How Less is More (Effective)

July 30, 2010 at 11:42 am Leave a comment

To impress or attract attention, one often pours it on. A job hunter’s first impulse is often to try to dazzle a recruiter or hiring manager with a long, cleverly composed, anecdote-filled cover letter; a resume listing every position they ever held and every accomplishment attained; and, if they score an interview, a theatrical performance focused on why they are the best candidate ever for this job!

But it’s too much, it’s just too much. Hiring managers have seen much of it before. They’re also overwhelmed with other candidates who are also pouring it on. What they want is information and a straightforward appeal for the position by someone who is truly qualified and really wants the job — that will get their attention.

Out of nervousness or because it is so important to them, many job seekers make the mistake of doing too much. They talk too much in an interview, their resume is too long and overloaded with unnecessary details, their cover letter is too packed, and they bother the hiring manager too much in trying to get their attention while they’re making their decision. If you may be guilty of any of these too-much tendencies, it’s time to embrace the less-is-more mantra.

Consider these tips for being more effective with less in a job hunt:

*Start with your resume. I know I sound like a broken record on this point, but it’s absolutely true — in journalism (and for many other professional fields outside academia) a one-page resume is sufficient for most job hunters; you can go to two pages if you’re more senior, but you need to have a lot to show for those two pages. Padding a resume is one of the worst ways to start out with a hiring manager. I know from doing some resume consulting that a lot of what is listed on a resume — especially job descriptions — can be cut without losing much, and a shorter, crisper, less packed resume is much more likely to be carefully read by a recruiter. Think relevance (decades-old jobs likely aren’t going to do you much good), focusing on achievement rather than job duties, and providing details that will whet their appetite to get to know you. And always print out your electronic resume to see what it will look like to a recruiter — as most of them will print it out rather than read it on the screen.

*Cover letters are just that — not reports or books. A cover letter should be one page; period. If it goes on longer than that, the recruiter or hiring manager will get bored, and will wonder about your self-editing abilities. This document is meant to emphasize some key details of your resume, not to repeat that document. It should be well-written, carefully edited and have a conversational tone. It is not meant to be a biography or to tell all about why you got into journalism or why you love D.C. or who you “really” are. It is your introduction to the organization — it should mention why you would be a strong candidate for this particular position and why you are interested in working for this company. A rule of thumb: One thought per paragraph and don’t jam too much into any one graph. Print it out to make sure you’re not visually burdening the reader (recruiter) in any one section.

*Stay focused in an interview. You want to make the best case for yourself, obviously, during the all-important interview, yet you don’t want to ramble and you want the hiring manager to talk as much as you do. You should answer all questions in an interview in a friendly and confident manner yet you don’t want to give speeches. You never want to interrupt the hiring manager. If it looks like you’ve talked too much and you’re losing the interviewer, you are — stop rambling and ask a question that will bring their focus back to you. Practice at home before the interview and if you’re worried about talking too much, time yourself or better yet, practice with a friend who will be honest about whether you’re droning on.

*Don’t overdo it in other ways. For interviews, don’t overdress — a crisp, professional business suit is always best — women should keep it simple with jewelry (you don’t want to wear earrings or bracelets that jangle or make noise, which could be distracting to the interviewer) and everyone should watch it with the perfume or cologne (a gagging interviewer is an unhappy interviewer). And after you’ve written your thank-you note following the interview, wait a while to check in with the organization. If the hiring manager says they’ll be back in touch in several weeks, don’t email (and certainly don’t call) in several days asking whether they’ve made a decision. Less tends to be more (effective) in following up with an organization, too.

*Fellowships are a great way to burnish your resume, expand your knowledge and widen your network. And often they are paid, or mostly paid…Some organizations will accept free-lance journalists or those working independently or part-time, which can be a great opportunity for job-hunting journos! And don’t only consider year-long or months-long fellowships, often a week or days-long seminar can be quite useful as well. Along those lines, here are some opportunities through the National Press Foundation for upcoming fellowships — but they’re competitive, so apply soon if interested:

APPLY NOW: Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists

Program Dates: October 10-13, 2010
Application Deadline: September 3, 2010 5:00 PM
The National Press Foundation is offering fellowships to two US-based print and broadcast journalists to attend the annual Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists. The 3-day seminar takes place at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. It offers journalists the opportunity to expand their knowledge of business by attending courses conducted by leading Wharton faculty, hear guest lectures by business leaders, and compete in an intensive, computer-simulated strategic management exercise. More information and application instructions are available on our website.

