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Deciphering job postings

By Jennie Bragg, producer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- U.S. employers shed 131,000 jobs in July. If you are out there reading the classifieds and scanning job boards, you are certainly not alone, but those postings can be difficult to navigate.

What will the job entail? Are you really qualified? And how can you make yourself look like the ideal candidate to the hiring manager?

The most important thing you can do is tailor your resume to each specific job.

Only 41% of job candidates take the time to do this, according to a recent survey by Yahoo! HotJobs.

Look for a few key words and phrases within each posting to make your resume stand out from the rest of the stack.

Job title

Words used in the job title should appear prominently throughout your entire resume.

HR managers and aggregator job sites will screen for these keywords first. And consider using related words. "For an accountant job, your resume should contain the words accounting, accountant, finance, and so on," suggests Charles Purdy, senior editor at Yahoo! HotJobs. "This can be a problem if you've had titles that weren't really accurate; for instance, if your last job title was office manager, but you also handled accounts payable, you might want to put that in the job title, in parentheses."

Qualifications and responsibilities

When it comes to qualifications required for a job, don't let a laundry list discourage you. "Realize that most job postings are like a wish list for a dream candidate who likely doesn't exist: Hiring managers start out with the true qualifications, and then add the nice-to-haves," says Charles Purdy.

The first three or four qualifications and responsibilities listed are usually the most important. Repeat phrases used in the job description at top of your cover letter or resume, and describe how you meet the employer's qualifications.


How you go about applying for a job can be just as important as the resume and cover letter you send, so check all deadlines and procedures for applications and interviews.

Purdy warns that your application process can, "either enhance your application or terminate it. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully and apply promptly before the deadline."

And be careful to check all spelling and professional titles before cover letters and resumes go out. A simple error could immediately dismiss your application from a pile of hundreds.

Talkback: Have you landed a job through an online job board? To top of page

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