The way the job is posted can say something for or against a company. Applicants in highly technical positions often get a chuckle when reading ads written by the clueless. Ads for software engineers (programmers) frequently ask for experience that could never happen. Best example - a position requiring 10 years of Visual Basic experience posted in 1996. This can be read in many ways, so do not make any assumptions.

The easiest assumption to make is that only a moron could ask for such unobtainable experience. The best thing to do in such a situation is to carefully see if this assumption is true. The first approach to take is to see if this is one of those companies hooked on "buzz words". VB was a hot buzzword in 1996. You may find that the initial interviewer, especially at a large company, was coached to look for certain buzzwords. Their coach may be the hiring manager. Be patient with this person, as this person will determine if you talk to their coach (read as grant you a second interview) or not. Think of this first person as a talent scout, someone you really need to impress.

Getting back to the ad that wanted 10 years of VB experience. The ad may have edited by someone who saw "10 years of BASIC programming..." and "...Visual BASIC a plus". The editor took serious liberties when shortening the ad.

The Address

How you are able to send your resume can say a lot about the position the company, why the position is open, etc... If you are sending to a P.O. box with no company name, there may be a good chance that the position is being opened because someone is going to be forced out. You may be replacing someone who took a counter offer! (Discussed elsewhere in this book - Quick Summary of that chapter No, NO, NOoooo!) Also if the advertisement seems vague, lacking direction, the company feels that the person they are trying to replace may looking through the help wanted ads as well.

If a company is fairly with the times, the company will advertise more than one way for you to send your resume. If you e-mail the resume, also send a copy via snail-mail. You never really know how your resume will appear on their computer, especially if they do not specify a file format. Fax modems tied directly into the computer send better images than fax machines, which must first scan an image from a paper copy. ...

On The Web

Many old books on how to find and get a job are begging to be revised since the World Wide Web has become a part of main stream society. Web sites can say a lot about a company, sometimes more than what the company wants to say. Web sites can give the trained eye clues to how in touch with technology the company really is. Web sites that act as product brochures are a sign that the company at least has a clue that the Web has some value. Web sites that are updated with company news bulletins, stock reports and links to relevant information contained on other sites indicate a company that understands our ever changing society. Companies that make an effort to make their sites interesting and different everyday feel they need to appeal to the general public. Sites that remain fairly static are either aimed towards a target market or show that the company is not quite up to speed with the late 90's. Companies that advertise opportunities on the Web could fall into 2 categories - those who realize the Web's power and those that see the Web as a paper's replacement or sibling.

Companies that understand the Web will keep the site current with the company's needs, while out of touch companies may advertise positions which have been filled for weeks and even months. If a position description appears and disappears frequently, the company

General Help Defined

 It's up to you to figure out what is the case. For an overly simple rule, general help ads will appear frequently while specialized help ads should appear less often. This depends on the type of company. A software development firm will need many programmers while a factory, museum, etc.. should need a programmer less often.

Where Does The Door Open?

Note what level the company tends to hire members of the general public. Software firms hiring programmers as customer service reps but never as engineers may have a policy on filling upper level positions from within the current staff. Companies that frequently hire outsiders at any level may be less inclined to offer promotional opportunities, leaving you in a dead end position. By watching the want ads, one can learn much about a company despite their best efforts to control their image. Places with high turn over will try to look like growing a company, but by doing a little extra research you can see through the illusion. A company will also let the knowledgeable "help wanted" reader know if the company promotes from within or looks outside when filling the upper ranks.


When reading an advertisement, take the time to read between the lines. When studying a company, look not only for their literature, but look for that of customers, competitors etc... Looking at competitors' literature will give one a better idea of the industry and possibly how the prospective company ranks in that industry. Knowing who your company's customers are will give you a much better idea of the company's role in their industry.

Even if you are not looking for a job, read the help wanted ads. The help wanted ads will let you know what skills are in demand in your local area and in your career field. Reading between the lines will let you know which companies are growing and which companies treat their employees like crap. Watch for your company's ads as well, as to see what's happening in other departments. Granted a press operator may not move into an accounting position, but a supervisor or team leader position may pass such an individual. If such an opportunity for promotion was opened to the outside before being offered to you, it may be time to start looking to leave. If other workers were offered the position, take it personally. If all your coworkers were passed as well, your company may be looking to change the way it does business or replace its workforce.

At best, you may be a victim of a glass ceiling, as you can no longer be promoted up the company ranks. In any case it's good to keep looking at the ads. You can see what skills in your field are really in demand and which ones do not interest employers. You can get a feel on which companies are growing and which ones just can not hold help. You can keep an eye on your company if it's looking to the outside.