Front-load important information in your communication

A friend recently reposted the following job listing on his Facebook wall, hoping his friends would refer qualified candidates for the position:

Government affairs firm seeks administrative/executive assistant for firm’s Senior Partner. Main responsibilities will include organizing travel and schedule for Senior Partner, managing correspondence on his behalf, and other as-needed tasks at his request. Other responsibilities will be related to office management and will involve simple bookkeeping. The ideal candidate will be detail-oriented with strong communication and computer skills. Knowledge of Capitol Hill preferable. Spanish fluency required. Please send cover letter and resume to…

As I read through the post, several names immediately came to mind…at least until I made my way to the penultimate sentence which indicated the position required fluency in Spanish. That job requirement obviously restricts the pool of qualified applicants considerably.

Imagine the amount of time collectively wasted by thousands of non-Spanish-speaking job seekers reading almost the entire listing before realizing they were unqualified for the position.

If the person who wrote the listing had included any non-negotiable requirements in the first or second sentence, then it would have given any unqualified job seekers an immediate cue that they could stop and skip directly to the next post. Here is how a revised listing might have read:

Government affairs firm seeks administrative/executive assistant fluent in Spanish for firm’s Senior Partner. Main responsibilities will include organizing travel and schedule for Senior Partner, managing correspondence on his behalf, and other as-needed tasks at his request. Other responsibilities will be related to office management and will involve simple bookkeeping. The ideal candidate will be detail-oriented with strong communication and computer skills. Knowledge of Capitol Hill preferable. Please send cover letter and resume to…

By front-loading important information — whatever it may be — you show respect for other people’s time by giving them the ability to make an early exit. Unless you’re M. Night Shyamalan, this principle can probably be applied to all your writing. It can also be applied to voicemails, where if the person didn’t get your telephone number upon first listen he can go back and only listen to the first few seconds of it again to retrieve what he needs.

8 Comments for “Front-load important information in your communication”

  1. posted by Stellina on

    For voicemails, I state my phone number/e-mail both at the beginning and end of my message. Most importantly, I slow down when relaying them! I’ve had voicemails that coworkers and I have played repeatedly, sped them up and slowed them down, and still couldn’t figure out what the phone number was.

  2. posted by Melissa A. on

    I’m amazed at how inefficient job searching is made by things like this, or terribly designed job portals. There’s a major job site here that almost all public sector organizations use. You can’t upload your resume in pdf. Another time I went on a job interview and found out two things that were really important to the job weren’t emphasized in the job posting. I wouldn’t have bothered if I had known (I didn’t get the job, big surprise).

  3. Avatar of

    posted by chacha1 on

    Re voice messages: if you are leaving one because you have a question for the recipient, for heaven’s sake state your question. Don’t say “I have a question, please call me.”

  4. posted by hmr on

    Also, please use the subject line in emails to front load what the message is about. So often someone in my company uses a vague subject line, and upon opening the email I realize it has nothing to do with me, or that I only need to file it against future questions. “Important,” “Report,” “Question,” or other such nonsense make it impossible to prioritize when reading or to find when searching.

  5. posted by Wendy on

    Thank you for writing this. In the past I’ve read through so many job listings that put the “deal-killer” at the end. A waste of time, indeed.

  6. posted by Cristian on

    If the Spanish (or any language) is critical for the job….why they didn’t just write the Job listing in Spanish (or the language required)??

  7. posted by Jill on

    Great points by everyone. I was reading the job posting thinking cool and then the dreaded Spanish requirement. Sometimes the most simple of concepts are the toughest to get a handle on.

    I am just only learning to put things away after I use them and to store things where I use them….duh. Would have been a handy skillset to have adopted years ago!!

  8. posted by Elizabeth on

    Occasionally, when sending an e-mail, I will even put in the title “Response Required” and a summary title of the subject matter. Notably when I’ve e-mailed prospective employers with a question about an advertised job so they don’t just see some random e-mail from a stranger pop up and just sit on it. Also use it in any e-mail when I need a prompt respinse in order to act. It’s always worked in getting a prompt answer.

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