To be competitive and to position yourself as a valued candidate, you must:

  • be well-informed of what needs exist among employers in your field
  • compile a list of requirements for jobs in your field, so you can acquire the appropriate credentials to qualify for employment
  • know the trends of different geographic areas
  • recognize where there is potential for growth and future opportunity
  • have realistic expectations of fair and equitable compensation

Review NACE articles on trends and projections »

More Tips

Review content in the following tabs to:

  • Compare your skills, education, and experience against what employers want
  • Learn how to get job market information
  • Find sources for market trends

Skills, Experience, Education

To Qualify for Jobs, Benchmark!

The meaning of benchmark that's used here is, per Merriam-Webster.com, a point of reference from which measurements may be made; something that serves as a standard by which others may be measured or judged.

Benchmarking is one tool you will use to figure out:

  • next steps to becoming the best candidate for your ideal job
  • who is hiring in your field

This article addresses how to find that information using job postings from online databases. Please note that the goal here is information to inform career planning and preparation for a job search, not to generate a list of job postings that you might apply to (although that might be a byproduct).

This will work best if the job posting database has an Advanced Search tool.

Choosing words, phrases, parameters for your search

Indeed.com was used as a sample database for this article.  Making adjustments for the setup and search tools, you should be able to achieve similar results with other online databases.

Select the Advanced Search tool.  At the time this article was written, Advanced Search options in indeed.com included: 'With all of these words;' 'With the exact phrase;' With at least one of these words;' 'With none of these words;' With these words in the title;' 'From this company.'

To exercise a broader grasp, use the option 'With at least one of these words ' or its equivalent.  Enter into this search option a variety of words or phrases that you would expect to find in your field - in Career Services parlance we call these keywords. For example, Pharmacology and Toxicology students might type in  'pharmacology,toxicology,pharmaceuticals,virology.'

The first search of this kind might yield results that you know are not related or suitable for you, just by reading the titles.  You can refine your Advanced Search by eliminating those keywords from your results.  For example, our Pharmacology and Toxicology students, seeing certain job titles they want to eliminate, might enter the following words in the ' With none of these words ' text entry field: "pharmacist,pharmacy,pharmaceutical sales representative" (review the formatting requirements for your particular database - sometimes these strings require quotes).

At the time this article was written, indeed.com offered a field for ' Show jobs of type.'  Seect only 'Full-time.' If an option, exclude staffing agencies - for this benchmarking project, you want company information.  Extend the range to 50 or 100 miles from Dayton, Ohio, or whatever city is the center of your search.  Increase the number of results to show onscreen to 50 at a time. You may also be able to limit the timeframe of the posting - you want recent posts (a few months is acceptable). 

Review the summary of results

Examine the presentation of your results.  Sometimes the job postings at the top of the screen are paid placements. They may be highlighted in a special color or say 'Sponsored Jobs' or 'Paid Placements.' Someone paid to have them top the screen.

Look at the number of the results.  If you have a very, very small number - say 5 - in a major metropolitan area, first look at the contents of your search.  If your search string is a good one, but your number is tiny, then that tells you something about the job market in that area.  Just to be sure, try a couple of different searches with keywords from your profession (sometimes it's the smallest misunderstanding in the search that reduces your results).

Not all the results you get on a search string will be relevant to your goals. Look for patterns in the irrelevant results and then use those patterns to help you revise your search string for finer and finer results. But also be willing to consider that jobs might come up that you hadn't thought of - and that's one of the purposes of benchmarking. If you look at a job title and you don't know what it is, don't ignore it (as many people say they do) - use the link to open the description and learn about it. You might find a new opportunity.

Who's hiring?

Look at the names of the companies (listed under the job titles). Even if the job title isn't something you are interested in or for which you're qualified, these companies are likely to be ones that will have opportunities for you eventually - with your current credentials or when you get more credentials. Make a list of these companies and research them. Read their website thoroughly. I can't emphasize this enough - read the website thoroughly (employers complain to us that candidates obviously don't do this). Run several web searches for other info about the company. Ask everyone you know if they know someone who knows someone who works there, then get that name and inquire if you can do an informational interview. Always, always approach these contacts wearing your professional demeanor.

