Video on how to read job advertisements

Career Snapshot - Reading Advertisements

The first step to understanding what your future employer or supervisor will be shortlisting you on is to analyse the advertisement they write for the job or study programme. Once you identify what skills and attributes are required, you can then match them to your own skills and this will make creating tailored applications easier. 

Start with the short video – Career Snapshot: reading advertisements which gives an overview of how to analyse what an employer/supervisor wants, and then use the sections below and links to other parts of our website.  

Reading Advertisement tabs

The basics

Advertisements for jobs, Master's or PhDs help you to better understand what will be expected of you within a role/programme of study. There is no standard information or layout that advertisements have to include or follow so each one will be different, depending on what the employer/university wants to include. Most advertisements will include some or all of the following elements: 

  • The advertisement – this will include the job title, explain the benefits and will often be a written to sell the opportunity to you 
  • The job description/responsibilities – this explains in more detail what you will be expected to be do in the job or study programme 
  • About us – this section gives background about the organisation and can help you to understand the culture and values 
  • Salary and benefits – Some organisations will give you a clear salary or salary range. You may also see phrases like ‘competitive salary’ or ‘salary dependant on experience’. PhD opportunities, if funded, will mention a stipend amount. Benefits will generally be listed and include things like annual leave allowance, study leave or car allowances. 
  • The person specification – this focuses on the skills and requirements for the job/study programme 
  • How to apply – read this section carefully to understand what documents you do and do not need to include in your application 

Whatever information you are given, the employer/supervisor will include the skills and attributes they want to you to show within it. 

Analysing the advertisement

How you analyse the advertisement depends on what information is provided. If you have been given a person specification, this makes the analyses straight forward as this document lays out exactly what skills the employer/supervisor wants to see. If you are only have a short advertisement, you will need to break down the employers/supervisors wording to identify the skills.  

The image adjacent to this text shows an example of how a sentence from an advertisement has been broken down. <insert image> This is how the reader has broken down the advertisement: 

  • Identify the words that relate actions or things you will need to do in the job 
  • Think about the skills you will need to do these actions/activities 
  • Use this list as the skills you highlight within your application 

You can find key skills in our CVs and resumés section and you can start to consider what skills you have by doing a skills audit which is explained in our career planning section.

Once you know what sort of skills you need for the role, you will have a better idea of if you’d like to do the role and you will know what you need to show in your application documents. 

Other sources of help

Sometimes official job/postgraduate study advertisements are very short and you may want to look for further information either about the organisation or the role itself to help you better understand what you are applying for. Some good starting points are: 

  • The organisations website. Often you will find a ‘work for us’, an ‘about us’ or a ‘our people’ section that will tell more about the type of staff the organisation has. Universities will also have lots of information about their Masters programmes and their research groups on their website 
  • The organisation values/mission/goals. Many companies will include their values and what they stand on their website, sometimes within their ‘about us’ section. Knowing these can help you tailor your application especially when you are writing a cover letter or motivation statement 
  • LinkedIn. Most companies and universities have a LinkedIn page where you can find search their people or alumni. You can reach out to current employees/students and ask them your questions directly. Our LinkedIn page can help you with this 
  • MarketLine Advantage or other company databases. The Imperial Library offers access to market and industry information via databases that store a range of information about most companies. You can search for recent news, see how the company is structured, find latest annual reports and find out more about the industry that the company operates in.