Have you noticed how many articles these days begin with “Top 3 / 5 / 10 tips” of things you simply must know? Not just in the area of recruitment and job searching but in so many areas of professional life. (Yes, I’m guilty of having written a few of those myself). Although the promise of simplicity and speed beckons us, how useful are they?
When you saw the title on this article, did it make you want to click on it? What went through your mind? Probably something along the lines of: “this sounds as though it will be easy to read and reasonably quick possibly interesting and not too much effort as it’s just a click away and I’ll just jump to the bullet points and accompanying headings which will only take me a second and if it looks interesting I’ll read further but if not I won’t have wasted too much time so why not...”
Are you already disappointed to have read this far and not found those bullet points? Ok, I won’t try your patience any longer.
1) Usefulness: Top tips can be genuinely useful of course but have you noticed how different “top tips” articles on the same subject can vary so greatly? The fact is that a vast majority of these tips are totally subjective as they are written from the point of view of the writer, so their greatest usefulness to you will come from understanding that. If an employer or hiring manager has written a blog post or an article with his or her top tips and you are interested in working with them, you’d be mad not to follow them to the letter.
2) Accuracy:Who are these writers, anyway? The internet has made it possible for billions of people - experts and punters and everyone in between - to broadcast their ideas to the rest of the world. But are they reputable or credible? Everybody has something to say and some of it is even useful, but how much of it is accurate or reliable? When I was a journalist we would never publish something until we knew where and who it came from and whether or not it was reliable and verifiable information. If you are going to take advice from top 10 columns, it helps that it comes from a reliable source.
3) Time:Your instinct was right. If it won’t take but a few seconds to scan the headlines, what have you got to lose... If its rubbish you can go back to what you were doing. If it’s as compelling as this blog post, it’ll have been worth the time investment. Because even if you pick up one useful tip in and amongst the ten, you will have gained benefit.
I can recall one extraordinary class many years ago at university in which we learned how to read a newspaper. We were told to first scan the headlines in the whole paper, make a mental note of what we wanted to go back and then re-read the relevant articles in-depth. The internet now permits us to read many hundreds of headlines a day, but you can use the same technique. Scan what’s out there, bookmark the interesting articles and go back and read them. And use your networks and social media to share the gems and save the rest of us time!