This is part two of a five-part blog series on tailoring your cover letter and resume to any position so you will get noticed. A fictional position will be used throughout the series to help you apply these tips. This part is dedicated to reviewing the Job Description before applying. Read part one of the series here.
By Bock Szymkowicz, Career Development Specialist
Why Research Job Descriptions?
You will understand the skills required for the position and if you will like working in this position.
Before you tailor your application, you need to ask “What does the position require?” Luckily, the job postings will tell you exactly what is needed. Review multiple job descriptions for the same type of position to get an adequate idea of the responsibilities of the position, the skills required, and necessary training. If you’re applying for an Administrative Assistant position, start your research by looking at postings for Administrative Assistants along with other similar positions, such as Executive Secretary or Office Manager.
Beyond matching your skills, try to imagine yourself in the position to see if you would be effective and happy. Any position you apply to should be one you can enjoy and feel motivated in, otherwise the position could lead to more stress in the long run.
Techniques for Researching Job Descriptions
- Note the Skills, Techniques & Tools Referenced: Look in the job description, not only for what you will do but also how you will do it (Example: Enter data using Microsoft Excel). Keep any skills, tools, or techniques in mind so you can mention relevant experience in the cover letter or resume. Example skills: Friendly Phone Demeanor, “Ability to…” Example tools: Microsoft Excel, SQL Server, POS System Example techniques: CPR, de-escalation Techniques
- Write Down Action Verbs: A lot of the application process comes down to mirroring language. Usually the first word in a job duties description is a verb. Write these down so you can place the words throughout your cover letter and resume.
- Categorize Duties Required: Review the action verbs you have written down to understand the types of skills required for the job. For example, if a majority of action verbs relate to communication, you will know to push those skills forward in the cover letter and resume. Contextualize these as well. For example, communication with customers is different from communication with fellow staff.
Let’s Practice: Volunteer Coordinator Example
Let’s apply this approach to a fictional Volunteer Coordinator job posting. In the job description below, I’ve highlighted in green areas of focus – principally skills, tools, and action verbs.
COMPANY: Not Byte Back
POSITION TITLE: Volunteer Coordinator
EXPERIENCE: 1-2 years administrative experience: clerical, data entry, and customer service
SKILLS: Organized, friendly phone demeanor, detail-oriented, and personable. Microsoft Applications (Outlook, Word, and Excel) and experience with databases. Ability to handle multiple projects and deadlines. Driver’s license required.
- Collect and process NBI forms and International background checks for volunteers to be accepted upon receipt
- Ensure background check materials are complete. Follow up with volunteer applicants.
- Assist Associate Director with volunteer rescreening
- Schedule potential volunteers for Volunteer Training and manage training calendar
- Collaborate with Volunteer Care Coordinator and Intake Specialist to complete volunteer files in a timely manner
APPLICATION GUIDELINES: Please send a copy of your resume, cover letter, and three professional references to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title “Volunteer Coordinator.” Include your salary range in the cover letter.
Below are the results of our research. You would go on to do this for two to three other job descriptions to get a stronger idea of the position.
Skills, Techniques & Tools: Microsoft Office, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, databases, friendly phone demeanor, detail-oriented, organized. A driver’s license is required, so I would not apply if I did not have one.
Action Verbs: Collect, process, ensure, assist, schedule, collaborate, follow up, manage
Categorize: Based off the verbs, you can see a focus on:
- Administrative skills, particularly around volunteer management. (collect, process, ensure, schedule, manage)
- A secondary focus on communication, particularly with volunteers and other staff. (collaborate, assist, follow up)
Specific Requests: Send 3 documents (Resume, Cover Letter-Include Salary Range, and References) to stated email address with subject title “Volunteer Coordinator.”
After you do this with three or four job postings, you will have a strong idea of what employers are looking for in applicants. This exercise will help you envision yourself working in this job.
With the Volunteer Coordinator example, if you like working with volunteers and administrative tasks, this would be a strong fit for you. If you were looking for a position where you managed people, and the job descriptions didn’t include this responsibility, maybe you should look at other positions.
The data gathered from this research will act as a great stepping stone to adjust your resume and cover letter to be a perfect fit for the position you are applying for.
In the next blog post, we’ll review different techniques to tailor your resume.