Understanding a job description

Paying attention to the details
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Sometimes you can tell a lot from a job description, while other times they’re vague and you won’t know more until you apply. But generally, there’s been a lot of thought put into the wording, so you should put the same thought and effort into your application.

There are some things that can be really handy to be aware of when looking at job descriptions.

Things to keep in mind


  • Pro rata – for a specified amount of time or hours
  • IT literate/digital – Having a good knowledge of computers and computer programmes like MS Word/Powerpoint/Excel etc. If it mentions digital or something similar, it may indicate that the role involves working with social media.
  • Personality – This is usually looking to tell if you’ll fit into a team
  • Permanent – This means a position is full-time
  • Temporary – This means that the work is for a limited time only
  • Contract – This usually means your job will end after a certain period (ie six months) but can be subject to extension
  • K – thousand (related to pay)
  • PA – per annum (yearly salary)
  • Trainee – This title suggests that you will be learning on the job. Traineeships normally pay less than regular positions.

Common phrases 

  • Entry level position: This is the lowest level in the company usually for beginners or those newly graduated 
  • Flexible work hours: This can mean that you will be expected to work outside the regular 9-5 
  • Self motivated: That you will need to take the initative in your role 
  • Must work well under pressure: This means that it will be a fast paced work environment 
  • Opportunities for growth: This usually means you will not be earning a lot when you begin but that there is room to move up in the job 


If there is a list of required skills and you don’t have them all, don’t panic. If you have 8 out of 10, you could still be a very suitable candidate with some room for development. 

If elements of a description are described as ‘essential’ or is put in CAPS lock, pay extra attention to these details; they are emphasised for a reason and may make a big difference in you getting an interview for a job.

And there’s always LinkedIn to see descriptions of the work people do in the same role in a different organisation.

Need more information?

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