What To Look For When Reading a Tech Job Description

6 minutes

When applying to jobs, how often do you read the job descriptions line by line?

Many people skim through them, reading just enough to make sure they qualify for the position before applying. We get it. Reading each and every job description can feel like a waste of time. That’s one reason why we launched our job-readiness checker, so you can quickly analyze how your skills stack up to an open role.

But, job descriptions actually hold a great deal of information. If you know what to look for, you can find insights into the company’s culture, your potential role, and even what to include in your resume to boost your chances of being called in for an interview.

Below, we’ll show you how to read a job description and use it to optimize your resume. Then, we’ll show you how to prepare for the next steps of the job-hunting process.

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How to read a tech job description

The first step in reading a job description is discerning what’s required from what’s desired. Anything listed as a requirement is a must-have — especially when it comes to technical skills.

For example, if a company has knowledge of C++ as a requirement, they’re specifically looking for candidates who are comfortable with that language. The same goes for JavaScript and other languages. In many cases, they may already have some applications written in that language, and for you to help maintain or improve them, you’ll need to be familiar with it.

Still, not having certain skills isn’t always a deal-breaker, especially if they’re listed as “preferred” or as “a plus.”

Say a job description lists Java as a requirement and JavaScript as preferred. Even if you’re only familiar with the former, you might still be an eligible candidate for the position.

Also, remember that skill requirements are usually listed in order of priority. So, you may want to focus on job descriptions with your stronger skills listed towards the top of the qualifications section.

Insights into the role

Job descriptions can also give you some insight into what you can expect while working at the company. For example:

  • Look for how the word “team” is used. In some positions, you fly solo most of the time — but if you see the word team incorporated into the lists of daily duties, you’ll likely be working in a highly team-oriented atmosphere.
  • Pay attention to the technologies they list. They’ll often give you some insight into what you’ll be doing on the job. If SQL is listed, you may be working with databases. If Swift is listed, you’ll most likely be developing for Apple devices.
  • Check to see who you’ll be reporting to. Working on solutions is only part of the job. Your work has to be approved, and knowing how many people have to give you the thumbs up may help you get a good grasp on your workflow. For example, if you’re reporting to a director, and the company is under 50 people, you can assume that there are likely only 1-3 stakeholders when it comes to your daily work.

Insights into the company culture

A job description is typically a wide-open window into the company’s culture. It may even include things that you can’t find on its website or in articles about the organization. Human resources or other managers who write job descriptions may include interesting details such as:

  • Annual company retreats
  • Volunteer work employees do in the community
  • Happy hours with complimentary food and beverages
  • Info about office facilities
  • Food delivery services

As you read through the job description, keep an eye out for requirements like “thrive in a fast-paced environment” or “must be able to juggle multiple projects at once.” Phrases like this might indicate a growth mindset at the company, and if you prefer work environments that are a little less hectic, you might want to consider another role.

Insights into the interview process

One of the key insights into the interview process you can get from the job description is who you’ll be reporting to. You may not know how many interviews you’ll have, but you can rest assured that until you sit down with the person you’ll be reporting to, there’ll be at least one more face-to-face or phone interview before they pick you for the job.

Some companies will outline the interview process, step-by-step, right on the job description. They may also list who your primary point of contact will be.

How to know if you should apply

You don’t have to have all of the listed skills on a job description to apply. If you meet the most important must-have skills, along with some of the “nice to haves,” it doesn’t hurt to apply. Lead with your strengths, emphasize that you’re eager to learn, and don’t let self-doubt hold you back.

Similarly, you also don’t have to meet the exact experience requirements outlined in the job description. This doesn’t mean you should apply for a senior position if you’re just starting out. But, if you have the same general amount of experience or you’re only a year or two shy, consider throwing your hat in the ring.

Want to know where your skills gaps are for a particular position? Try our job-readiness checker to target the areas of improvement specific to you and identify which skills could boost your chances.

Applicant tracking systems and resume optimization

Job descriptions are also a valuable resource for optimizing your resume. Companies often receive dozens (if not hundreds) of applications for open positions, and recruiters just don’t have the time to go through each one. So, many rely on applicant tracking systems (ATS).

According to Jobscan, more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS because they help streamline the recruiting process by screening job applications and resumes.

Many ATS use natural language processing, machine learning, and AI to analyze and rank candidates by how well their resumes match the job description. If your resume doesn’t include the keywords the ATS is looking for, there’s a good chance that the recruiter won’t even see it.

This is why you should tailor your resume for every position you apply to — or at least the jobs you’re really excited about. It might seem tedious, but taking the time to make sure your resume reflects the skills and requirements outlined in the job description will help maximize your chances of being called in for an interview. You can even use AI tools to streamline the time-consuming parts of your job search, for example, have ChatGPT rework your cover letter for a role.

Having the right keywords in your resume will also show recruiters that you’re serious about your application and not just applying to anything that might be a good fit. If you’re applying for a job as a Mobile Developer but Kotlin and Swift aren’t listed in your resume — how will they know you’ve got the right skills?

Be intentional about where you send your resume. If you’re casting a wide net, make it clear in your application materials why you want this job, not just any job.

Preparing for the next steps

While knowing how to read a job description is important, applying is just the first step toward getting the job. Once you hear back from the company, it’s time to start preparing for the interview process.

Depending on the role you’re applying for, the interview process might consist of two parts: behavioral and technical interviews. Behavioral interviews are those you’re probably familiar with, in which your interviewer asks questions about your past roles and experiences.

Technical interviews, on the other hand, assess your proficiency with some of the technical skills outlined in the job posting. You might be given a coding problem to solve or asked about the inner workings of various programming languages and other tools. Technical interviews are your chance to showcase your skills and problem-solving ability and ultimately prove you’re the best choice for the role.

So, it goes without saying that you’ll want to bring your A-game. We offer several resources that’ll help you prepare for your upcoming technical interviews, including courses, tips and insights from professional developers, code challenges, and more.

Ready to get started? Sign up now! For students, click here.

This blog was originally published in October 2021 and has been updated to include new job-search features.

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