Analyzing a Position Description

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Why it's important

Imagine taking a test. The blue book in front of you, your pen is poised, and your instructor says "Begin." But you have no questions to answer. There would be no way to even begin the test, much less get a good grade because you don't know what he/she wants to know.

When you write a resume without reviewing the position description, you are writing a test without knowing the questions. You could guess and incorporate everything YOU think is important or interesting. But how do you know what the employer cares about?

What is a Position Description?

The position description, also called a job description, is what describes the position and requests applicants to apply. The position could be posted on a job posting site, on the employer's web site directly, passed along to you via a faculty member or career services staff member or any number of ways. However you hear about the position, you should be able to access a PD.

A position description normally will include

  • a description of the company,
  • an outline of the job's duties or responsibilities
  • an outline of the employee requirements, especially educaiton and experience

Review all these sections to look for keywords and clues about the employers wish list for their "ideal candidate."

How to analyze a PD

There are three main steps to successfully analyze a position description

  1. Find a job that you are interested in pursuing.
  2. Identify key terms and required skills for the job. 
  3. Match your experiences to those key terms and required skills you identified.

For instance, if they ask for excellent communication skills,show them where you demonstrated your best communication skills and how your effective communication skills made a difference.

The worksheet on this page will take you through the steps of this process. Include expeirences from anything you have done that is relevant: school, work and volunteer, athletics, etc.

Learn about the employer

In addition to the information about the employer that is found on the Position Description, spend some time learning about the employer. Web sites are great places to read about the core mission, products or services, management and other employees. Read news releases about the employer so you are aware of what is happening in "their world." Many Web sites will have an About Us section to get you started. Incorporate these ideas and key phrases into the PD Analysis Worksheet you are completing.

What to do with the information

When you complete the PD Analysis worksheet you will come up with keywords and phrases that the employer is emphasizing. These are the questions that you need to answer on your resume. On the worksheet, you will also identify your key experiences that match the requirements.

That's the bedrock upon which you decide what experiences to include and build your Accomplishment Statements.Ultimately, analyzing a PD will set you apart from other applicants. You will know the skills and experiences that the employer needs in this employee. You can then target your resume to highlight your experiences that best demonstrate those skills.


Emphasize strong points that match the job qualifications to minimize the effect of limited experience in other areas.

When possible, use the employer’s language in your accomplishment statements on your resume and in your cover letter.

FAQs about Analyzing a Position Description

What if I don't have a position description?
Even if you heard about the position from a friend, it more than likely is posted somewhere. more

What if I'm just starting my resume and not sure what I'm going to apply for?
If you don't yet have a specific positon in mind and want to start your resume, more...

What if I don't have a company description?
Learn more about the employer by doing some research. more...

I found a job I like, but the position description listed on Blugold CareerLink (or anotherh listing site) is brief. How can I get more info?
Often the recruiters will put just an abbreviated version of the PD on these posting sites. Just reading this will put you at a disadvantage. more...

What if I don't meet all the requirements of the position?
Normally there are two kinds of items listed in a position description. Those things that are required, and those things that are desired. more....