The 150 Character Hurdle

150Characters

When applying to jobs through sites like LinkedIn and The Resumator, there’s always a section that says, “In 150 characters or fewer, tell us what makes you unique. Try to be creative and say something that will catch our eye!” I know I’m not the only person who dreads seeing this text box once my resume is perfected, my cover letter is proofread, and I’m officially drained of creativity. The exclamation point makes the whole thing seem mockingly effervescent in comparison to the tableau of despair I can see reflected in my computer monitor

 I did some work on The Google, and found that there are a whole lot of people out there asking for advice on what to say, but the answers they get are polarized to either flat-out examples or, “If you have to ask, then you’re doing the creativity part wrong.”  In this article, I’m going to address the topic by asking the questions that aren’t being answered, and then answering them by consolidating any useful information I found in each section.

• Should It Be A Summary of My CV or a Flight of Whimsy?

One thing to bear in mind is that the 150 character summary is often the first thing employers use to weed you out. My “what makes me unique” summaries went from listing my hobbies, to talking about my personality, to cracking jokes, but I didn’t feel comfortable using any of them. If someone could shed some light on the specifics of this, that’d be awesome.

The obvious advice is to not be completely unrelated to the matter at hand. I.E. Don’t follow in the footsteps Aleksey Vayner who sent in an 11-page resume, and videos of how much he can bench press. Bragging about how much you can bench press apparently might get you attention, but not the kind you want.

On the other hand, Vayner’s audacity is definitely something that makes him unique, which brings me to my next question.

Where Do I Draw The Line Between Creativity and Professionalism?

So, I lied. There are a lot of help articles on how to write your 150 character summary. The only problems is that they’re all exactly the same. They’re helpful, but not for writing what’s unique about you. There are hundreds of thousands of people out there with the same degree as you. Employers don’t want segments of an elevator speech. They want to know what makes you more relatable than other candidates.

If that helps you, then I’m glad it does, but someone like me needs the more critical advice of how to quantify the amount of risk I should take in being “creative” for something like this. A post from this person hints that poems, personal anecdotes, and ideas of a similar nature aren’t out of the question. They show a side of you that the formality of your application can’t.

• Am I Thinking About It Too Critically?

It’s a possibility.

But, the people who weren’t thinking about it critically were the ones that got tossed in the trash because of spelling mistakes and dumb answers. When I have to worry about competing with more than a hundred other applicants in skill, presentation, creativity, and professionalism, I’m liable to be pretty conservative with my answer. An article entitled, Data Driven Hiring” claims to have rooted out 100 applicants using the “WMYU” question, many of which replied with “n/a.”

To be honest, I think the best way to get over the 150 character hurdle is by taking a big risk, though. Just think about the number of times you’ve heard about people using outlandish tactics or being embarrassingly persistent in applying for jobs. The stories almost always end with, “. . . and they actually hired him/her.”

. . . So what was the safe route again?

*sigh* Divide your statement into three parts. First, list your most recent work experience. Then be “witty” by talking about your hobbies. Tie it all together by mentioning why you’re a perfect fit for the company.

Wait, what was that last part? Mention why you’re a perfect fit for the company?

Yeah. Remember that the company is wondering why they should hire you. If you waste your 150 characters talking about who you are and what you want, it’ll be no better than sending in a YouTube video of yourself struggling on a bench press. If nothing else, show that you’re a strong candidate for the position. We (millennials) are notorious for being lazy and self-entitled, so try to stand out from everyone else by showing that you actually care about the job.

 

That is literally all of the useful information I’ve been able to glean on this particular topic. If anyone reading this has any advice, success stories, or aimless descanting to offer, I encourage you to leave a comment.

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4 thoughts on “The 150 Character Hurdle

  1. I just answered this with “One-handed typing speed of 40-60 WPM (I have no choice here), I bring cookies everywhere I go, and I play roller derby (nothing’s broken, yet)” I’m seriously doubting I’ll get an interview based on that but it was for a “fun” company…

  2. Pingback: What Makes You Unique…in 150 Characters or less? | Gizko

  3. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who finds these things awful. I never have any idea what to say that will make me ‘stand out’ in a good way and not just in a ‘what a weirdo’ way.

    This was helpful though!

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