When you are job-hunting and going through countless job applications, do you find yourself wondering if the points listed in the job advertisement are as obvious as you think, or if you need to read between the lines?
Don’t worry, you are not alone.
Sometimes, employers can be a bit vague in their job descriptions. For example, does “five to seven years of experience” mean exactly that, or is the employer open to someone older who has been working in the role/industry for longer? Most PMETs (Professionals, managers, Executives and Technicians) and fresh jobseekers encounter this issue of vagueness when they are on the lookout for a new workplace — this begs the question about how much experience is really needed or whether they are the right fit for the job. It’s easy to get confused about what the role demands. One might even feel disheartened that he may or may not have the necessary qualifications for the role at his dream company. In fact, ambiguity is also a known factor that could deter people from applying for a particular role.
Luckily for you, our team has done our research and surveyed some of the most commonly used terms in job ads that tend to come across as vague and inexplicit. Our team of career advisors will also clear the air by explaining how they ought to be regarded by job applicants in order to better understand the demands of the role and expectations of the company. Best of all, we will give you some insider tips to make use of the ambiguous terms to better market yourself during the application process.
Here are some of the more commonly used phrases in job ads, what they actually mean and how experienced jobseekers should interpret them.
“X number of years’ experience”
Most job descriptions indicate the number of years of experience required for the role. This could range anywhere from 1-2 years of experience to 8-10 years of expertise in the field.
Many older PMET jobseekers tend to have 10 to 20 years of working experience. So when a job advertisement asks for applicants with just “one to three years” or “five to eight years” of experience, should you apply?
It’s a question Derek Lau, 45, asks when reading these ads. “Most times, I’m not sure if I should apply for a job that asks for three to five years of experience because I’m not ready to take a pay cut,” he says.
“Most times, I’m not sure if I should apply for a job that asks for three to five years of experience because I’m not ready to take a pay cut,”
“I was let go from my job as an accountant two years ago. Before that, I was at my company for seven years. I’m currently driving part-time with a ride-hailing company because I haven’t been able to secure a full-time position,” he adds. While Derek has managed to attain a significant amount of income to sustain his lifestyle from his part-time work, he still desires a full-time job in an industry that is relevant to him.
So how can you figure out what a potential employer is looking for or expecting in such cases? A job advertisement asking for an applicant with “one to three years of experience” typically implies that the employer is probably looking for fresh job entrants, with a pay grade that is correspondingly lower, and is not expecting much prior relevant experience. These types of positions suit fresh graduates with little to no years of experience. Entry-level positions are good learning opportunities for fresh graduates by giving them a taste of the industry.
Someone with a lot more experience will probably not be considered.
“Five to eight years of experience” indicates that the employer is looking for applicants with more expertise and know-how. In such cases, as a PMET with years of experience under your belt, you can boost your chances of landing a job interview by highlighting your unique selling points in your resume:
Zero in on your skills, both specialised and transferable, especially if you are switching job roles or industries. This could help you market yourself better during interviews and in cover letters.
For example, if you have worked in a customer-facing role in a travel company but want to switch to a similar role in the IT sector, underline key skills such as being a good listener, communicator and problem-solver. Always try to tweak your resume such that it aligns with the key requirements of the job scope and fits in with the business culture.
Highlight your responsibility and key successes.
Instead of just saying that you have worked for 20 years, give specific examples of successful projects and key achievements.
Always try to bring in statistics and quantitative data about how your efforts have helped the company. It would also be worthwhile to bring in real case studies where you had to take the reins of a project to showcase your leadership abilities.
If you are switching to a new role or industry, draw parallels between what you have done in your previous job(s) and how you can easily fit into the advertised role. Even if you had no prior experience in the new industry, you can still market yourself in an effective manner which showcases your willingness to learn and key attributes that make you an excellent team player.
For example, if you are applying for a marketing role in a lifestyle consumer company when you were previously handling event planning, highlight your strong track record with successful events. Always try to weave in instances where you had your creativity tested and had to wield your leadership skills to manage a group of employees. What if you lack relevant prior experience? Luckily, all hope is not lost. In such cases, emphasise your strengths such as your strong organisation skills, ability to communicate well with people and positive working attitude. Soft skills like these are transferable. Many employees look out for leadership skills, ability to work in a team, initiative, a keen eye for detail as well as a willingness to learn. Articulate your open-mindedness and ability to pick up new concepts quickly.
Read about one of our users’ experience in taking a leap of faith a switching from a career in finance to healthcare by clicking here.
Emphasise initiatives like new processes introduced that were well received in your last role, and any on-the-job training you may have had, such as computer-based simulation training.
These can add value to your application as they would be relevant and useful to any role in any industry. Some other key skills that employers sought after include familiarity with social media, Google analytics, Microsoft office, sales as well as Adobe Creative Suite.
“X qualification is preferred”
Some corporations list academic qualifications such as being a degree or diploma holder as a job requirement. However, this means that while the stated qualification is favoured, it is not absolutely essential. You still stand a chance of getting the job without the necessary paper qualifications if you have the relevant experience and soft skills. For example, you may not have a degree in the English Language when applying for a writing job, but if you have been freelancing for years for different publications and have an excellent track record and a good network of connections, your experience is invaluable. In fact, you might even stand a better chance at getting the role because of your professional experience in creating relevant content that sells.
Highlight all these soft skills and facts in your résumé and include your portfolio of work, including articles that you are most proud of, so that the company can see your quality and experience for themselves. Also, try to give examples of how you have used your skills to enhance your company’s brand image and brand reputation. Give statistical information about how your contributions have helped the company prosper — this would add credibility to your work and help you market yourself better. In exhibiting how you were an asset to your company or clients, you will make yourself a valuable and worthy candidate that could possibly take a company to higher heights.
In this way, you emphasise the skills that you believe the company is looking for, such as analytical skills, industry connections, attention to detail, strong research skills and so on. In addition, highlight any relevant courses you may have attended or which you are currently attending that are helping you upskill such as a Search Engine Optimisation course. In doing so, you could add value to your resume and illustrate how you will be able to be a valuable asset to the company.
All in all, managing ambiguity in any circumstance can be challenging. So, the next time you research a job posting, read between the lines. If you need to, simply consult the employer during the interview to clarify any doubts you may have to make a more informed decision about whether or not you are the right fit for the role. The information included above could help you to craft and submit the perfect résumé to land the job you have been hoping for. Regardless of whether you are a fresh graduate or PMET, always be sure to remain open-minded to make a killer impression on your interviewers. Interviewers always love humble and friendly applicants who are willing to learn!
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This article is part 5 of Unit 3 of the Career Guide on “Get Ahead of the Crowd”.
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