Resources: Dissecting an Advertisement

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

~Dr. Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990), Canadian-American educator

When looking for a job, it’s important to assess what employers really want from potential hires. This is a crucial step in drafting tailored resumes, or resumes targeted at a specific employment opportunity. Sometimes, however, the meaning can get lost in messages laden with business jargon – especially for ESL students.

How can we make sense of these ads? Pinpointing key words and how frequently they appear in job advertisements allows English language learners to see straight to the subtext, while identifying unfamiliar business terminology and expanding their vocabulary. Here’s a quick worksheet to get your students started.





1. Find a written advertisement for a job that you would be interested in. Specify and circle action-oriented words or phrases that describe the skills necessary to apply for this position.

2. Place parentheses around words that express achievement or value.

3. Place brackets around superlatives (e.g., outstanding, strong, etc.)

4. Identify and write down specialized terms (jargon) used in the ad.


Which words appear most often? Determine the frequency of use on your own, then run the ad through a word map program like WordItOut or Wordle to check your results.

For more content on job searching and interviews, check out the Practicing Job Interviews chapter from Compelling American Conversations! More sample chapters are available at both and


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