APPLY NOW: Fellowship to Study Lung Health Issues in Berlin

Program Dates: November 10-15, 2010
Application Deadline: 5:00 PM EST August 16, 2010
Location: Berlin, Germany
Collaboration with: The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease
Fifteen international journalists will be selected for a six-day, all-expenses-paid fellowship in Berlin, Germany to attend the 41st Union World Conference on Tuberculosis and Lung Health and the Journalist to Journalist training on lung diseases. Special consideration will be given this year to applicants working in India, Russia, Egypt, China, Peru and Africa. More than 10 million people each year die of lung diseases, yet public demand and political commitment remain inadequate to effect significant change. The sessions will feature presentations and discussions with experts on tuberculosis, childhood pneumonia, COPD, TB/HIV co-infection, and more. The fellowships include three days of training in advance of the conference and daily guidance on coverage throughout the conference. Check out the December 2009 archive of our blog to read about last year’s program. Click here to apply.

*To wrap up this hazy, hot and humid Washington work week, here are some good leads to check out:

*This is a part-time opportunity that could make sense for a wordsmith while they job hunt. Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Md., is looking for an English composition assistant:

English Composition Assistant – Quince Orchard High School (6 hours)
Montgomery County Public Schools – Rockville, MD
of in-class writing, reacting to their writing, and… the communication of this knowledge to students. Other combinations of applicable education, training, and…
From Montgomery County Public Schools

*Westat in Rockville has an opening for a proposal editor/coordinator:

Proposal Editor/Coordinator
Westat – Rockville, MD
3265BR Job Title Proposal Editor/Coordinator Location… writing schedules, format, recordkeeping, reproduction, and delivery of proposals. A Proposal Editor must…

*Here’s a good Hill opportunity — A Western Senator (Democrat)’s  D.C. office is looking for a press secretary:

Western Democratic Senator seeks experienced, highly-skilled media professional to join a busy four-person press shop. This is not an entry-level position. The successful candidate will have at least three years of experience working in a high-visibility, fast-paced major media market, with a broad portfolio of highly-polished clips (speeches, published articles, statements and press releases). Must have on-the-record experience, very good references and experience staffing a high-profile public figure. Knowledge of issues affecting the West Coast strongly preferred. Experience with web development and video production is also a plus. This position is based in Washington, D.C. Please send cover letter, resume and 5 writing samples to

*With a hat tip to (for these next several leads), the Calvert Recorder in Prince Frederick, Md., is looking for a full-time reporter:

Company: Post-Newsweek Media
Prince Frederick, Maryland
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Negotiable
Ad Expires:
September 1, 2010
Job ID: 1188537

The Calvert Recorder in Calvert County, Md., has an opening for a reporter. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English or related field and the ability to develop and work with sources to uncover stories and produce enterprising reports. Hard news experience a must. The beat includes some evening and weekend work.

If interested, please send resume, references and clips to Carrie Lovejoy, 134 Main Street, Prince Frederick, MD 20664; or

We offer a competitive compensation and comprehensive benefits package including pension, 401(k) and tuition reimbursement. EOE.

*The Federal Times in Springfield, Va., needs a reporter to cover the federal government’s energy-efficiency efforts:

Company: Federal Times
award-winning newsweekly
Springfield, Virginia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
September 2, 2010
Job ID: 1188767

Federal Times, an award-winning Gannett newsweekly, seeks an experienced beat reporter to cover the federal government’s ambitious efforts to become more energy efficient and eco-friendly. Specifically, this reporter will cover the government’s multibillion-dollar effort to become green through state-of-the-art building technologies, eco-friendly building construction and renovation, data center consolidation, alternative-fuel fleet vehicles, renewable energy, reduced business travel and increased teleworking. We seek a highly motivated, enterprising reporter who possesses a critical eye and has a proven record of breaking news, generating and executing insightful story ideas, and taking on in-depth project stories. Federal Times is the recipient of numerous journalism awards for government coverage and is a must read for federal leaders and lawmakers. Applicants should have at least 3 years of beat reporting experience. Send resume and clips to M/F/D/V

