Do you talk on and on during a phone or face-to-face interview? When you’re nervous, do you find yourself wondering where to start and when to end? On cover letters (if you are even writing them), do you regurgitate your resume with no clear message for the reader? Here’s another one: answer “Tell me about yourself.” Right now. What is your answer? Do you have one memorized? If it starts with “I was born in small town…” then you’re in big trouble.
I’m going to give you a HUGE tip. Right now.
In all of your written and verbal communications around your job search, and with every encounter, remember and utilize “The Law of Threes”. It will save you. So what is the law?
Say three things and STOP.
When talking, say three short things and STOP talking. Yes, three points then shut up.
When writing, focus the cover letter, e-mail, follow-up letter or thank you note on three things. Then close.
Dana’s job search “Law of Threes” is not just about quantity, though. The quality is very important, too.
- Make the three points all about them, the hiring manager. Check yourself for excessive use of “I”. Focus on their needs first and make yourself relevant to them. Other versions of too much “I” are “my skills, my strengths, I want to…” etc.
- Remove unnecessary words. Get to the point directly and keep it concise. As a hiring manager, it is often hard to understand what you are saying because your messages are buried in “fluff”.
- Excellent grammar is required. Remember, this is a writing sample for a potential hiring manager. Don’t get informal or sloppy because the recipient is in HR, a recruiter or a network contact. If English is your second language, then have a native speaker proof it for you. Native English speakers make just as many mistakes, though. There is a frightening abundance of typos, misspells, poor grammar and incorrect punctuation.
The “Law of Threes” – More Best Practices
- For interviews, have your three points written down and well-rehearsed for the most commonly asked interview questions. Think in bullet points, not sentences. Even three key words will get you prepared. Example: “What are your strengths?” “Well, Nancy, there are three that I’d like to highlight today: First, I am detail-oriented. Second, I excel at managing others, directly or virtually and, three, I like to find creative solutions to problems.” Then STOP talking! Smile. The interviewer will probe further if they want more information. They may ask you for examples of how you demonstrated these strengths. Do the same for weaknesses and all common interview questions.
- During network meetings, prepare three things you want to learn about and tell them up front that you have prepared three questions. Make each of the three things bite-size pieces such as “Do you know anybody at these 3 companies?” or “What are three things I need to know before going in to interview with Boeing” or “Can I review my job goal with you and get your feedback?”
- Cover letters with job applications: After the opening, say “There are three key reasons why I believe I am a top candidate for your position.” Then bullet points…
- “You are looking for a self-motivated, independent marketing assistant and I have three years in marketing communications for <company> and do not need training or supervision.
- The position requires a very high attention to detail and accuracy. My prior boss, who you can speak to, gave me the most important, detailed tasks since I proofed my analysis very well.
- Your company is launching three products in the next 6 months and I have worked on 5 product launches and am prepared for the challenge.”
Dana’s Career “Law of Threes” will help you when asking for a promotion, job-seeking within your company, describing your career goal and much more. They key is to practice it until it becomes (and stays) natural. It will help you personally and professionally. Best of luck!