What are the job titles?

Make a mental note or even an actual list of the job titles that show up in your search.

Tracking the job titles enables you to do some important stuff - put together highly effective search strings in job posting databases, for one thing; also, learning appropriate job titles enhances your professional vocabulary, by talking about jobs by using the appropriate title.

Read the job descriptions to find out which titles most closely match your targeted job and to determine those job titles for which you have qualifications. 

You can begin to understand the hierarchy in your line of work, because once you know the job descriptions for particular titles, you can begin to assign levels of responsibility to those titles, and that gives you a sense for how you move up through the hierarchy.

What are the required qualifications and the preferred qualifications?

Required qualifications generally means they won't hire you without these things. Preferred qualifications means all other things being equal, they'll lean toward the candidate with these.

Once you've looked at several similar jobs in your field, you'll have a list of 'required qualifications' that you need to have or pursue in order to be competitive.   If you don't have the 'requireds,' you don't qualify.

The 'preferred qualifications' will help you go beyond the basics.  If you don't have these, consider getting them!

Comparing your qualifications to the 'required' and 'preferred' qualifications will help you gauge where you fall in the salary range for the position.  Review our advice on salary negotiation

What are the key words?

This is a question you have to ask for each individual job description and for the category of jobs, because key words may just be the key to your success. Key words represent the skills, traits, processes, technical expertise, certifications, and other points of reference that will determine a match between you and the job. If you're reading a job description and you don't understand the key words then, sorry, you're not (yet) qualified for the job. But at least you now know what you need to learn - investigate anything you don't understand and figure out what training or experience will allow you to get that key word in your profile. For the key words that do match your knowledge and skills, make sure you include them on your resume. When the resume is scanned visually (by a human eye) or run through a computer program for key word recognition (yep, that's sometimes the preliminary selection process), built-in key words will help your resume make the cut.

What are the salaries?

For salary considerations, examine whether or not the job posting site you are using has a salary information section.

At the time this article was written, indeed.com offered a salary information link where users could get some median figures and some per job figures.  Compare salary figures from several sources to get a more informed picture of salary ranges.

Keep in mind that a particular salary does not have the same buying power in different parts of the country. Search for cost of living calculators to figure out the translation.

Review more information about salary research

Other Research Tips

How to Get Job Market Information

  • Use job search websites to see what positions are available.
  • To learn the job titles, requirements, and other specifications in your field, benchmark what you have to offer against job postings. How do your skills, experience and qualifications stack up against the job description, the required qualifications, and the preferred qualifications?
  • Target 3-5 employers that relate to your field or targeted field and research the job titles of employees in those companies.
  • Identify the job title that most closely matches the one you are applying for or targeting. There may be numerous titles. Run searches on job posting sites to find job titles that most closely match the position you are seeking. Identify the salary range for these titles. This will help you identify the salary range that fits your skills and experience. Once you know what a job is worth, it is easier to determine if an offer is fair and equitable.
  • To learn about the industries and trends in our area, read the Dayton Business Journal; if you are relocating, read the business journal for the city where you are seeking employment. Use the Business Journal annual Book of Lists to review the business sectors, the business rankings and earnings, and get other helpful information.
  • Once you identify companies you might work for, go to company websites to research opportunities.
  • O-Net, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Ohio Labor Market Information are online resources with job and market information, including data on growth projections.
  • Utilize the local Chamber of Commerce as a way to learn more about businesses in a particular area and to network with other professionals
  • Join professional organizations that represent your field. Many have student memberships and student sections of their websites where you might find information.
  • Online services like Hoovers.com and Vault.com offer industry and job research results (fees may be required).
  • Use LinkedIn to search for key words in the profiles of other professionals. You may also search by company. You can conduct an advanced search using your key words and Wright State as the school, to find Wright State alumni in your career field who can serve as network contacts.
  • Conduct a search on a particular company using search functions on newspaper websites.
  • Conduct your own internet research using a search engine. Look for reliable sources.

Follow Market Trends