*Politico in Arlington has several openings, including one for a media coordinator:

Media coordinator
Arlington, Virginia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
September 20, 2010
Job ID: 1184130

We are looking for a creative and highly organized individual to join our media team. Responsibilities include booking and producing POLITICO media appearances. While the position involves responding to media requests, the ideal candidate will be proactive in pitching POLITICO stories and reporters to television and radio producers. The candidate should be media savvy and able to establish and maintain excellent relationships with outside media organizations. Ideal candidates will be available to work flexible, irregular hours, nights, holidays and weekends to meet the needs of the department.


Minimum of two years professional media/media relations experience • Strong written and verbal communication skills • An interest in politics and a keen editorial eye • Highly organized with the ability to multitask efficiently and work under deadline pressure • Experience with cameras and editing software a plus • Self-motivated and able to work both individually and with a team.

To apply:

Please send a brief cover letter, resume and contact information for three references to, subject line Media coordinator.

No phone calls, please.

*The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in D.C. has an opening for a Web manager:

Company: Economic Policy Institute
Web Manager
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
September 1, 2010
Job ID: 1188372

Web Manager

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the nation’s leading progressive economic think tank, is seeking an experienced Web Manager to maintain its Web sites, email lists, and databases and to assist in expanding our online presence. Experience with online outreach strategy—such as online video production and social media development—would distinguish the successful candidate from other applicants.

Job description As an integral member of the EPI Communications Department, the Web Manager oversees and maintains the technical integrity of EPI’s various Web sites. The Web Manager advises and assists in the planning, development, and implementation of current and future web sites and their features. The Web Manager is responsible for monitoring, improving, and updating site performance, posting content, and maintaining email lists and other electronic databases.

Additional responsibilities include

* Perform frequent content postings and other updates. * Optimize site content for maximum visibility and ranking in major search engines (SEO). * Optimize in-site search engine results (Google Mini/Google Search Appliance; Google Custom Search—hosted). * Monitor and provide regular written reports on Web site traffic, traffic referrals from other Web sites, and email list subscribers using Google Analytics and other tools. * Develop new site features/applications (e.g., donation forms, online calculators, etc.). * Handle basic Web administration, such as maintaining domain name registrations, site hosting services, responding to inquiries from site visitors, etc. * Assist in maintaining institute branding, tone, and in-house style. * Work closely with other departmental staff to ensure that EPI sites are appropriately updated, dynamic, user friendly, and conform to standards of usability and accessibility. * Analyze site traffic, and evaluate site effectiveness. * Provide technical assistance and software training, as appropriate, to other staff members. * Ability to work productively with design and content generating members of communications department and contractors. * Integrate Web 2.0 technologies (social networking, video sharing, blogs, etc.) with existing EPI sites. * Develop strategies for constituent email list growth. * Optimize photographs and other graphic elements (via Adobe Photoshop) for Web site and e-mail communications. * Work with outside vendors, handle RFPs/RFQs. * Ensure all content is compatible across all modern browsers. * Stay abreast of latest developments in Web technology and standards; apply knowledge to continually improve and upgrade structure and usability of EPI Web sites. * Control naming conventions and linking conventions of web pages, images, and multimedia files.


* In-depth knowledge of XHTML, CSS, Web standards and best practices. * Experience with content management systems (CMSs); ExpressionEngine CMS preferred. * Experience with constituent management system (CRM) administration (Democracy In Action/Salsa or Blue State Digital preferred). Knowledge of best practices for HTML email. * Expert knowledge of Dreamweaver and Photoshop; familiarity with other Adobe Creative Suite tools. * Multiple programming language proficiencies: SQL (MySQL), PHP, Adobe Flash with Actionscript, and JavaScript. * Knowledge of Web 2.0 technologies—including social networking, blogs, RSS, etc. * Digital video production and editing experience highly beneficial; Final Cut preferred. Familiarity with Web audio/video workflows (primarily publishing to Flash Video, QuickTime, and/or MP3 formats). * Proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite (primarily Excel, Word, and Outlook). * Experience with database conversion/migration helpful. * Ability to adapt and work in a fast-paced environment when necessary. * Excellent organization, project management, and communication skills. * Self starter; organized and detail oriented. * Bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or equivalent in related professional experience. * Three to five years experience.

