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How to: Interpret a Job Advert and Optimise Your Application

It’s easy to imagine that anyone who’s a dab hand at a cryptic crossword is also an expert when crafting the perfect job application. That’s because a job advert isn’t just a description of the post you’re applying for – it’s a series of clues indicating how you should tackle your CV.

Unless the company you’re aiming to work for is particularly disorganised, every aspect of the job advert – and that includes a person specification and the application form, as well as the advert itself – is a primer on the skills and responsibilities expected of the post.

So far, so obvious. But while many read job applications to find out if it’s the position for them, few use it to fully optimise their CV.

Personalising your application materials to match an employer’s expectations won’t only make you look like you’ve put extra thought into the application process. It’ll also give you the chance to place the skills they require at the head of your CV, piquing their interest at the earliest opportunity.

With that in mind, what do you need to be mindful of when looking at job adverts?

The Essentials

Once you’ve read beyond the “fantastic opportunity” and “a lively team” spiel that you’ll find in most adverts, a standard ad or person specification should feature a list of essential skills needed for the post.

Your CV should, therefore, contain these key skills. If you place them at its beginning, you’ll have an even higher chance of securing an interview.

The Desirables

Located within the job advert or person specification will be a section of desirable skills and personality types that an employer is searching for. They’re not essential but they’ll certainly help get your foot in the door.

These may range from the generic (“always punctual”, “great at using your initiative”) to the highly specific (“At least two years of pharmaceutical experience”, “postgraduate qualification in science”).

Make sure your CV illustrates them outright.


The responsibilities section of a job advert will most likely combine essential and desirable skills, as well as describing your day-to-day duties.

You don’t have to tackle every responsibility in your CV (we recommend two pages of quality and relevant text. Absolute maximum of three pages), but describing similar situations where you’ve succeeded will indicate your competence.

Ultimately, an effective application is a description of your talents and achievements. By reading an advert closely and well, you can tailor yours to impress any employer.

To put your application-writing skills into practice, why not take a look at our Job Search and Vacancies page? For more regular updates and information just like this, please connect with us on LinkedIn.

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