I began reading what started as a great blog post. The topic interested me, the writing was humorous and demonstrated expertise. I was settling in for a good read, but there was one major problem; this post was too long.*
When the scroll bar was only a third way down the page, I was wondering when this darn thing was going to end. So I scrolled down the rest of the way only to find out that, yes, my suspicion was correct, I was reading a novel on the topic of the résumé.
Sadly, I stopped reading this promising article.
My purpose today is not to write about the ideal length of a blog post. No, I’m writing about the importance of why brevity is important in your job search and at work.
Brevity in your written communications
1. The debate over the one- or two-page résumé has some merit. My answer to this one has always been, it depends. If you can write a one-page résumé that covers all your relevant accomplishments, do it.
Otherwise your two-page résumé has to be compelling enough for the reviewer to read. Often we’re in love with our own words, but this doesn’t mean others will, especially if what you write is superfluous.
2. Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, had something going when he launched a social media application that allows users to tweet only 140 characters, including spaces. At first I was frustrated with the limitation—and I still think it’s too short—but I’ve since come to see the brilliance of this model.
The twesume was created to make the hiring process quicker. One simply wrote a 140-character tweet with their résumé attached. If the recipient was drawn to the tweet, they would open the applicant’s résumé. Sadly, the twesume didn’t take hold.
3. Thankfully LinkedIn puts limits on characters for its profile sections. For example, you’re only allowed 2,000 characters for the Summary and Employment sections, 120 for your Headline, and other character limitations.
This has caused me to think more carefully about what I write on my profile. These limits have also kept the length of prose under control for those who, like me, tend to be verbose.
4. Don’t you hate long e-mail messages? If you’re nodding in total agreement, you and I are on board with this one. The general rule is that if your e-mail to a supervisor or colleague exceeds two paragraphs, get your butt of your chair and go to his office.
A good rule of thumb is to write your brief message in the Subject Header, e.g., Meet for a marketing meeting at 2pm in the White room on Tuesday, 11/18. The body of the e-mail can contain the topics to be discussed.
Brevity in your verbal communications
5. The interview is not a time when you want to ramble on about irrelevant details. Answer the questions as concisely as possible, while still demonstrating value. If the interviewer needs to know more, he’ll ask for clarification or deliver a follow-up question.
Many people have lost the job opportunity because they talked too much. When I conduct mock interviews, I sometimes feel as though I’ll nod off and lose my concentration.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. People who’ve interviewed others will concur that long answers can be so painful that they’ll end the interview before asking the remaining questions.
6. Brevity is also important when you’re networking. People generally like to be listened to, not talked at. Allow your networking partners to explain their situation and needs, and then try to come up with solutions.
Conversely, your networking partners should want to hear about you. On occasion you’ll come across people who don’t get the listening aspect and will make your networking experience painful. Do people the favor of listening to what they have to say, and give your advice with concise answers.
7. At work you must practice brevity whenever possible. It’s said that extraverts tend to talk more than introverts, whereas introverts are better listeners. Try to be an ambivert—a mixture of the two dichotomies. Apply the proper amount of listening and talking.
Keep this in mind when you’re speaking with your manager, as she is extremely busy. So state your business as clearly as possible and listen carefully to her suggestions. The same applies to meetings. Don’t dominate them by interrupting and talking on too long.
I’m brought back to the blog post I couldn’t finish which I’m sure is very good, based on the number of comments it received. It’s a shame I’ll never find out, and I wonder if those who provided comments actually read the whole post.
*Many believe the appropriate length is 750 words maximum. I’ve failed this rule by 30 words.
Photo: Flickr, jamelah e.