Dissecting job descriptions

The first thing to remember is that Human Resource Managers are looking for the best candidates that are available for their job posting. They don’t always write perfect job descriptions because generally, they are very busy people or because they are human and make mistakes. If they cannot fill the role with someone who meets all of their criteria, often they will look for the person who is the best match. But either way, they have to fill the role! It’s important to keep these things in mind when applying for positions in companies. 

Let’s take a look at some common words used in job descriptions. I know these terms are obvious to most people, but I wanted to emphasise their meanings because I find that often we misread or misunderstand what’s being said in job descriptions.


These are the basic requirements that employers are looking for from applicants. However, keep in mind the job posting might say something like ‘or similar’ or even something like ‘or equivalent’. This means that the employer is open to different types of qualifications from different types of applications. This can be found quite often when the employers are looking for qualified people but are planning on training them anyway. 


These can be learned in a formal or informal way. In other words, you can acquire a skill in your personal life that you then transfer to your working life. You don’t necessarily need to have it only in your professional work. For example, if you are a manager or a leader of a sports team, you can transfer a lot of the same skills and qualities over to your professional life.


These are attributes or qualifications that you have acquired over the course of your life so far. Again, you can gain them in a professional or non-professional way. But they are not required. In other words, they are nice to have, not need to have. 


You can gain experience in lots of different ways. For example, you don’t have to have experience as a sales manager to have sales experience, anyone who does fundraising, recruiting, hospitality, marketing or customer satisfaction is doing sales in some form or another. If there is a certain type of experience that you need for a role, go back through your employment history and ask yourself if you have that type of experience in any shape or form. You may be surprised at what you’ll find when you really search for it.

I hope that helps you understand job descriptions better. Finally, always make sure to read the descriptions very very carefully to make sure that you understand exactly what they’re looking for.