How to Interpret the “Requirements” Section of Tech Job Listings

There’s nothing like the dreaded REQUIREMENTS section of a job posting you’re excited about to deflate your enthusiasm.

Every bullet point in that list is a jab at your confidence. Also, every job seems to require previous experience in the actual job.

How do I get experience in the actual job if I need experience in the actual job to land the actual job? 

“REQUIREMENTS” describe the ideal, non-existent, candidate.

Every company wants the best talent and they’re going to list attributes of the ideal candidate for the requirements section. 99% of the time, the person they hire to fill the role doesn’t hit every single bullet point perfectly. That person doesn’t exist!

However, this doesn’t mean you can or should ignore the Requirements section. Rather, use the Requirements section as a guide to sanity check your qualifications for the job.

In addition, you can use the Requirements list to your advantage by identifying what to highlight in your resume. The company is literally telling you what is important to them.

Let’s break down the Requirements section of a job posting line by line.

Let’s say you land on OpenTable’s job site and see a marketing position that piques your interest. You’re excited because you love the product and have heard great things about the company’s culture.

You click on the Senior Manager, Product Marketing listing (alternative link of the job posting if it’s no longer up) and scroll down to the list of requirements.

Let’s break down each bullet point.

BA/BS degree required, MBA preferred.

Do you have a college degree? If so, ✅, move on to the next bullet point.

If you have an MBA, great, maybe one bonus point for you, but don’t be scared away if you don’t have an MBA.

If you don’t have a college degree, probably the best way to over come this “requirement” is if you already have extremely relevant experience, as in, you were a Product Marketing Manager at a well known tech company for a few years.

5–7 years overall work experience. Minimum 1–3 years of product marketing experience in a technology company. Experience with international markets.

Ok, this is the most important point on the requirements list, actual work experience.

The first part, 5–7 years work experience indicates OpenTable is not looking for a fresh university grad and probably someone who’s had at least one, but probably multiple full time roles.

If you have 4 years of work experience, you can probably slide through if you have some product marketing experience. 3 years or less, unless all 3 years have been in product marketing, you’re not qualified right now.

The second part, minimum 1–3 years of product marketing experience in a tech company means you’ve had to at least been in a product marketing or relevant role. Keep in mind, this is a Senior Manager role. OpenTable is probably looking for someone to provide mentorship or even start managing others on the team so having had relevant experience is a strict requirement.

But what if you haven’t officially had the“Product Marketing” title, what counts as relevant experience? 

If you don’t exactly hit one part of the experience qualifications, you can make up for it by being strong in another experience-related area.

For instance, if you didn’t have the product marketing title, but worked in the Marketing department, that’s relevant experience. Maybe you were in Partner Marketing or Performance Marketing. These are relevant experiences that could still get you an interview for this specific role if your application is strengthen by having had 3 or more years of that type of marketing experience. If you’ve held these positions at a well recognized tech companies, that makes your case stronger.

If you haven’t worked in a marketing department, you’re going to get rejected for this role. There are adjacent departments to Marketing like Communications, but because of the seniority of this role, you need to have some marketing experience.

The last part, experience with international markets, means at a minimum, you should have worked at a company with an international presence. Ideally, you’ve worked in a capacity where your direct role required you to take into account international customers in your decisions. However, since this requirement doesn’t specify what exactly you’ve had to have done with international markets, just being able to speak to experiences related to international users of your company’s product or service should be enough.

If you’re not meeting the minimum interpretations of the work experience requirements, pause ✋.

Look for roles that require less work experience.

For instance, if you’re not qualified for the Senior Manager, Product Marketing at OpenTable role, look at the Product Marketing Manager role (alternative link if posting is no longer up).

The work experience related requirements are:

  • BA/BS degree required, MBA preferred
  • Minimum 1–3 years of product marketing experience in a technology company

Assuming you have a college degree, for this role, you have more wiggle room to land an interview if you haven’t had the exact “product marketing” title.

In this case, since it’s not the Senior Manager level, if you’ve worked in any marketing capacity or even in adjacent departments like Communications or PR, you likely won’t be disqualified based on your work experience qualifications. However, this assumes you demonstrate accomplishments with results and impact that align with the rest of the job requirements on your resume. 

Tailor your resume to highlight the characteristics listed in the job requirements.

Generally in a job posting, after a few bullet points about work experience requirements, the section will list characteristics of the ideal candidate. Pay close attention to these and use them to guide how you convey your achievements on the resume you submit for the role.

Let’s go back to the requirements list for the Senior Manger, Product Marketing role. Here’s the rest of the requirements:

  • Strategic and creative problem-solver who loves to tackle complex challenges
  • Demonstrated success and passion for collecting and using customer insight to drive strategic decisions
  • Highly analytical, superior project management skills; results focused with superb execution and follow-through; highly detail-oriented
  • Ability to thrive in a fast-paced, rapidly changing environment, “get it done” environment. Be willing to learn new, exciting things
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Good sense of humor compulsory

Notice some of words that stand out, “strategic, complex, highly analytical, detail-oriented, sense of humor”.

Think to yourself, how can I demonstrate these qualities with the accomplishments on my resume? 

Don’t blindly include these buzz words in your resume. Show the results and impact, ideally quantified, of the work you’ve done. This is the best way to paint a picture to whoever is reading your resume that you have these qualities.

For instance, if in your resume you state, “Created and executed email marketing campaign that helped increase user signups by 20%”, that brief statement alone shows that you’re able to think strategically to find effective ways to impact the business and you didn’t even use the word “strategic”!

On your resume, don’t tell me you’ve worked on complex problems, but show me through the real results you’ve achieved solving an actual work problem.

At the end of the day, don’t tell yourself “no”.

My suggestions, like the job posting requirements sections, are just a guide. They can help you get a quick check on whether your experience has a shot at getting an interview or if you’re wasting your time applying to the wrong role.

However, no matter what the job posting says, if you’re on the fence about applying, go for it! There’s no reason for you to be the one to tell yourself, “no”.