About EPI The Economic Policy Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that seeks to broaden the public debate about strategies to achieve a prosperous and fair economy. The Research and Policy department conducts research on labor markets, education, health care, international trade, race and ethnicity, and fiscal policy. More information can be found online at The Economic Policy Institute is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

To Apply To apply, send cover letter and resume via email to, or mail hard copies to the Economic Policy Institute, Attn: Web Manager job application, 1333 H St., NW, Suite 300 East, Washington, DC 20005, or faxed to 202-775-0819. Please send inquiries to above email address. No phone calls, please.

*And last but not least, the Chronicle of Higher Education in D.C. is looking for an editorial research assistant:

Company: The Chronicle of Higher Education
Editorial Research Assistant
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
September 1, 2010
Job ID: 1176643

The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Chronicle of Philanthropy are seeking an Editorial Research Assistant who will help support a dynamic Research and Data Unit.

Under the direction of the Manager of Special Projects, the Editorial Research Assistant will contribute to conducting original surveys, secondary data collection, data assembly/analysis/presentation, and content production in support of the editorial and journalist functions.

Key responsibilities are:

•Manage and complete tasks necessary for various in-house surveys of higher education and philanthropy topics.

•Participate in original survey projects at their inception stage, helping to generate and edit project ideas and questions. •Help design new surveys or modify existing surveys to adapt for changes in the philanthropic and higher education communities.

•Edit database and survey design; tests online survey functionality; prepare databases for data collection by updating contact information and The Chronicle’s log of documents on file.

•Work with colleagues in the New Media department to prepare, maintain, and be responsible for special project databases.

•During survey data collection, participate in several rounds of outreach to respondents. This involves calling respondents to encourage survey participation and making inquiries via phone and e-mail to follow up on data questions relating to surveys after they are submitted.

•Participate in the analysis of survey findings and generation of an internal report to guide the Editorial staff on project development for publication.

•Use Excel to analyze survey data and compare findings with previously-compiled original data and outside source data. •Brief reporters and editors on findings. •Contribute to special reports in print and online formats. •Prepare data for display and sale in online environments.

•Write occasional content on project results.



•Knowledge of SPSS is preferred.

•Knowledge of how online and print content management systems work, or willingness to learn.


•Organizational skills and attention to detail.

•Database populating and management skills.

•Intermediate proficiency in MS Office Suite, with an emphasis on Excel.

•Software learning skills and willingness to learn other computer packages as needed.

•Interpersonal skills that facilitate professional, positive communication with outside survey respondents, subscribers, or members of the public interested in The Chronicles’ data or projects, via phone conversations and electronic communications.


•Ability to function flexibly as part of a team on multiple projects in a fast-paced deadline-driven environment.

•Ability to collaborate with multiple departments, such as IT, marketing, New Media, and other specialties to further project work and goals.


Bachelor’s degree is required, preferably in journalism, business, education, nonprofit studies, or another social science discipline involving surveying and quantitative methods.


A minimum of one year of experience in research or media settings involving a combination of surveying, data analysis, and writing is required. Experience with written and graphical (tables, charts and graphs) content production at a variety of scales, in print and web environments is desirable. Familiarity with the higher education and philanthropic sectors is a plus.

Interested candidates should send a cover letter, resume, salary requirements and a maximum of three writing samples to with “Editorial Research Assistant” in the subject heading. Incomplete responses will not be considered.

No phone calls, please.

The Chronicle is based in Washington, D.C.

We offer excellent benefits and competitive salaries.

Happy hunting, and have a relaxing weekend. I’ll be back with you bright and early Monday morning, in a new month!



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Why Job Hunters Must Respond Right Away Figuring Out Whether It’s a Good Fit

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