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3 Things That Should Be Top-of-Mind When Reading *Any* Job Description

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All kinds of thoughts swirl through your head while reading a job description: Well, this job looks pretty sweet! Ooo, it’s in New York. Wait, am I qualified for this? Would this be a good fit for me?! And that’s probably just the beginning.

It’s important to have the right mindset when reading over a job description because if you’re eventually offered the gig, that’s what you’ll be doing day in, day out. So, to help guide your thought process and make sure you’re asking yourself the right questions, Maggie Mistal, career expert and executive coach, and Sharon Good, president of Good Life Coaching, Inc. and adjunct professor at the New York University School of Professional Studies, are here to weigh in on what should be going through your head while reading a job posting.

[Related: The Secret to Escaping Your Job Search Rut]

1. Job descriptions are usually wish lists.

If you don’t meet 100 percent of the requirements, you shouldn’t immediately count yourself out. But according to a Hewlett Packard internal report, women, more frequently than men, often do count themselves out. The study showed that women tend to only apply for a job when they feel they meet 100 percent of the qualifications on the job description, while men will apply if they feel they meet 60 percent of the qualifications. Know this: Most job descriptions aren’t strictly a list of prerequisites; they’re more like a profile of what the hiring manager thinks an “ideal candidate” might look like on paper. Remember, the hiring manager is looking for the best fit for the position and her vision for the “ideal candidate” can change based on how you position yourself. “You may not have 100 percent of what’s on the list, but if you’re close enough then go for it,” Good says.

[Related: 5 Ways to Beat the Job Search Blues, from People Who’ve Been There]

2. Think about what you want to do, not just what you can do.

It’s easy to start sizing yourself up to a job description while going through a mental checklist of all the things you can and can’t do well. But sometimes we get good at things we don’t necessarily love doing. Mistal recommends doing some soul searching while looking at job descriptions and going through the interview process. If you find yourself looking at jobs and saying to yourself, “I can do that” and not, “I want to do that,” then you might be looking at the wrong kind of jobs for you.

[Related: How to Find Your Passion: The Ultimate Guide]

3. Job postings are a great way to learn, even when you’re not officially looking.

Good advises her clients to look at job descriptions even when they’re not on an urgent job hunt—they could just help you think about your career trajectory. “Job ads are great for getting an understanding of what you’re looking for,” Good says. “Look at the skills and education and see if there are any gaps there. If you have a big gap in your skill set, go out and get more training.”

But still make sure you aren’t keeping yourself from applying for a job you’re actually pretty qualified for (see item No. 1). If you see trends in job descriptions that interest you, simply let that help you make decisions about where to go next with your education, training, and career in general. Good recommends checking out the job market information on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, QuintCareers.com, and Monster.com.

Photo: Massimo Colombo / Getty Images

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