How to Find Hidden Needs in a Startup’s Job Description

Coding Word Cloud

A good resume is engineered to fit a particular job description, drawing direct lines between your skills and experience and the needs of the company. On the surface, it’s a pretty straightforward thing: Job descriptions describe what the position’s about and what’s required to do it successfully. But often, you can tease out more subtle needs if you study them closely.

Many job descriptions are as generic as the resumes they get in response. Phrases like detail oriented, meticulous, and takes ownership are overused, just like the resume buzzwords developed, implemented, deployed. Still, those descriptions may hold clues about the employee who vacated the position and the manager who’s looking to improve upon it.

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For example, consider this, which was buried in a 950-word posting for a SharePoint developer:

Composure: Is cool under pressure; does not become defensive or irritated when times are tough; is considered mature; can be counted on to hold things together during tough times; can handle stress; is not knocked off balance by the unexpected; doesn’t show frustration when resisted or blocked; is a settling influence in a crisis.

You might skip over that, thinking it’s not as important as implementing SharePoint. But it’s in the job description for a reason. Try to elegantly combine your SharePoint implementation experience and the rough patches that you coolly overcame.

And another:

Excellent communication skills. Willing to put ideas out in the open without fear of being wrong, and to stand up for ideas you believe in. Open debate and discussion is strongly encouraged on the team.

Strong analytic and design capabilities. Ability to think about and decompose a problem into simpler parts. Demonstrated preference for simple, cohesive, decoupled, and practical solutions.

Again, they’re stressing skills that have nothing to do with IT. Clearly they’re looking for a courageous, imaginative, intellectually secure person. How do you demonstrate you’re the one? If they want out-of-the-box thinking, give it to them. Include a paragraph demonstrating those skills in your cover letter.

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There’s no science to this, and I’ve only discussed soft skills. There are many ways to imaginatively weave your unique skills into your resume, but first you must understand what the hiring manager is looking for. So don’t skip over what may at first appear to be fluff.

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