Importance Of A Job Description (With Tips To Review It)

Updated 12 February 2023

Finding the right job that suits your professional capabilities, skills and previous work experiences is sometimes challenging. Reviewing advertisements for open positions is often the first step of the search process. Knowing what to look for in job descriptions can help you find and apply to roles that align with your specific skills and career goals. In this article, we discuss the importance of a job description, explain its components and share tips on reading and analysing them while searching for your next role.

What Is A Job Description?

A job description is an informative document that specifies the duties, responsibilities, tasks, qualifications and skills to perform a role. It is often the first point of contact between an employer and future employees. Also known as job profiles or position descriptions, it lists the critical details about the vacancy such as the type of work, hours, selection process and expected pay. They often include:

  • A brief introduction about the company, the hiring team and their overall objectives

  • An overview of the job responsibilities and day-to-day tasks

  • The essential skills, knowledge, work experiences and qualifications of potential candidates

  • A brief explanation of the application and selection process

  • Type of employment, including part-time, full-time, freelance or independent contractor

  • Working conditions and locations such as office, hybrid or remote

Related: Job Description Vs Job Specification: An In-Depth Guide

Importance Of A Job Description For Job Seekers

Irrespective of the role you are applying for, knowing the importance of a job description helps you with the following:

Learn about the position

A well-developed job description gives potential candidates clarity on what the employer expects. It gives you a clear understanding of the duties and responsibilities, work timings, working style, expected pay and the interview process. It often helps you decide whether to apply for a specific role.

Related: Job Function Vs Job Title (Definition And Comparison)

Review minimum qualifications

Minimum qualifications are the minimum amounts of experience, skills, certifications, licensures and other job-related requirements that qualify a candidate for a specific position. For example, companies require candidates applying for a cargo truck driver role to hold a valid commercial driver's licence. Knowing the minimum qualifications helps you decide whether you are eligible to apply.

Assess your suitability

A job description provides an overview of what you can expect if you accept the offer. This helps you evaluate the role's daily activities and other responsibilities and decide if it would suit your capabilities and skills. Use the job description to avoid positions that might not align with your proficiencies and apply for roles that better fit your professional aptitude and career goals.

Demonstrate relevance

Review job descriptions to customise your resume and cover letter in a way that showcases your relevance to the role. Include keywords, skills and other requirements from the post to explain why you are the ideal candidate. You can also adapt your answers during the interview to showcase how your abilities align with those in the posting.

Ask the right questions during the interview

Asking interesting and relevant questions showcases your interest in the role and increases your chances of securing the job. Use the job description to demonstrate that you fully understand the employer's expectations and requirements. Researching and preparing questions before the interview provides you with the proper understanding to clarify any questions about the role before accepting the offer.

Related: Good Interview Questions To Ask (With Tips On What To Avoid)

Discover any gaps in your profile and overcome them

Job descriptions help you identify the popular technical and soft skills required for a particular role. When reading multiple job descriptions, you might notice a common theme. For example, when applying for a software engineer role, you discover employers expect candidates to have a strong understanding of Agile software development methodology along with basic coding abilities and technical knowledge. Develop the skills you lack by enrolling in online courses or webinars, making your profile stronger and more relevant to your chosen career path.

Related: How To Develop A Job Profile: A Complete Guide With Examples

Make your resume ATS ready

When applying for a role, resumes generally pass through the applicant tracking system (ATS) before reaching the hiring manager. The ATS is an automated software for streamlining the hiring process, making it easy for the hiring manager to evaluate and shortlist qualified candidates. The job description enables you to identify the keywords to include for compliance with the ATS.

Related: What Is An Applicant Tracking System? Definition And Tips

Understand the company culture

Besides describing the job duties and responsibilities, job descriptions also detail the company's missions, goals and work culture. This helps you decide if the company is the right choice for your professional and personal beliefs and values. You might notice certain keywords and phrases as you read through the posting. Use these on your cover letter and resume and during an interview to showcase that you have researched the organisation and are interested in being part of the team.

Related: What Is Organisational Culture?

Know how to apply for the role

The preferred application process varies according to roles and industries. For example, some companies require you to send a cover letter with the application, while this is optional for others. Reading the job description helps you determine the hiring manager's preferred mode of communication and apply accordingly.

Related: How To Get The Job You Want

7 Key Components Of A Job Description

Here are the top components to read and analyse while reviewing job descriptions:

1. Job title

The job title is the official designation for the role. It usually contains a maximum of four words and indicates the position's seniority level, role and responsibilities within the company. Most companies use standard job titles for similar functions. Examples include teacher, accountant, graphic design artist, programmer and customer service manager.

Related: What Is A Job Title And Why Is It Important?

2. Summary statement

The summary statement is a high-level description of the role and specifies how the position adds value to the organisation. It summarises the most important aspects of the job in two to three sentences. It generally highlights the primary duties of potential candidates.

3. Key responsibilities

This is often the lengthiest section of a job description and details the day-to-day responsibilities and duties. It provides an in-depth description of your tasks once you join the company. Use this section to determine whether the role aligns with your previous work experiences, skills and professional capabilities.

4. Skills and qualifications

This describes the mandatory and optional qualifications such as experience, education, knowledge, skills and abilities to do the job. Hiring managers often divide this section into two categories. The first conveys the mandatory or minimum, qualifications for eligible candidates to have. Companies do not typically consider candidates not meeting these specifications, though some offer case-by-case exceptions. Employers also include the additional skills that can help you succeed in the role.

5. Reporting

This section provides details of the organisational structure, explaining how the role fits into the company. It describes whom you might report to if you secure the position. This clarifies who you regularly interact with and helps you understand the organisational hierarchy.

6. Employment type and benefits

In this section, you discover what type of role you are applying to, such as whether it is full- or part-time employment, contract, temporary or permanent work. It also explains whether it is a hybrid, office-based or remote role and the amount of travel required. Hiring managers also include additional employee benefits such as insurance, paid time off and other perks to persuade candidates to apply for the position.

Related: What Are Benefits Of Employment? Definition And Types

7. Company overview and contact information

Sometimes hiring managers include a brief overview of the organisation so potential candidates can understand the company structure and corporate culture. Finally, the job description provides contact information and details the application process. This explains the next steps to take and how to connect with the hiring manager for any questions or technical difficulties during the application process.

Tips To Read And Respond To Job Descriptions

Here are a few tips to help you read, analyse and review job descriptions to find the right ones that suit your career goals:

  • Evaluate the tone to determine whether the company's culture aligns with your professional preferences. Check the description for clues about the company culture, such as whether the organisation values collaborative work or encourages independence and creativity.

  • Look for repetition. Watch for repeated phrases and keywords, as they indicate the most important requirements. Customise your application, cover letter and resume to demonstrate these skills.

  • Watch out for scams. Reading the job description can help you identify job scams. If you notice promises of benefits that are too good to be true, such as an exceptionally high salary for a part-time role or a requirement to pay an application fee, it is likely a scam to avoid.

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