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<1 min | Posted on 17/01/2017

The Art of Decoding a Job Description (to Write a Killer Resume)

Reading Time: 3 minutes If you’ve seen a job description before, you know it’s a bunch of fluff. All of it is meaningful, but...

Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you’ve seen a job description before, you know it’s a bunch of fluff. All of it is meaningful, but fluff nonetheless. What you may not have noticed is the hidden message. You can only see it if you read between the lines. 

But the thing is, most of the hiring managers don’t write job descriptions. Here is how it generally goes:

  • When a position opens up in a department, the hiring manager narrows down specific skills and qualities required of the person filling it. Then he communicates the same to someone in HR who actually creates the job description.
  • Based on his discussion with the hiring manager and his own understanding of the role, he creates the job description. Interestingly, more often than not, he uses a standard template used for every open position. And this is where the fluff enters.

As a fun experiment, try scanning a job board. Unsurprisingly, you’ll find most of the job descriptions to be almost similar. Plus, they’ll be stuffed with a bunch of industry lingo. This makes it exhausting for you to zero in on the select qualities hiring manager wants to see in your resume.

Besides, a classic mistake is when rookie candidates pack their resume with all the buzzwords from a job description. Selection is key here, and this is the secret message hiring manager wants exceptional candidates to know. Finally, here are some steps that’ll help you decode a job description.

Focus on the order

The order in which job duties or qualifications are listed reveals a lot. As with any document, hiring managers usually mention most important bits at the top of the job description.

That means, first few pointers in every section of a job description are non-negotiable. As a potential candidate, make sure your job application letter covers all the top pointers.

The most important section – Requirements

This is the part that tells you if you can apply to the job or not. The requirements generally include education level, work-ex, and the skills needed for the role.

As stated, the most important requirements will be listed towards the top. For instance, if there are 10+ bullets in the section, top 5 will reveal what a hiring manager is looking for. Since the hiring managers seldom write job descriptions, it’s obvious that the essential pointers they communicate are listed on top.

Once you figure this out, it’s clear the hiring manager wants to see these qualities on your resume. So go ahead and put them on it. Actually, put them in your cover letter as well. Just make sure that you don’t copy the buzz words verbatim. Be creative and spin a story around your skills and qualities in your job application letter.

Learn which keywords to write in your resume

While scanning a job description, you’ll see a lot of buzzwords pop out of the screen. That’s just overused industry lingo. But it’s important for you to know what they actually mean. Plus, learn to include them in your resume without overstuffing them.

For instance, you see ‘self-starter’ as a desired quality on the job description. That’s actually code for diving into work as soon as you join the company. Don’t expect hand-holding even if you’re a newbie. The company expects you to be quick and learn things on the fly.

So, include experiences in your job application letter where you excelled at a task without having proper knowledge or skills beforehand. It’ll make you a frontrunner among the rest of the generic resumes and the hiring manager sees you as a hustler.

Another benefit of filling up relevant keywords in your resume is beating the ATS. You can read more about beating the ATS here.

Some things are not set in stone

There will be times when a long list of job duties can give you the blues. Perhaps, you’ve never handled tasks mentioned in the job description. And so you don’t think you’re competent enough and end up not applying.

In that case, your best strategy is to  reach out to an employee of that company.

For example, you can easily google them and find their social handles. Then start a conversation and ask them about the position. Chances are, they’ll be quite willing to tell you about actual duties of the role.   

Surprisingly, most of the times what’s on paper doesn’t turn out to be on-the-job duties. It’s because employers make job descriptions to be more aspirational than realistic. Therefore, you shouldn’t fear if you’re lacking only by a few pointers. Mail your resume anyway, but make sure you can handle the duties. On top of that, make sure your cover letter is so powerful, it convinces the hiring manager of the same.


When you’re actively looking for a job, you can easily forget to pay attention to a job description. After all, you need a job pronto. Yet, properly decoding a job description is the key to submitting a kick-ass job application that actually gets you an interview.

Note: Already an expert on decoding a job description? Then apply here to let the top companies hire you for best-in-class packages.

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