In a now infamous video, Ed Miliband, the former leader of Britain’s Labour Party, takes the concept of ’staying on message’ to the limits of abject absurdity. One has to wonder what the interviewer was thinking. Perhaps they were worried they were dealing with a cyborg or that there was a glitch in the matrix.
As silly as Mr Miliband sounds, many job seekers sound just as inhuman. It is very likely a HR manager somewhere is saying the exact same thing? Let’s hope it not about your application.
Abolish Repetitive Redundancies
Imagine your cover letter, resume, application, LinkedIn profile, and even your first interview, all as people. Now, imagine you are stuck in an elevator with all those people. Ask yourself, "How much of what I am hearing is the same message repeated over and over again?". Many job applicants offer the same information in the same way not really considering that all of this repetitive information goes to one person- the HR manager. It’s like if Michelle Obama introduced herself as the first lady and then added, "I’m married to the President of the United States. . . of America, you know, the USA."
Do you understand what I am saying? I don’t mean to repeat myself, but I do it so you don’t have to.
The Power of Efficiency
My favorite definition of ’efficiency’ is- a powerful use of the resources at hand. Resources by their nature are finite, they run out and they need to be managed effectively. One of the main resources on a CV is space, in an interview it’s the length of time you have in front of your potential employer. Redundancy wastes space and time and dilutes the power of your presentation. Being efficient means highlighting the most important things about you in the most effective way. The information about you should only be said once, it should be said clearly, and it should never, ever, have to be repeated. Let’s look at some common redundancies.
The Skills List
One of the greatest offenders of efficiency is bulleted skills lists. I can’t tell you how many redundancies I find sitting next to each other within the first 4 inches of a resume. I’m looking at one right now. Eight total skills lined up into rows and, three of the eight describe the person as: friendly, personable, having great customer service skills. It’s enough to make my head implode. Stop kidding yourself! All those things are one thing. They are as close to synonymous as you can get without using the same word three times. You wouldn’t write: nice, nice, and nice, on a resume, would you? An office manager who describes their proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite only to proceed to add a few bullets later that they are good with Microsoft Word and Excel. Do I need to go on? I hope not.
Redundancy does not just lurk in the regimented rows of skills lists, but often hides within the work history section of a CV. It is understandable that a person who works in the financial sector has inevitably worked for a variety of banks, and often in the same job classification.
When describing the same job with different employers don’t just copy and paste the description from one to the next, rather describe how these jobs differed from each other. Consider in what way you had different responsibilities. Did your boss have you work in any specific capacity? Were you involved in any specific work groups? How did you go above and beyond for that employer and contrast this with your work in the same job classification but for a different employer.
Lastly, try to diversify your references. Don’t just pick all the co-workers who you played basketball with. Don’t just pick people who work in the same department. If at all possible, help your employer see how different people in different departments saw your work. Try and stratify your work environment. Consider using a boss, someone you answered too; a co-worker, someone who you worked closely with; an underling, someone who had to answer to you. Diversifying your references will give a potential employer a more rounded picture of your strengths.
These are just redundancies within a single document. Consider how many times you say the same thing throughout all your application materials. Don’t just copy and paste from your resume or CV into your Linkedin profile, rather create new materials for your LinkedIn profile to invite HR managers to see you in a different and more creative way.
In the next article, we will be reviewing all your application materials.
And remember, don’t be a jerk.
Are you guilty of using redundancies in your applications?