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  • Writer's pictureTim Buchalka

Reading Programmer Job Specifications Carefully

Sometimes when you're applying for a job and you've read through the position description - and that's a document usually created by the employer given to perspective applicants - you might read through that and think, "Wow. What they're asking for is way over my capabilities" and you might sort of self-eliminate yourself from the process. What I want to do is talk about that today because there are often ways that you can still make yourself available and that you'll be able to actually apply for that job. So let's talk about that in today's post.

Today we're talking about applying for jobs in general and how it's vital to really read that position description about that perspective job that you're applying for really carefully. Now the reason is it's the use of words given by the employer that topped up on the employer when they're looking for someone.

Let's start off by talking about something that typically comes up: You need to have a university degree, college degree or equivalent. Now you often look at that and go, "Oh, I haven't got a degree"and you'll self-eliminate and you won't read anymore. Well, the keywords there are "or equivalent" at the end so "or equivalent" may well mean online programming course. So they're looking for someone who has actually done some sort of training. Now, of course, it may not be in there, then you might find that now it's mandatory, but read that sentence really carefully and don't just eliminate yourself from the process purely because you assume something. It's definitely still worth applying in that particular case.

Now another key requirement or something that may come up in the position description is a list of all these technologies and seemingly, you know, insurmountable list of things that they're asking for, even sometimes for junior programming positions. But again, it's the choice of words here. Is the word used mandatory? Is it essential? Or is it desirable?

Now the words of that nature are saying it would be nice if you have those skills. Or are they saying is it mandatory to have them? Because often that's not the case particularly with a junior programming position. I mean it's not practical, is it? For you to have all these years of experience of technologies if you haven't got your first programming job, and employees are aware of that but what they tend to do is boot up a list of the ideal candidate in their eye.

Let's be honest here, the employers are looking to pay the least amount of money for someone with the most skills. So if they found someone who had all these experience and hadn't had a programming job before, they would probably get the position for that reason. But the reality is, particularly for junior programming jobs, that every applicant won't have any experience, won't know a lot of technologies. The point I'm making here is don't eliminate yourself and think, "Oh, I can't apply for that purely because of what they've said" and really focus on whether they're saying it's mandatory to have that experience, it's essential to have those skills or is it desirable, highly desirable, you know it would be an advantage as opposed to mandatory.

I see so many programming descriptions for programming roles these days where it's those words, they're just basically putting an open ended list of things that they would like to find in an applicant. It's unlikely, you know, it's a high probability they won't find someone with all those skills and if you haven't applied for the job purely because of that, well, you're not gonna get a look in where you might actually find, if you do actually apply for that based on that criteria, that you'd still get to the interview stage.

What I'm talking about here are just the tips to get to that first interview stage and another post later on, I'll talk more about interview processes but here, the most essential thing is for you to get to that first level. Now I've got another post I've talked about, basic details about getting to the first interview, so check that here for more information.

But again, my tip for today, make sure you read the position description really carefully and focus on whether they're mandatory things they're looking for or they're just desirable and what would be an advantage if you had them. If you think that they're not actually mandatory to have those skills, if you've got something with at least some of those skills, you know, you can take a couple boxes there that you should probably go for that job.

Now as an example I might say just before I finish, "2 years programming experience with Java or equivalent". Again, it's probably unlikely that you've had two years programming experience if you're going for your first programming job. The "or equivalent" might be another online programming course and you've done some programming yourself. Maybe you've worked on an open source project or you've got a couple of projects, really basic things you can show yourself that you've actually done.

So don't self-eliminate yourself from any potential programming description. Read the position descriptions really carefully and you might well be surprised at what you find.

Alright, so I hope that helped. If you've got any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

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