Job descriptions are your first look at a potential employer’s culture. Here are 5 clues you can pick up on a close read.

Woman looking at job postings on a board

The pandemic has created turbulence in the US job market, with workers fatigued by burnout, low pay, or working from home reassessing their priorities.

While the ongoing labor shortage is primarily hitting frontline roles in hospitality and retail, white-collar workers are also on the move, seeking positions that offer flexible working and other new benefits.

Renata Dionello, chief people officer at ZipRecruiter, has one piece of advice for those scouting out a new role: Read the job description.

The quality of the job description is a "clue for the job seeker as to organizational health" of the company," she said. "I do think most candidates will read the job description at the very beginning of the process, and then they’ll apply and I don’t know that they read the job description again before they do the interview."

Carol Cochran, VP of people and culture for FlexJobs, told Insider: "I think job seekers have a choice when it comes to their approach in the job search. 

"You can go for quantity and kind of roll the odds there, or you can go for quality and maybe apply to fewer jobs but be very intentional about which jobs, which companies you’re applying to, and I think that the quality is more strategic and probably likely to produce better long term employment results for people."

Here’s what you should look for:

1. Gender-coded language 

Gender-coded language is "a clue as to the type of culture you’d be joining," said Dionello, highlighting that larger companies tend to use artificial intelligence to avoid the problem of using language that speaks to only one gender.

Dionello adds that "smaller companies may not" use programs to filter out gender-coded language in job descriptions, therefore the use of gendered language could potentially indicate a more "aggressive, male-dominated environment."

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found certain words in job ads may appeal to male candidates more while alienating female candidates. These words could include "independent", "self-sufficient", "champion", "dominant" or "aggressive."

Cochran emphasizes that such language "doesn’t mean you’re walking into a misogynistic workplace," but it could provoke further questions for job seekers that they should ask in the interview. 

2. If a job description doesn’t tell you much, it’s still telling you something 

A vague or uninformative job description can also tell you a lot about a company. 

Cochran said there is considerable competition for candidates in the current environment, so "the effort that a company is putting into setting that environment, setting that stage for candidates right off the bat is going to tell you something" about the culture. 

Elisa Nardi, an executive coach, and mentor recommends that candidates "compare and contrast" job descriptions for similar roles. 

"One of the best things to do when you get a job description and you’re not sure, go and have a look at some other job descriptions for the same job," she said.

This could give you an insight into the typical expectations for the particular role, and help you frame questions to ask in the interview.

3. Signs the company is in flux

Nardi urges candidates to look out for "loaded terms" in job descriptions because "there’s a reason." 

These terms can give away  "what’s not written down but might be inferred by what is written down." 

One example she gave was the phrase: "The job holder must be prepared to roll up their sleeves and get stuck into the details."

That could imply "the company has a lot of things to fix," and that the role requires an "operational hands-on focus," she said.

4. Mentions of office perks to keep you in the office

Appealing social and work perks like happy hours, coffee bars, gyms, and more can be a great addition to the office. They may also hint at a culture "designed to keep you at work longer," says Cochran.

These extras aren’t always a bad thing, since they can also "open up your creativity and make it very easy for you to do the work."

However, it’s important for job seekers to be "self-aware to know what is going to motivate you and what is going to produce your best work," so identify whether such office perks are something that appeal to you, or might make you feel pressure to overwork.

5. Generic language

Dionello says a well-written job description should make candidates feel comfortable that "what’s going on inside the company is well structured and organized," whereas a generic job description could be a clue that the company has "a lot that needs to get done."

The tone is key too as Cochran told Insider: "You also want to evaluate the tone, there’s a voice that’s coming through, that is probably pretty indicative of how they communicate with one another internally, and how they feel about things, what’s important to them again, the values, you’re probably going to find some elements and some clues to that, again that can kind of springboard into some questions when you get to the interview phase."

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How racism contributed to marijuana prohibition in the US

Sawdah Bhaimiya August 20, 2021 at 04:00PM

  • Share this post

Leave a Comment