How to read job adverts? – A guide for Civil Engineers and Construction Professionals


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Many Civil Engineers and Construction Professionals overlook the critical step of thoroughly reading job advert before applying to a job.

This oversight can lead to a fundamental misunderstanding of the job requirements and the employer’s expectations, and ultimately application rejection.

What is a job advert

A job advert is not just a notification of an open position; it’s a communication tool designed by the employer to attract civil engineering and construction candidates who not only have the necessary skills and experience but also align with the company’s culture and values. A job advert is also a wish list describing the perfect candidate, who may not exist.

Can you read job adverts properly?

From various industry surveys conducted in the recent years we know that job applicants spend less than 50 seconds reading a job advert. Job adverts can be complex and packed with detailed information about the role, required skills, company culture, and application process. Properly understanding and interpreting all these elements takes time and 50 seconds is not enough time to assess if you are a good fit for the role.

Job adverts follow a specific format

Job adverts typically adhere to a structured format that outlines key information about the role, making it easier for candidates to understand the expectations and requirements. This structure not only ensures clarity but also facilitates a straightforward comparison between the engineering candidate’s skills and the job needs. Here’s a breakdown of the common elements found in job descriptions:

Job Title

The job title is prominently displayed at the top of the description and gives a clear indication of the level and nature of the role, such as “Senior Civil Engineer” or “Construction Project Manager.”

Company Overview:

This section introduces the company, providing insight into its culture, values, size (Tier 1, Tier 2), and the industries it operates in. It might also highlight achievements or unique selling points to attract candidates.

Role Summary:

A brief overview of the position follows, summarizing the role’s main purpose within the company and its contribution to the organization’s goals.

Key Responsibilities:

This crucial section lists the duties and tasks the civil engineering or construction candidate will be expected to perform. It often outlines daily activities, project involvement, and the scope of the role, providing a clear picture of what will be expected on a day-to-day basis.

Required Skills and Qualifications:

Here, the job description specifies the education, skills, and experience required for the role. It distinguishes between essential qualifications and those that are desirable but not mandatory. This could include specific degrees, professional certifications, technical skills, and years of experience in related roles.

Desirable Attributes:

Beyond the must-haves, this section might list preferred skills or qualities that would benefit the role. These could relate to soft skills like communication, teamwork, or leadership qualities that fit the company’s culture.

Working Conditions:

Details about the work environment, including location, travel requirements, and whether the role is remote, in-office, or hybrid, are mentioned. It may also cover work hours and any other special conditions.

Salary and Benefits:

While not always included, some job descriptions provide a salary range or benefits associated with the role, such as health insurance, retirement plans, or professional development opportunities.

Application Process:

The closing section usually explains how to apply for the position, including any specific application requirements (like a portfolio or references), and provides a deadline for submissions.

How to read job adverts for CV preparation

To effectively read job adverts and maximize your understanding and response to them, you can use several reading techniques. These strategies can help you identify the most crucial aspects of a job posting and tailor your application accordingly:

Skimming for Key Information:

Start by quickly skimming through the job advert to identify key sections such as job title, responsibilities, required qualifications, and application deadline. This initial overview gives you a sense of whether the job aligns with your skills and interests.

Scanning for Keywords:

After skimming, scan the advert more closely for specific keywords related to skills, experiences, qualifications, and cultural fit. These are often the terms that hiring managers focus on and may also be used by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to filter candidates. Highlight or note these keywords as they should be mirrored in your CV and cover letter.

Critical Reading for Details:

Engage in critical reading of the job description and person specification sections. This involves evaluating the information provided to understand the role’s depth and the employer’s expectations. Pay attention to any details about the company culture, mission, and values to assess how well you align with them.

Active Engagement and Note-Taking:

While reading, actively engage with the content by asking questions like, “Do I have this skill?” or “Can I demonstrate this experience?” This method helps you to relate your own background to the job requirements directly. As you identify key skills, experiences, and qualifications, take notes. This can help you later when customizing your CV and cover letter, ensuring you address all the critical points mentioned in the advert.

Research Beyond the Advert:

Sometimes, job adverts might not provide all the information you need. Use the company’s website, LinkedIn profile, and other relevant sources to gather more context about the role, company culture, and specific projects or clients. This additional research can offer insights that help you tailor your application more effectively.

Why you need to tailor your CV to the job advert before applying

Tailoring your engineering CV to the job advert is not just about increasing your chances of getting noticed; it’s about making a compelling case for why you are the ideal candidate for the role. Every job advert outlines specific skills and experiences that the employer values most.

By customizing your CV to echo these requirements, you make it immediately clear that you possess the qualities they’re seeking. This direct correlation between your CV and the job’s needs can set you apart from candidates who submit generic resumes.

It’s also worth mentioning many organizations use Applicant Tracking Systems to screen resumes before they reach human eyes. These systems often scan for keywords mentioned in the job advert. Tailoring your CV with these keywords increases the likelihood of your application passing through ATS filters successfully.

Another advantage of tailoring your engineering CV is that it encourages you to thoroughly analyze the job advert and reflect on your experiences. This preparation can prove invaluable during interviews, as you’ll be well-versed in discussing how your background aligns with the job requirements.


Deciding whether to apply for a job isn’t just about meeting the qualifications; it’s also about assessing whether the job and company are the right fit for you. This requires thoughtful consideration that goes beyond a superficial reading of the job advert.

Properly reading a job advert is a critical first step in the application process. It requires more than just a cursory glance to truly understand the role, evaluate how your skills and experiences align with the job requirements, and assess whether the opportunity is right for you.

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