Decipher the Job Ads to land the right job!

When you read job advertisements, you know that they’re not all created equally. Some include far too much detail, while others leave a lot up to the imagination. As with everything, it is up to you to pick out what’s important when applying for a job.

 Job ads in Australia and New Zealand have not changed much in the last 10 years and they are as vague as ever. Their purpose is to get you in the door, not give away all the details.

We regularly receive feedback from job seekers who got duped by job ad scams or didn’t realize they’re going to be interviewed by agencies or consultants. If you’ve been there yourself, you understand how ads can be annoying roadblocks in the already frustrating process of looking for a job.


Why should you care whether a job ad is well written or not?

If you apply for every job in your industry, regardless of how descriptive the ad is, and whether or not it’s a good fit for you, you’re wasting time that could be better spent focusing on jobs and companies where you have a better chance to secure an interview. It could also clue you in to how serious the company is about the position and give you details about the business, its standing in the industry, its culture and many other things.

We interview many job seekers before we attend to their application documents via our Resume Service and we always take each candidate through a 2 step process to help them to decipher job ads.


Step 1 – Decipher the type of job ad


There are essentially five types of job ads.  Here is what you can expect from each one.


Legitimate direct-hire job ads posted directly by the company

which is advertising and hiring for the job.


The simplest way to ensure that you are applying for a direct-hire position is to search for the name of the company.

When you are job seeking, you will discover quite quickly that few companies actually post well written ads that pop up at the top of job portals or job boards. I am talking about the copy and paste type of job ads. The result of this poor handling is that a lot of good jobs get lost in the Seek, My Career (or whatever job site they’re posted to) shuffle.  If you open a position posted on one of these job sites, a legitimate direct-hire position should take you directly to the careers section of the company’s website.


If you’re still not sure, avoid the major online job boards altogether. If you know what company(ies) you want to work for, your best bet is to check their website(s) regularly for jobs as they become available. Just visit their websites and subscribe to their updates or set up a ‘follow up’ hyperlink in your inbox.


  • Job ads from placement agencies and career consultants

Career consultants and job placement agencies represent different companies. They are hired to find candidates to fill open positions. Most of these service providers and agencies have figured out the formula that gets them to the top of the search results.


These agencies are in the business of finding jobs and candidates and they often spend time improving the ads of the companies for which they’re hiring. You will know that you are dealing with one of these guys because it often says so in the ad. This may be in the fine-print at the bottom, but it should be there.

You’d be surprised by how many candidates have no idea what they apply for or when they’re interviewing with an agency and not the company that’s hiring. This shows the recruiter you didn’t read the ad, and that doesn’t make you look like a suitable candidate.


The service and placement fees (as well as who ends up paying them) vary from agent to agent. Some of the services specialise in contract jobs, while others do direct-hire for full-time positions. The ad should make all of this information clear. If in doubt, check their website or simply call them.


I strongly recommend that you research the agency before you engage. You want to make sure it’s a route you actually want to take. There are tonnes of really dedicated recruiters and career consultants in Australia and New Zealand, who can provide you with great opportunities and services you may not have come across otherwise. I made my best career decisions working with these services, so don’t completely dismiss the idea — especially if you haven’t had much luck on your own.


  • Scam ads – luring you into fake opportunities or jobs (money grabbers)

If you see ads with little dollar signs next to them or hyper inflated salaries or bizarre hourly wages such as $98.79 per hour, they are really indicating that the job may require an investment on your part. It’s also a dead giveaway that the job is a scam. Don’t read on. These are fake ads – money grabbers – scams.

Legitimate career consultants or recruiters do not ask for upfront payments!


Scams also usually promise a lot of money for not very much work. Or, they ask for personal information off the bat. Please don’t end up in a pyramid scheme or have your identity stolen by pursuing these types of ads!

If you’re suspicious that a job ad might be a scam, research the company. Google ‘”Name of Company” scam’ and see what comes up. If you conclude the company can’t be trusted, report it. No one needs these scammers who are sucking up our time and the recruiters hate them with a passion as they clog up job boards with their bogus ads.


  • Ads for non-salaried, commission-only jobs

These positions don’t offer a base salary; instead, your income will depend on commissions from sales. Commission-only jobs can include jobs like insurance sales, real estate and door-to-door marketing.

