Interpreting a Job or Internship Description

An important part of the internship/job search process is being able to interpret the description. The best way to fully understand a position description is to take several minutes to deconstruct it.

Have you ever looked at an internships or job posting and been confused by whether or not you are qualified?


An important part of the internship/job search process is being able to interpret the description. The best way to fully understand a position description is to take several minutes to deconstruct it.


Position Title

  • The position title can sometimes give you a sense of what the internship/job will entail. For example: Software Engineer, Social Media Coordinator, or Health Educator.
  • If the title is ambiguous or unclear, do some further investigating to get a better idea of the position. You do not want to judge or be discouraged by a position solely on its title.

Responsibilities/Duties

  • These include the daily functions and projects associated with the position. For example: coordinate monthly meetings, analyze laboratory samples, or provide operational support of databases.
  • Carefully read over the responsibilities of the position and highlight/circle the important details.

Skills and Abilities

  • These often refer to the skill set an employer is looking for in an ideal candidate. For example: the ability to work both independently and with a team, excellent written and communication skills, or being detail-oriented.
  • Think about your past work experiences, as well as class projects, clubs and organizations you belong to, and any volunteer experience you may have. It is likely you have gained applicable skills through your experiences that align with the position.

Qualifications

  • Qualifications usually include the specific educational requirements (e.g., Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree) and the number of years of experience in the related field (e.g., one to three years of marketing experience, knowledge in a classroom setting). Specific licenses and courses can also be included in the qualifications section.
  • Pay close attention to the first few qualifications listed in the description. Employers often list the most important first.

Interpreting the Internship/Job Description

  • Now that you have carefully reviewed the position description, think about how your experiences and education match up.
  • On sheet of paper, make two columns. In one column, list the position’s responsibilities, skills, and qualifications. In the other column, detail how you meet each of the three components. Keep in mind that not all positions will have the same sections.
  • Do not panic if you do not have experience in every area. Try to meet a majority of what the employer is looking for. Remember years of experience can include internships, academic work, etc.
  • Always take the time to carefully consider all the components of the internship/job posting before deciding whether or not to apply.

Good luck!

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