Online communication has sure changed in recent years, hasn't it? In some ways, for the better perhaps. In other ways, especially when things are at stake (like job searching, for example), maybe not for the better.
Cell phones and texting have played a large part in many people's desire to use as few words as possible when trying to convey their message. It probably started when chatting with friends, but when it becomes your normal, standard way of communicating, it can't help but invade your professional communications as well.
I'm not suggesting brevity is a bad thing - we all have only so much time on our hands to read stuff - but I am suggesting that if you focus primarily on brevity, you likely won't be making a great impression. With your friends, maybe that's not a big deal. With potential employers, it could be disastrous.
Here are a few examples of what I mean:
I review hundreds of resumes from retail leaders every year, and probably once a week or so I come across one where it's obvious the person is trying to use as few words as possible (or else they have no idea what else to say). Rather than using sentences that tell a story and make a point, it's basically just a list of words spread out over a page (and yes, they limit it to one page because someone once told them that it can't be more than one page).
Sometimes they start with an objective that says something like:
Besides the fact that objectives are outdated in resume writing (use a bold headline/tagline instead), something like this doesn't tell the reader much at all. It doesn't mention industry, job function, job level, or anything really of value for the reader.
Then I often see long lists of skills under a heading called Core Competencies or something similar. It usually has things like:
Multi-Unit Management - Store Operations - Retail Leadership - Process Improvement - Talent Aquisition
And on and on. Again, basically random words and phrases that don't tell the reader much about YOU and what you've done.
I then sometimes see work experience sections that have one-word bullet points, like this:
Again, what does that really tell the reader? Anything? It basically says you were a store manager, and the rest was already understood based on the fact that you were a store manager.
It provides almost no value at all to the reader.
How does this impact your job search?
It's simple - if your resume doesn't give recruiters and key decision-makers the information they need, you won't get contacted for an interview. If the content doesn't provide value, your resume will be passed by. It's critical that the information you provide them with tells them something about your experience and capabilities, so that you can stand out vs. all the other candidates who want the same job.
Keep this in mind when it comes to resume writing:
It's not about using as few words as possible. It's about using the right words.
Use actual sentences, tell your story, and eliminate anything that doesn't provide value.
I connect and communicate with people on LinkedIn every day and many people are very friendly and engaging. However, there's also a segment of the population there that, again, seems to always want to use as few words as possible - if any.
When I accept a connection request from someone who has reached out to me, I usually say something like this:
"Thanks for connecting - it’s great to meet you and I’m glad to be part of your network. Was there a reason you reached out to connect? Anything I can help with?"
(After all, the majority of people don't write anything in their connection request.)
Which of the following do you think I most often get as a reply?
B. "Great to meet you too. I connected because I really enjoyed your "BLANK" post and, after reviewing your profile, I noticed we have a lot of shared connections and perhaps a lot in common. I thought it might be beneficial if we connected. Thanks for accepting and enjoy the rest of your week."
The answer? None of the above. And that's because BY FAR the most common reply I get is no reply at all.
Out of the 3 listed above, the most common reply I would get is "C." Since LinkedIn makes it easy to quickly click "Thanks" as a reply (you can always tell because there's no punctuation after it), that's what I get most often when I do get an actual reply. Rather than typing out a 6-letter word, you can do it in one touch. Doesn't really make a great impression on the recipient.
Occasionally I'll get "A" as a reply as well - something along the lines of "Hi" or "Same to you" or something else that the person actually typed in on their own, but doesn't really tell me they put much effort into it.
How often do I receive "B" as a reply, or something similar? Occasionally, but nowhere near often enough, in my opinion.
How does this impact your job search?
I'm not suggesting by any means that I'm super special and deserve your undivided attention. But it is a professional networking site, and therefore professional courtesy and etiquette should be considered in all your communication, whether it's with someone like me, or with a recruiter who could determine whether your resume gets passed along.
If the recruiter perceives you in a negative way because of your lack of effort and engagement, don't expect to be contacted for future opportunities.
My recommendation? Don't simply "collect" connections like business cards that end up tossed in a drawer. Instead, keep this in mind:
The key to developing your career is building relationships, and relationships are built on communication.
Like recruiters, I generally have a very busy inbox. Email is my primary communication tool and I rely on it every day. I often have 30-50 emails waiting for me in the morning, and I can have that many or more sitting in my inbox at any given time. So it goes without saying that clear, professional communication makes my job much, much easier.
Many people who email me are quite professional. They start off by introducing themselves, explain how they heard of me, and state the reason for the email. Very clear. Very precise. Very professional.
Other times it amazes me what I receive.
Probably once a month or so, someone will send me an email with a resume attached and absolutely nothing else. Nothing written in the body of the email and nothing in the subject line. Am I supposed to know what to do with that? Are they inquiring about my service? Do they want a free assessment? Do they want a quote? Do they think I'm a recruiter and they're applying for a job (it happens)? Who knows?
Occasionally they'll write something in the subject line such as "Quote" or "Review" but nothing in the body of the email. Maybe they think they're doing me a favor by being brief, but what ever happened to manners? Courtesy? Professionalism?
Are people so busy that they can't type out something like this?
"Hi Mike - I was reviewing your website and I was hoping to get a quote from you for a new resume. I have attached it here. Please let me know what other information you might need. I look forward to hearing from you."
How long does that really take?
I operate a niche resume service that isn't for everyone. As such, I often need to get some information from people in order to determine whether my service is the right fit. One way I'll often reply to an email inquiry is this:
"Thanks very much for your email. The first step is to make sure my service is the right fit. I’ve reviewed your resume - can I ask what type of job you’d be looking for? For example, do you want to continue in multi-unit retail or are you looking for something completely different?"
Many times I get a great reply, sometimes with much more information than I really needed, which is fine. I love to see clients who are engaged in the process. Other times, however, I get "management" or "retail" or some other one-word answer that makes me question whether the person is capable of engaging in a professional back-and-forth discussion.
How does this impact your job search?
When it comes to job searching, you may need to send your resume to a recruiter via email, and you may need to engage in a polite, professional conversation through email before you get a chance to talk on the phone or meet in person. Proper email etiquette is essential for today's job-seeker.
Let me be clear - this isn't about being a great "writer" or even a great typist. This is simply about taking the time to make the best impression on the other party. Taking the time to introduce yourself, taking the time to politely and clearly explain your purpose, taking the time to respond fully to questions. It's about being engaged in the process.
Once the email is sent, you can't get it back. So I recommend that you re-read every email you write for a recruiter before you click send. Have you introduced yourself, if necessary? Is it courteous and professional? Have you clearly explained your purpose? Have you answered all questions?
The emails you send a recruiter are part of the job search process, and will be judged accordingly.
Whether it's through your resume, LinkedIn, or email, communicating via the written word is essential to a job search. More often than not, it's not about being highly skilled, it's about putting in effort to make sure your message is clear, complete, and courteous. If you're short or abrupt, you run the risk of being perceived as unprofessional, and you only get once chance to make a first impression.
Best of luck!