When discussing resumes or LinkedIn profiles, I often say it’s more effective to write in “short substantive soundbites” instead of long sentences or paragraphs. People are often confused by what I mean or have trouble editing their profiles to achieve that.
To make things even more confusing, I also say that a LinkedIn profile can be significantly longer than a resume, however, it’s still important to use short substantive soundbites!
So… what does that mean, and what does it look like?
Here are some considerations and examples…
The 20 second test. Most job seekers understand that a resume or a LinkedIn profile generally gets scanned for 15 to 20 seconds before a decision is made to pursue that candidate further, or not. In that quick scan, the reader is looking for specific skills, experience, and keywords. The easier those are found, the greater the likelihood they will be called. The more difficult it is to determine if the candidate has them, the less likely there will be any follow up. In that quick scan, easily spotted words and phrases will get read, and longer sentences or paragraphs will not! No matter how well worded and powerfully presented a paragraph may have been written, it has NO impact if it’s not read. What is easily spotted in a 20 second scan of your resume?
“Short” does not equal “without substance”! People often contend that if they shorten their sentences and paragraphs they will lose important points they are trying to convey, or are not able to “tell the story” of their career and achievements. In reality, it makes them a better writer and communicator to tell the substance of their story in as few words as possible. Eliminating filler words and relative trivialities, distilling each sentence to the most important information will have a far greater impact than a lengthy sentence that is never read. Furthermore, through the process of achieving this in your resume and online profiles, it will help you to articulate the ideas much more effectively in interviews as well!
It’s not easy, however, highly effective. Your “story” is important, and we all enjoy talking/writing about ourselves. Distilling a paragraph down to the most essential information can be a very difficult process and will likely take several iterations. A focus on metrics and results are more important than detailed descriptions of your overall responsibilities. Keeping in mind that your resume’s purpose is to help you get an interview, not answer all the questions they have to make a decision to hire you or not. Focus on what they are likely to need to know to decide whether to bring you in for an interview, where they can ask questions to get more details. Making it easy for them to connect the dots between your experience and the job requirements is key to gaining their interest.
Short, but long, is OK! Presenting information concisely is key… Brevity is a Virtue! However, the overall length of your LinkedIn profile might be quite long, and your resume may still be 2 pages… that’s OK. The brevity you should be seeking is in each phrase and bullet-point for them to make it easy to catch your experience in a quick scan. However the overall length of the profile page or document can remain the same. In a scan, easily spotted words and phrases will get read, and longer sentences or paragraphs will not. Many key words and phrases are fine. Avoiding long sentences is critical. Key words within a sentence can be bold-faced for added emphasis as well.
- Responsible for developing new strategies and improving processes within the existing sales organization, achieving a sales performance improvement of 32% in 2010 over the 2009 fiscal year.
- Led a 32% sales increase over previous year.
Which bullet point is more likely to get read and easily understood? Which is likely to have the greater impact on the reader? Which one most quickly answers the most burning question when an organization is looking for a new Sales Manager? (Can this person improve sales?) Which raises questions that are better discussed in an interview (questions like “How did you achieve that kind of increase?”)
The second example does not give up the most important substantive information. It concisely emphasizes the most important facts for an employer to decide whether to pursue things further, or not.
- Utilized Agile methodologies to lead a software development team to meet milestones and achieve superior results in order to complete a high-profile project on time and under budget.
- Led high-profile Agile project to finish on time and under budget.
Which conveys the key information most efficiently and more effectively? Which is more likely to be noticed? If you were a hiring manager or recruiter quickly reviewing 20 resumes submitted for a position… which would you be able to get the most key information from most easily?
Most resumes are written like the first examples. The most effective resumes are written like the second examples.
What does your resume look like? A dissertation, or an outline of the most relevant and key points?
Which do you think will more likely be read, and get the better results?
Each person you talk to will have different opinions about what your resume should look like. You are the only one responsible for what you present to potential employers. Consider all the advice, and then consider what would be most effective from a hiring managers’ or recruiters’ perspective. Apply what makes the most sense to you. If it gets the results you’re looking for, stick with it. If not, try a different approach.
Try Short Substantive Soundbites over lengthy sentences and paragraphs and see if your results don’t improve.
Harry Urschel has over 20 years experience as a technology recruiter in Minnesota. He currently operates as e-Executives, writes a blog for Job Seekers called The Wise Job Search, and can be found on Twitter as @eExecutives.