Understanding What's Important from the Job Advertisement
Wording of Mandatory and Optional Job Criteria
We expect... / Requirements include... / You have... / ...are required. / ...are mandatory.
Expectations that are phrased this way are meant to emphasize the point, but that doesn't mean that there is no point in applying if you don't have these. At least 60% of the relevant criteria should apply to you, if not or if you do not meet some clear mandatory requirements, you should consider continuing your job search.
You have... / more compatible... / Ideally... / ...is a plus. / ...is an asset. / ...is valuable.
Criteria that are described this way are nice to have, but not crucial. However, it is also possible that the entire job advertisement is worded this way intentionally, for example, when generalists are sought rather than specialists. That said, what is essential and optional may only be determined in context (with or without the above phrases).
While students in a technical or scientific field may readily know what keywords to use to find relevant job postings, students in humanities or social sceinces may find it more difficult know what key search words will help them find the types of positions they're interested in.
For that reason, the job title itself doesn't always given enough information about what type of candidates they're looking for, which is why you should look more closely at the job's requirements and responsibilities to determine if the job is a good fit.
For humanities and social science students the job title often include: Consultant (m/f), Advisor (m/f) or Officer (m/f). Other terms, such as Editor (m/f) or a Lecturer (m / f), may indicate a desired academic or professional background, which can only be determined from the requirements and responsibilities. Such job titles are more generic, and generally unsuitable for the finding specific jobs.
You may have no work experience, but you should still consider applying, even if professional experience is recommended.
- The words ‘work experience’ mean that you have a solid foundation, which can be built upon with on-the-job training. Depending on the context, this could include experience gained during your studies, side jobs, volunteer experience, extra curricular activities and/or internships; all of which give you knowledge and skills that might be transferable (even if not directly connected to your studies).
- ‘First professional experience’ can be proven with appropriate practical experience during your studies.
- If ‘several years of experience’ is required, it typically means that long-term experience, which is gained through studies (potentially including a long-term internship) plus 1-2 years of work experience.
- The more relevant your recent activities are to job requirements of the position you are applying to, the greater your chances of success in applying for a position with "several years of professional experience" or "at least x-years of professional experience".
- No basic/relevant experience or knowledge
- If the responsibilities include supervising, managing budgets and/or coordinating multiple departments or business functions.
- When words like ‘manager’, ‘director’ or ‘senior XY (m/ f)’ appear in the position title/description.
- When "several..." or "many years of professional experience" requires specialized knoweldge that is too advanced for students.
Field of Study
The required title of study is only to be seen as a guideline, especially if several terms can be found. These aspects should be considered when reviewing job advertisements:
- The field of study is rarely a major factor outside of scientific fields. Terms such as sociology, German studies or linguistics do not appear in job offers.
- Generic terms such as humanities / social sciences are broad terms that employers use arbitrarily.
- When multiple fields of study are listed, it does not mean that applications can only be made if you studied in one of those fields.
When a degree is required (i.e. for a scientific or research position), it is clearly state in the job advertisement. Otherwise, the exact name of the degree is flexible within the field of study. The level of study may appear in the job posting as "graduate" or "post-graduate degree", but "Master" and "Bachelor" rarely appear in job advertisements outside of internships. If they are used, they are typically used to represent a completed degree (i.e. a Masters in renewable energy, just means a completed degree in this generic field of study).
Do I have to have everything?
You don't have to meet all the requirements. Generally speaking, only a minimum of 60% of the relevant requirements should be met for an application to be worthwhile. Job advertisements often describe ideal requirements, which make a 100% perfect candidate rare to find.
Put yourself into the position of HR manager
They use usually no more than 1-3 minutes to review your personal application. 200 applications for a job mean for HR managers either a huge mountain portfolio or up to 4,000 PDF pages in the email inbox.
So, how can you convince the HR managers with your application to select you for an interview?
- Focus entirely on the tender and your matching skills.
- Show the key competency of being able to differentiate between important and unimportant.