When you meet someone for the first time, the natural inclination and the appropriate one is to make small talk. In an interviewing situation for example it is normal to either talk about the weather or the traffic getting to your appointment. They are easy topics and unlike politics where you never know where someone stands, they are safe topics.
How we introduce ourselves to others also has a logical pattern. In the case of job search, we have that very useful tool we call the elevator speech or the 90-second announcement. It is a way of getting ourselves into a conversation with another human being. By its nature, it shouldn’t have too many details and it should be mercifully brief. The reason is that we need to give the person on the receiving end time to decide whether or not they really want to get to know us. Rattle on at length and the answer may be no.
When we communicate by email for a job, we have no opportunity to deliver a 90-second announcement verbally. We are stuck with preparing a written assault that will in one computer screen or at most two, deliver the essentials of our career and how it applies to the job in question. The problem that is not well recognized is that email cover letters are usually read after the attached resume.
In truth, the resume stands alone, at least until it passes the “smell” test. In other words, unless your resume fits the general profile a search person is looking for, they are not likely to read your cover letter as there is no need to. The advantage that the resume has from the perspective of the recruiter is that it usually conforms to a standard format and is easier to read than your email cover letter.
Sales professionals have an approach they call “qualifying the customer.” In much the same way, recruiters develop a mental check list of key things they are looking for on a particular assignment and make a quick first pass through the pile of responses. If they decide on only one pass, what they will do is use the same approach to decide whether to “read more about it.”
When I speak about making your resume “scannable,” I am talking about making it easy to digest. I am in a sense allowing you to introduce yourself to me without your being there. How quickly can I decide if I want to “meet” you? Well, you don’t honestly have much time.
The more simple you make your resume, the more likely you will get picked. Sure, there are a lot of really interesting things about you that I may like to know some day, but keep in mind that there are resumes that are more appropriate for actual in person meetings and there are resumes that are more appropriate for getting into the pool.
As an example, exact dates may be needed by the Human Resources department to properly fill out your employment application, but year ranges make a resume easier to read.
Detailed accomplishments may be needed when you are interviewing around the company so folks will know the many projects you have completed, but at an early stage, a more general concept of what you do and how you do it will work better.
As they say, timing is everything. In the world of getting yourself introduced, the stage of the process is what you need to keep in mind.