already developed in their mind the kind of resume and profile they want to see. If you don’t fit into that profile, then you are probably wasting your time by responding to the job posting in the first place. In this example, only send your resume if you have a number of years of project management experience to your credit (at least three years, or you’re really stretching it), and can express the value of that experience in a clear, concise way on your resume. It’s just that simple.
Education and Training
Many job postings are sometimes silent on the importance of a certain level of education or training required for a particular role. Sometimes the role requires a bachelor’s degree, while other postings will specify the need for candidates to have an advanced degree in a particular field. Whatever is said or not said in a job posting about the level of education required, don’t be shy about highlighting whatever educational credentials you do have. Thankfully, having a great education is one of those things that can only help you, and almost never hurt you in your job search. On the flip side, if a job posting calls for a Master’s degree in Chemistry, and you don’t have one, or maybe didn’t even complete your Bachelor’s degree, either don’t apply, or have a monster of a resume that showcases all the chemistry experience you have that would rival that of someone with the desired degree.
When job postings call for a particular educational profile, that’s usually code for: ‘has the experiences and knowledge base that someone would typically have if they had that degree’. So, if you can show you’ve got the experience and knowledge base, then by all means, try your luck. There are many successful financial analysts with degrees in English rather than Finance, and no shortage of Math majors who teach violin and piano. These are people who have been able to demonstrate their strengths in a particular field without having the prescribed prerequisite educational background.
Lastly, job postings often describe the sort of environment or industry the ideal candidate will come from. For example, experience in ‘financial services’, ‘a professional services environment’, or ‘legal services or law firm’ are often touted as descriptors of the most-sought candidate’s background. Fair or unfair, when a job posting actually spells this out, then don’t ignore it. If you’re applying for an office manager position in a law firm and the job posting specifically mentions more than a mere desire for someone with experience working in a law firm or in a service-oriented environment, take heed. You may be the best office manager there is, but if your entire office management career is in manufacturing, it’s best to think long and hard about whether it’s worth your while to apply for the job at all (even if the law firm, by the way, is missing out by not being willing to consider you). The measure of real success in using online job postings is a job offer. If you get anything less than that, then all you’ve got is just a waste of time and key strokes.
by Melanie Haniph