Some people don’t mind this salary structure and actually earn some real good money. These people are usually the more outgoing types – those who do not mind the occasional ‘knock back’.


But, from my experience with the Resume Service here at TDJS, most candidates prefer the security of a permanent job with regular pay.  If base pay is important to you, make sure to call the company and ask what their payment structure is like. Don’t be surprised if they don’t volunteer the information on their own, so you might have to prod a bit.


  • Postings for temporary, freelance, agent and associate or contract jobs

Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t tell whether or not a job is temporary just by looking at the ad alone — big companies included. It pays to enquire with calls or emails or to cross check if a similar ad is placed somewhere else. Don’t knock on doors, kick them down. You are looking for a job and you can’t afford to waste time. Job Seeking is a hard gig, don’t miss out because you are afraid to enquire.


You might actually need to go through the application process, or at least get in touch with the company or agency to verify whether the job is permanent. If you’re looking for a full-time gig, find out the details of the position sooner rather than later.   If you are a Freelancer – go onto specialist Freelancer job sites and if you want to work as an agent or associate check for these two key words.


Contracted jobs are generally placed in contract sections of the job portals or with specialist services. The ads typically also show the hourly, daily or weekly rate and the term of the contracted opportunity.

You can learn a lot from job ads, including how serious a company is about hiring. Make sure to pay close attention so you apply for a job you actually want.   So now that you know how to decipher the various job ad types, move on to the next phase.


Step 2 – Zone In on the important and relevant parts


  • Weed out the Good Stuff

Certain components of a job ad are skills the employer requires, or at least, would like to see in potential candidates. Start by looking at what is listed for skills, experience, and education. Realise that sometimes companies list requirements that are next to impossible to find. In other words, the specifications are flexible to an extent. For example, an electronics company might want a public relations director with 12-plus years of experience in PR, as well as a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. (I am not kidding, this job ad was posted by a reputable NZ based company in April of this year)


Whilst there are certainly a few people out there that match the requirement, the chances of finding them are slim.  These sorts of requirements reduce or eliminate a lot of the qualified candidate pool. Other times, the skills the company requires do not match the salary they state they are willing to pay. Something has to give—either the budget will go up for the right candidate or the qualifications will become more realistic. If you have most of what the ad requires, go ahead and apply.


  • Focus on Keywords

Some job descriptions are long enough to make your eyes cross. Try to skim and pick out the keywords that stand out. If a quick scan piques your interest, go back and read the description more thoroughly to determine if it’s a good fit.

If you’re searching online for jobs, start by searching for keywords that match your field of expertise.


Depending on your industry, a company may have many different job titles to choose from, and if you are only searching for a specific title you could be missing out on many relevant positions. You might also miss out on a subset in your industry that requires more general industry skills.


Once you’ve narrowed down a list of positions you’re interested in and qualified for, make sure you integrate the keywords and abbreviations in your cover letter and resume. The more you mimic the language used in the job ad, the more likely the employers will pay attention to your application.


  • Ignore the Fluff

Most job ads are half relevant information and half fluff. I know this sounds harsh, but remember what I said at the start, it is an advertisement and the aim is to get you hooked and interested and, if all goes well, into the door for an interview.


The fluff is typically the last half of the job description. Whilst being a detail-oriented, organised person with excellent communications skills may be qualities listed in the job description, this isn’t the area you want to play up in your resume. These aren’t ‘real skills’ and won’t land you an interview, so skip over them and focus on the important parts of the description.


Beware of the job descriptions that leave too much to the imagination. It could be a sign of a job that doesn’t really exist. It may be an instance in which a recruiter or company is simply collecting resumes. It’s also a sign the company doesn’t know what to look for or what this person will be responsible for in the company.


 These two steps should help you to decipher any type of job ad.  Add a good dose of common sense and a punchy resume to your search and you will greatly increase your chances of success. Let us know via Comments or emails if you have other useful insight and tips on the subject. Feel free to share the content with other Job Seeker or Hiring Managers.

In the meantime, hunt wisely,



 Cover image credit: – courtesy Mc.Kinsey & Company