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Succeed in the workplace
Succeed in the workplace

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2 The key areas in a job advert

Image of nine individual keys.
Figure 2 Nine key areas

As well as reading between the lines on the specific requirements included in a job advertisement, this will also tell you something about the kind of workplace it might be and whether or not it would suit your interests and needs. To do all this though, it helps to look out for nine key areas. This will give the best chance of matching yourself to an employer’s needs.

1 Style and language

Look at the advert. Does how it looks, suggest anything to you? What kind of language is used to describe the organisation? It might use factual language like ‘multinational’ or more emotional language like ‘dynamic’ or ‘nurturing’. This tells you something about how the organisation sees itself. If you pay attention to the tone and feel of the advert, you can evaluate whether or not you feel comfortable with its choice of words and whether your personality or values might fit or conflict with those of the organisation.

2 Brief job description

Look out for the job description and remember to tease out what it is telling you about the role. Does the work genuinely interest you? Even if it does, it must still meet your current needs. For example, it may involve shift work which may not appeal to you. What are the main tasks and the kind of skills they need? Think about the evidence you can provide for these. Remember this doesn’t need to be from a work context. Are there some aspects which are unclear and you would want to find out about, during the recruitment process?

3 Qualifications

Look out for specific qualification requirements and whether or not they are preferred or essential.

4 Experience

Sometimes advertisements state that certain experience is needed. Note what this is and consider how you can demonstrate the requirement from different aspects of your life.

5 Qualities

Look at the kind of language used to describe the ideal applicant. If an advertisement for a job asked for a ‘committed self-starter,’ it could imply that there will be little supervision. You would need to find out what a phrase like this means in practice, and then compare it honestly to what you know about your own personality and needs.

6 Location and geographical mobility

These are more obvious pieces of information to spot. You will need to consider if it is practical and cost effective for you to travel to the advertised workplace.

7 Prospects

You might be looking for work which gives you promotion opportunities, so look for any indications on this. Assess whether the employer is looking for evidence that you want to and can progress. Even if the opportunities seem limited, the job could still help to develop your skills and experience.

8 Salary

Where this is stated, it is often a good guide to the level of qualifications and experience you might be expected to offer. You need to compare the salary both with the going rate for that kind of work, and with your own needs.

9 Named contact

Sometimes advertisements give a name to contact for further information. It is a good idea to follow this up. Be prepared when you do make contact because the person will form an impression of you from the very beginning. Rehearse your introduction, and know what you want to ask. Be ready to say something about yourself, as well.

The best way to understand and develop your skill at this process is to give it a go with a real advert. You’ll do this in the next activity.

Activity 2 Real life practice

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

Find an advert for a job that interests you. As you are working online, the easiest adverts to find may be on company or organisation websites. However, if you prefer, you can look in local newspapers.

Work through the nine key areas and write down your thoughts on each in your notebook.

Also make a note of where the job was advertised and the date, in case you want to look back at it in the future.


This activity may well have been a little easier than looking through our first example, as it was probably more relevant to you and you’ve had some practice already. However you found it, try and always bear the nine key areas in mind when you consider a job advert.

In the next section you’ll learn more about the specific language used in job adverts, job descriptions and person specifications and what it means.