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Anatomy of a job advert

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If you’re applying for a new position, the likelihood is that you’ve spotted a job advert that aligns with your experience, skills, qualifications and career objectives. They generally follow a pretty standard format, which means that you should completely understand what the role involves and what the employer is looking for before applying.

That, in turn, means that you’ll be able to present a persuasive application, that reflects your strengths, and convinces the recruiter to progress you through to the next stage of recruitment. Here’s how you can leverage a job advert to your advantage.

Why is the job advert important?

The job advert doesn’t just bring the vacancy to your attention, it tells you a lot more! It enables you to make sure that you understand the requirements of the role, be confident that it’s the kind of role you’re looking for and – most importantly – tailor your CV to show exactly how you meet the requirements of the role and why you’re the right person for the job. Let’s look at how to dissect and interpret the job advert, to use it to its best advantage when preparing your application.   

About the company

This section of the job advert gives you the chance to find out a bit more about the business. Are you interested in what they do? Do their values and ethics align with yours? Can you see yourself fitting in?


As well as helping you to decide whether it’s the right company for you, this part of the job advert also gives some insight that you can use on your application. This is particularly useful when preparing your
cover letter, as it can help you to explain why you want the job and why you’d fit in – although you should also do further research into the company too, if you truly want to stand out. You can also use this information to improve your CV, by showing that you have the right industry experience and how you’ve demonstrated similar values.

About the role (the job description)

This section of the job advert tells you what you’ll be doing day to day. It gives you the chance to evaluate what relevant experience you already have and where there may be gaps, as well as whether you’re happy with what’s being asked of you. Will you feel confident in the role? Is it at the level you want? Will it provide development opportunities?


Red flags in this section include a list of generic responsibilities that don’t really tell you much about the role – that may mean that you’ll be expected to pick up the odd jobs no one else wants. It could even be a warning sign for a


About the ideal candidate (the person spec)

From an application perspective, this is the most crucial section. There’s no need to tick every box to apply – it’s rare that someone will be a perfect match – but you should tick most of them. When you’re writing your CV, cover letter or personal statement, these are the guidelines to use. Try to include examples of as many of the requirements given in the job advert as possible, to show that you’re the best person for the job.


For example, if the ideal candidate has “Experience of managing a small team”, your CV should state that you’re currently “Managing a team of X many people”. Ideally, include a
quantifiable success in this area, such as “Grew the team from 3 to 5 staff” or “Mentored a junior, who achieved promotion within 6 months”. Your cover letter could then take a new angle, such as explaining your leadership style or how you’ve built a more productive team.


In terms of writing your CV, this section of the job advert is basically like the teacher giving you the answers to the exam – they’re telling you what they want, all you have to do is prove to them that you have it.

The offering

So now that you’ve proved that you can meet their needs, can they meet yours? This part of the job advert tells you about the compensation package for the role – that’s not just pay, but benefits and company culture too.


You may decide to take a reduced salary in exchange for benefits such as a car, private health insurance, flexible working and so on, so do look at the whole package rather than just the bottom-line figure. It’s common for employers not to give exact figures, which is annoying and increasingly criticised, so have a salary range in mind and be prepared to negotiate further down the line.


Red flags to watch out for here include offering
legal requirements as if they’re benefits – such as paid holiday or the right to request flexible working.


How to apply

It’s basic, but do make sure that you follow all the instructions in this section. If the job advert requests a cover letter with your CV, send a cover letter. If they ask for a personal statement of 500 words or less, send a personal statement of the right length. If they ask for files as PDFs rather than Word documents, convert your files to the right format. There’s no point wasting your time creating the perfect application if you’re going to throw it all away at the first hurdle.

There should also be clues to help with your cover letter in the job advert – for example, include the reference number, if one is given, and address it to the person named in the advert rather than “Dear Sir”.

Save the job advert

Now that you’ve tailored your CV and cover letter to the job advert, give them one final check over and you’re good to go! Don’t forget to save a copy of the advert, to refer back to when you’re inevitably called for an interview. Good luck with your application! 

If you’d like an expert eye to check over your CV before you respond to the job advert, why not request a
FREE CV review from CV Shed? It’s better to catch the problems with your CV before you hit “send”, after all! Alternatively, send the job advert over to me and I’ll craft a CV for you from scratch, ensuring that it aligns perfectly with the role you’re aiming for.
Order here to get your job search moving!

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