Have you ever ordered an entrée and when it arrived discovered that it didn’t taste the way you imagined? Well, reading and inaccurately interpreting a job posting can turn out to be just as disappointing. What do job postings actually tell you anyway? How can a job seeker ensure the he or she is reading them correctly? Today, we’ll deconstruct a customer service job posting to find out. I’ll share a few insights that will help you determine what an employer is looking for and if you qualify. Remember that although job postings and announcements differ in some aspects, they share the same basic information. Let’s begin.
Employers create job titles to capture a job’s function and to draw qualified applicants. These titles can reflect the company’s specific type of business (e.g. university, health care) or even its clients. If a company is searching for candidates with customer service skills, they may use a generic title or one they have created. Here are some examples of workable customer service titles: Customer Service Representative, Customer Service Care Associate, Call Center Associate, Greeting Manager, Response Services Representative, Member Services Representative and Account Manager. You’ll notice that regardless of the title, each of these positions requires the same basic skills—greeting customers, handling inquiries and customer issues, and maintaining a database. However, don’t be fooled by job titles. As you saw earlier, titles can vary and they don’t tell the entire story about a position either. In fact, I once came across the title “Chief Chatter” for a customer service job. Imagine putting that on a business card!
To get the full story on a job title, go to the company’s website. Do some research. You will get a better picture of what the job requires and the skills needed. Read through the organization’s history, business focus and other relevant information. This data will also come in handy during interviews with the target employer or its competitors.
And here’s one last note about job titles. They are rich in key words. Job seekers use these key words to look for positions on job boards and websites. More important, employers rank candidates based on the key words embedded in their résumé, cover letter and application. So make sure that your documents are rich in key words.
Some companies assign each job title a job number to keep track of the posting. Let’s say a healthcare company has offices worldwide and is advertising current job postings for one-third of them. The job numbers will help the company differentiate—and keep track of—postings for Aberdeen, Washington as well as for Aberdeen, Scotland. Job numbers should be included in your cover letter and e-mail. This number links your documents and application to the open position.
Open & Close Date / Job Location / Work Hours
Check the open date or the date when the employer posted the position. Was the job posted yesterday or 15 days ago? Applying soon rather than later is the best strategy. Hundreds of people may apply to just one job, so, unless you are an exact match and use relevant key words to lure the employer, it’s unlikely your résumé will be noticed after 15 days or more. And if you missed the close date—the last day an employer will accept a résumé, cover letter and application—you’ve missed the boat. Search for the open and close dates to see if your timing is right or if you need to pursue a different lead.
Don’t forget to look for the location of the open position. The job may be located in another city, offer a work-from-home option, or require extensive travel. Does the job mention if it’s full-time or part-time? Do they require overtime? The location and schedule information alone may help determine your level of interest in the job.
Not all but some companies give a brief overview of their organization. It’s their way of introducing themselves and tempting you with their sales pitch. This overview gives a glimpse of the company’s history, culture, brand, client/customer base, location, influence, and successes in the industry. After reading this section, ask yourself, Can I see myself as a part of this company’s corporate or organizational culture? Let’s say the employer wants innovative, quirky people to join its team and you’re more reserved and prefer to work with numbers. You may not be a good fit. When employers build a specific type of culture within their business they look for candidates who will easily fit into that culture to carry out the vision. If you don’t fit, it’s best to move on.
Basic Job duties / Job Summary / Job Function
Job postings list the basic job duties required. These are the minimum requirements expected. The company will list additional requirements but you must first begin here. Go through this list carefully. Basic skills for customer service candidates include knowledge of MS Word, computer literacy, organization skills, ability to handle multiple tasks, excellent follow thorough, reliability, and evidence of professional development, to name a few. Remember, these are the basic skills required for any customer service job. When you look at the job postings in your desired field, do you meet the basic requirements? If you can tick all the boxes, continue to read the rest of the job posting. If not, stop reading and search for a job posting that aligns better with your basic skill set.
Job Requirements / Required Qualifications / Skills Needed
Now we get to the meat of the job posting or announcement. Based on the specific duties of the job the company will mention certain requirements. This means that you must meet these additional requirements to be seriously considered for the job. This will be the area of focus during an interview. If you meet these requirements as with the basic requirements, you will have to prove it. To do so, you must provide documentation of training or field-related experience, certifications, licenses, a list of projects you’ve worked on, success rates, keys statistics, and the like.
Company Preferences / Preferred Qualifications
Employers have preferences. A potential employer may prefer that candidates have customer service training through a former employer’s company-sponsored program or have previous experience working in a call center environment. Weigh these preferences based on the position you’re applying for. Will the employer’s preferences signal a dead-end for you or give you an edge? Keep in mind that a preference is just that. It is not a requirement. For example, if you don’t have the customer service training, it does not mean that you won’t get the job. But it does mean that candidates that do have such training will be preferred over you. Similarly, if a VA hospital prefers that veterans apply for a patient registration (aka customer service) position, and you’re not a veteran, chances are you will not get the job. Always examine the preferences of a job announcement to determine if you should complete the application or search for greener pastures elsewhere.
Aside from the basic duties, requirements and preferred qualifications, an employer may add specific questions to the job application to pre-screen applicants. These supplemental questions cannot be avoided. You’ll have to answer yes, no or provide an explanation. Using the customer service example, two supplemental questions might be “Have you completed a company-sponsored Customer Service Training?” and “How many years of Customer Service Call Center experience do you have? Please be specific.” Your responses—based on your qualifications—will let you know whether or not you should proceed with the application.
How to Apply
You’ve gone through the job posting and believe you are a great match for the company. You’ve identified keys words from the job posting to embed in your documents. After you have tweaked your résumé, written a job-specific cover letter, and gathered all relevant documents, such as references, degrees, licenses, it’s now time to apply for the job. How do they want you to apply? By e-mail, on-line application or snail mail? Whatever the approach, make sure you lead with a positive, professional presentation. Always provide the required documents in the format requested. Complete all areas of an application with accurate information. Triple check for any errors. And before hitting the send or submit button proofread everything again.
After today’s exercise, I guarantee you’ll never look at job posting and announcement the same way again. From a given job title to the company’s supplemental questions, job postings can be very informative. They can tell a lot about a company’s history, brand, buzzwords, industry focus, culture, employees, team structure, successes, technology and so much more. I encourage you to make a habit of deconstructing those announcements that interest you. And with a little data mining, you can prepare key rich documents that will get you to and through an interview. More than anything, use the “deconstruction” analytical approach to determine if the organization is right for you. If you have doubts, consider if you should apply at all. The greatest benefit of deconstructing job postings is that it has the potential to lower your rejection rate, lead to more job offers—and ultimately save you hours of disappointment.
Best of success in your job search!