Job Search Basics: Reading a Job Posting

Scroll. Scroll again. Next page. Scroll some more.

As you keep scrolling through job posting after job posting, you start to wonder how on earth you’re going to find something that fits your personality and passion. With so many jobs out there, it can be difficult to decide which ones you should apply for.

Believe me when I say, I can totally relate. Filling out job applications is time consuming and can take some work. So, if you’re in the process of searching for a job and just don’t know which ones to apply for, here are a few questions to ask yourself to make that decision a little easier.


Would I enjoy doing the duties of this job every day?

This is a no-brainer. If you can’t see yourself enjoying the day-to-day work, move on to the next job listing.


Am I willing to move to this location?

Consider this carefully. Location can affect every part of your life, not just your career. If you are unwilling to discuss moving, it’s best not to apply for a position that requires you to be in a certain place.


Do I have the experience they are requiring?

If yes, move on to the next question.

If NO, what’s missing? Do I have indirect experience that might be applicable? What can I do to gain this experience in the coming year(s)?

Your experience is obviously extremely important when applying for a job position. Usually, you can get a sense for what is most important on a job description. Consider an example that says “Must have experience selling a feed product directly to a livestock producer” or “Preference for candidates with experience selling to dairy producers.” In this case, it is clear that the priority is sales experience of feed products over someone with dairy experience.

In most cases, you don’t necessarily have to match 100 percent of the criteria to be considered for a position. You do, however, need to match the top priorities. You can determine top priorities by looking for words like “must,” “required,” “minimum,” “essential,” etc.

In the example above, you could go to great lengths to prove your dairy experience, but if you don’t have sales experience, it will likely be a waste of your time. If you don’t have a dairy background but a lot of experience selling feed products in the beef cattle industry, you will likely still be a viable candidate.


Is this the type of company I could see myself working for?

Company culture and environment is extremely important. Do a little research on the company to see if your values line up with theirs. If you know someone who works for the company, ask them about the leadership style and professional development opportunities that are important to you.

Examine the company’s mission statement. Can you see yourself carrying out that statement? If not, your should probably move on. Ultimately, you will be spending just as much time focusing on the company’s goals as you will your own. Make sure that they are aligned.  


Will my background be perceived well by the hiring manager?

I ask this to see that you can connect your experiences and your differentiation points to the hiring manager in an email or cover letter. I prefer finding a way to email or send a LinkedIn message to the HR rep or hiring manager rather than a cover letter if it’s not required. Many will completely ignore it if sent with a resume. However, a personalized short message connecting your background with the position can be very effective.

If you can answer yes to all of the questions above, the next step is to APPLY. APPLY FIRST. There is nothing worse for a recruiter than to have to field a ton of questions from someone who is not a serious applicant. Submitting your resume is the first step.          

What if you’re concerned that it doesn’t pay enough? If your minimum acceptable salary is above the published range, or if there is no salary posted, I would still encourage you to apply. You’ll want to clear this up early in the process with the HR Rep or hiring manager. There is no point in going through a long process just to find out you could have determined it not to be a fit early on.

Overall, BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. If this is not a fit, have the confidence and patience to wait for the right fit. Too many people waste time competing for an offer they know deep down that they will not accept. Sometimes this happens to try to develop a relationship with the company for the future or to get an ego boost from feeling desired by another company. Either way, don’t do this. It will only waste time and potentially damage your reputation with the company.

Tim Hammerich

Tim is a strategic communications consultant, founder of AgGrad, and the host of the "Future of Agriculture" podcast. Originally from California, he is now based out of Boise, Idaho.