Demystifying Job Postings: 6 Things to Look For

Job Postings


For creative professionals in search of their next challenge, job postings can quickly start to blur together. How can you find a position that best suit your skills, experience and interests from what you see online?

To streamline your job search, here are six things to look for when perusing postings:

1. Length. You’ve probably seen job listings that go on for screens and screens. Employers that are longwinded may make you jump through multiple hoops to get the job. On the other end of the spectrum are few-liners like, “We’re hiring designers. Send us your resume and portfolio.” Those companies probably don’t know what they’re looking for and applying there could be akin to throwing your resume into a black hole. Look for Goldilocks: a listing that’s thorough enough for you to pick up on keywords (more on this in No. 5) but not so long that your eyes glaze over before you get to the end.

2. Adjectives in the job title. Employers are serious when they say a position is junior, assistant, freelance or senior. If you’re an experienced designer applying for an entry-level job, you are most likely wasting your time—even if you meet all the qualifications—because management is looking for a candidate just starting their career. Similarly, recent graduates vying for a mid- or senior-level role will be in for a disappointment.

3. Description of the ideal candidate. The best job posts include a word picture of what the company is looking for in an employee. This isn’t so much the bullet points of job functions or qualifications, but rather a wish list of character traits, soft skills and shared values. If you come across a posting that includes this kind of information and you recognize yourself in it, then go for it. But if you have to pretend to be someone you’re not, it could be a setup for failure.

Job Postings

4. Company culture. This one is closely related to No. 3. Savvy organizations write job descriptions that include an overview of who they are, what they do and what motivates them. The goal, of course, is to attract people who would fit well in their workplace. Is the company traditional or edgy? Laid back or fast paced? If you’re uncomfortable with their culture, even if the salary and benefits package are above average, move on to the next posting.

5. Keywords. Tailor your application using phrases that occur more frequently than others in the job posting. These are the keywords to use organically throughout your resume and cover letter. Why? An applicant tracking system (ATS) usually takes the first pass at any materials you submit, and this automated vetting process feeds hiring managers only those applicants who pass a certain threshold of keyword usage. A vague or too-short job description won’t give you enough to go on to customize your resume for the role.

6. Red flags. If you’ve been a job seeker for any amount of time, you may have noticed the same ads appearing over and over again. This is a possible indicator that the position has high turnover and low pay. Also be wary of the following.

  • Vague job descriptions like “fill multiple roles” and “other duties to be determined” 
  • A string of job titles, such as “Graphic Designer / Writer / SEO Specialist / Personal Assistant”
  • Hyperbolic phrases like “amazing compensation” and “unbelievable opportunity”
  • Anything that hints at having to work evenings and weekends in addition to regular office hours

When you’re a job seeker, don’t use a scattergun approach when applying for positions. You can afford to be choosy, especially if you’re skilled in a hard-to-staff creative field. Read each job posting with an experienced eye, and then pursue only the ones that are a good fit.