The key to mastering brevity in a job search is determining what your audience really needs to know about you
Recruiters and hiring managers are time-stressed. Therefore, they appreciate candidates who keep their communication brief, which shows the candidate is a professional who possesses proficient communication skills and who respects their time. Additionally, brevity gives the candidate the advantage of being heard or read, as opposed to being tuned out.
Nowadays, attention spans are measured in seconds; therefore, communicating concisely, especially in corporate settings, is essential.
FUN FACT: Humans have an 8.25-second attention span, whereas a goldfish’s is nine seconds.
The key to mastering brevity is determining what your audience needs to know and what they do not need to know. It is easier to make this judgement if you regard your audience as being on a need-to-know basis.
When it comes to an employer:
Need to know:
- Job responsibilities (e.g., managed remote 50+ CSRs using Slack)
- Specific (quantified) accomplishments and results that benefited your employer. (e.g., grew email subscriber list from 100 to 5,000 in eight months by creating enticing lead magnets)
- Relevant education/certifications
- Proven skills/core competencies
Do not need to know:
- Marital/parental status
- Religious/political affiliation
- Negative feelings about former employers/co-workers
- Medical history
The number of candidates I have interviewed who give too much information (TMI) versus keeping their answers brief and to the point never ceases to amaze me. For example, if asked if you have reliable transportation, all you have to say is “Yes,” assuming you do – nothing more. There is no need to mention dropping your kids off at school or having just spent $1,500 to repair your 2013 Honda Civic.
- Brevity in your written communications
Throughout your job search, your written communication skills will be assessed to determine many things about you, mainly your communication and presentation skills and confidence level. My evaluation of a candidate is heavily influenced by their written communication skills.
Start with your resume. Your resume should reflect your relevant (keyword) skills, work experience, and academic accomplishments, nothing else. The debate over whether your resume should be one or two pages is ongoing. If you can write a one-page resume that covers all your relevant accomplishments, do it! I have seen such resumes, which always impress me. Otherwise, your two-page resume needs to be compelling enough for the reader to take the time to read it.
Ruthless editing is how you keep your writing concise. You can tighten up your resume by eliminating filler words (e.g., “that,” “just,” “very,” and “little”) and adverbs which strain your reader’s attention, such as “highly,” “really,” and “simply.”
Your resume’s job is to attract attention with just enough information and persuade the reader you are interview-worthy; therefore, hyper-focus on crafting your resume around what makes you valuable to an employer, which is the results you can achieve with your skills and experience.
You may feel all your experience, skills, and achievements should be promoted to employers; however, the opposite is true. Unless directly pertinent to the job, does an employer need to know you have your first aid/CPR certification or floral design certificate? Your resume should only include your experience, skills, and achievements directly relevant to the position you are seeking. Furthermore, do not state the obvious, such as “Computer Skills: Outlook, Word” or “References available upon request.”
Here are a few more suggestions on how you can compress your resume:
- Streamline your contact information (name, telephone number, email address)
- Do not include an objective statement
- Do not include jobs you had more than 15 to 20 years ago
- Separate sentences with a single space, not a double space
- Instruct the reader to visit your LinkedIn profile. (e.g., Link the phrase “Read more in my LinkedIn profile.” to your profile.)
When it comes to your cover letter, which I recommend you always include in the body of your email, make it short and straightforward. A cover letter’s sole function is to motivate the reader to read your resume; therefore, think like a marketer.
I am responding to your posting for an Outbound Call Centre Director.
I can offer:
- Twelve years of operational call centre management experience in various sales-centric call centres. (average team size 45)
- Comfortable achieving annual sales targets between $25 to $35 million, selling non-tangible financial products
- Customer Service Professional Network advisory board member since 2015
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
- Five9 certified
- Bilingual (French, English)
- Brevity in your verbal communications
Interviews usually last between 30 and 60 minutes; therefore, you do not want to waste valuable time talking about irrelevant details. An interview is not the time to give TMI! I have rejected candidates based on TMI more than once.
Answer your interviewer’s questions as concisely as possible. If your interviewer wants to know more, they will ask for clarification or follow-up questions.
“What is your salary expectation?”
WRONG: “My salary expectation is between $75,000 and $85,000. However, I am flexible.”
Candidates who get straight to the point are more attractive to recruiters and hiring managers strapped for time. As attention spans shorten, concise communication benefits your job search and career.
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job.
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