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Analyzing Job Ads 

Many job announcements are vague or poorly written. Before you can write a targeted cover letter, you need to figure out exactly what each employer is looking for. 

Questions to ask about any job listing:

  • Is this a reputable company? How can I learn more about their mission and priorities?
  • What professional knowledge, skills and abilities are necessary to be successful in this position?
  • What else can I infer from this ad? What other professional qualities & skills might they seek?
  • Is this a full time or part time position? Permanent or temporary (e.g., seasonal or grant funded)?If the ad omitted key information, was I able to obtain answers from a human resource representative?
  • When is the closing date and how do I apply? To determine if your skills “match” the job announcement, ask yourself:
  • Do I possess the requisite knowledge and experience to perform the duties listed in the job description?
  • Do I possess relevant skills (or transferable skills) necessary to perform the tasks listed in the job description?
  • What transferable (aka “soft skills” e.g., communications, problem solving) do I possess that would be helpful in this position?
  • Do I meet all of the minimum qualifications or their equivalence? Am I over qualified to my detriment?
  • How can I convince this company that I am the right person for this job?

To determine if your skills “match” the job announcement, ask yourself:

  • Do I possess the requisite knowledge and experience to perform the duties listed in the job description?
  • Do I possess disciplinary skills necessary to perform the tasks listed in the job description?
  • What relevant transferable skills (aka “soft skills” e.g., communications, problem solving) do I possess that would be helpful in this position?
  • Do I meet all of the minimum qualifications or their equivalence? Am I over qualified to my detriment?
  • How can I convince this company that I am the right person for this job?

A note about US job ads: The job description explains the typical work that you will perform after you are hired for a position. In contrast, the qualifications section (if included) explains the knowledge, skills and abilities you should possess in order to apply for a position. If your cover letter and resume document that you are highly qualified for the position, it is likely that you will be invited to a job interview. In most cases, after you are hired, a company will provide training on how to perform the specific tasks listed in the job description. Note: Not all job advertisements are well written. Look for more information on a company’s Web site. Call if you need clarification on the posted position. The more you learn about the position, the better cover letter you will be able to write!