Job Postings: More than meets the eye…

By: David Ross

So by now some of you have probably seen more job postings than you care to think about. After reading through a few of them, it can be easy to “cut to the chase” and focus on applying for the position. While applying for job openings of interest is imperative, important clues can be revealed in job postings – minor details here and there – that not only signal whether the job is truly a good fit for you but also help you improve your application.

One of the first things job seekers look at is the position title. The more impressive the title sounds, the more interesting or significant the position may seem. Perhaps this is true in some instances, but it’s important not to instantly dismiss a position just because the job title is not exactly what you are looking for or what you ideally envision. Some organizations use their own classification or terminology for positions that may not make a lot of sense to those outside of the organization. But if the job responsibilities and tasks seem interesting, the position could be one of those hidden gems that ends up a strong fit for you. Another thing to look for is the experience/education requirement. Some position titles may imply a level of experience or education that doesn’t match your background. But looking closely at the details may reveal the position is indeed appropriate and can ensure you don’t miss great opportunities.

While on the subject of job duties and responsibilities (and even qualifications), it can be easy to lose sight of their significance. For some positions, you may already know what the job entails or have performed similar roles in the past. While that information and experience is certainly valuable, still be sure to carefully read through the job duties and responsibilities section. Similar roles in different organizations may vary in terms of the actual day-to-day assignments and responsibilities. Beyond that, any information in this section can provide tangible topics for you to consider addressing in a cover letter. Companies spend time including descriptions and overviews in their job postings for specific reasons – so why not focus on addressing these areas in your application materials? Detailed information listed in job postings can be helpful in attempts to tailor your cover letters to job opportunities at each organization.

What can also be quite interesting is information not included in the job posting. Sometimes postings can be somewhat vague or address some points of interest while neglecting others. For example, one posting may clearly highlight and indicate the requisite job duties and qualifications but neglect to signify how that position fits within the company’s organizational structure. For someone that values working in an organization as part of a team within a department, no mention of organizational structure may leave the applicant wondering about fit. Pay attention to any information important to you that’s missing from a job posting and use that as the basis for one or two questions to ask at the end of an interview. If you are focused on opportunities in one particular industry, it may be helpful to examine multiple job postings at different companies in that industry to compare and contrast them. What details are missing from one listing that are indicated in another?

Regardless of where you find a job listing (and I can’t emphasize this point enough), really stop to think if the posting is legitimate. Sometimes job opportunities are just too good to be true. I can think of several stories I’ve heard where applicants saw a job posting, applied for the position and found out the job really wasn’t as advertised. If you have a funny feeling or sneaky suspicion, don’t be afraid to ask questions or research to try to find more information.

These are just some of the ways to scrutinize job postings to reveal valuable information. Remember, sometimes there’s more than meets the eye…

Avoiding Job Scams

by Mylène Kerschner and Barbara Hewitt


Recession, job loss, unemployment, lay-offs: These are all words we’re familiar with in Career Services. Although Penn’s class of 2009 fared well despite the economy (see the career plans survey results here for the College, here for Wharton, here for Nursing, and Engineering will be coming soon), we know many of our current students and alumni are actively searching for employment in what feels like desperate times.  While it may be tempting to spring at every opportunity, we urge you to be vigilant. Does the job posting seem too good to be true? It may be. Phishing scams are as popular as ever, and many now are specifically targeted at the job-seeker. Before you submit sensitive information as part of an application, consider the following:

It is always good practice to do some investigative legwork before submitting your application to an employer – whether you’ve found the job through PennLink or Craigslist or on another job board.  A good rule of thumb is to go to the company’s website. Check that they actually have a web address, and that the one they’ve given actually matches the URL at the top of the page where you are directed. Also, look at the email where you are asked to send your documents. Does it look like a corporate email or does it appear to be a personal one (gmail, hotmail, etc.)? While sometimes smaller organizations do legitimately use personal emails to receive application materials, it does indicate that you should investigate the opportunity carefully. When you are initially applying, use common sense.  If you are uncomfortable providing any of the required information, contact the Career Services office for advice before proceeding.

Here are some good tips that the job is probably a scam:

  • You must give your credit card or bank account numbers, or copies of personal documents before you have an interview or are offered the job.  This type of personal information is not usually needed until an employer actually hires you.
  • You must send payment by wire service or courier.
  • You are offered a large payment or reward in exchange for allowing the use of your bank account – often for depositing checks or transferring money.
  • You receive an unexpectedly large check.

Watch out for scams trying to take advantage of your employment status, and avoid becoming a victim.

(For more information, CNN also ran a similar story in July 2009.  Click here to read the piece by Rachel Zupek.)