According to a Microsoft study, a goldfish now has a longer attention span than you do.
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Hey, over here — there's more!
Microsoft found that the average human's attention span is now eight seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. The goldfish clocks in at nine seconds.
Why does Microsoft care, and why should you? Because shorter attention spans affect concentration, comprehension, reading, advertising, and interpersonal interactions.
Given how short the average person's attention span is — and that includes hiring managers and recruiters — how can you become a memorable candidate?
It's actually quite easy: Leave behind a business card.
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The practice of exchanging business cards seems to have originated in China in the 15th century, according to some sources. The practice has evolved since then, but there's a reason it's still with us all these centuries later. Having a card to present while networking accomplishes several things:
It shows that you're prepared. You're not fumbling around for a pen and scrap of paper on which to scrawl your contact info.
It presents the important information you want a person to know, such as how to contact you and how to find out more about you.
It demonstrates respect for the tradition of reciprocating the exchange of cards. Avoid that uncomfortable moment when someone gives you a gift and you don't have one for them!
It's not enough to simply have a business card; you want something that presents the best of you. A few guidelines on what makes a great card:
Provide only necessary information so the card is not cluttered and doesn't confuse the reader. Name, one phone number, one email address, maybe a mailing address, maybe a LinkedIn URL (not Facebook!), and a personal website, if you have one.
Select a simple theme/colors/font combination that reflects your personality but looks professional. Your business card should be easy to read, and card scanners should be able to parse it. A fancy script and/or tiny typeface are red flags about your judgment.
Give yourself a title, like "Sales Consultant," "Customer Service Specialist," "Digital Marketer" — something memorable and realistic. Unless you're in a really creative field, don't get cutesy. No one likes a "Chief Thinking Officer," "Creative Guru," or "Rainmaker Extraordinaire."
Utilize the back of the card for a few lines about your accomplishments or qualifications, such as "Master's degree in education," "Certified in C++," or "Proficient in Google Analytics." Leave at least the top half of the card's back empty so the person has space to write notes.
Remember: Receiving another person's card is an invitation to follow up with them. Duck into another room and make notes of everything you can remember about your conversation on the back of the card. This may include information like a spouse's name, a reminder to send an article of interest, inside information about their company, projects they're working on, or next steps for following up.
You are an outsider trying to get inside. That's what networking is all about. The goal is for the recipient to remember you weeks and months later. You want them to think of you when they have a vacancy or hear about one before it's posted.
You are continuing a 400-year tradition of introductions and etiquette, so carry the cards in a decent case. Resist the temptation to use a binder clip or rubber band.
You may make a good first impression, but a business card leaves a lasting impression. That's how you become memorable.
Ferris Kaplan is founder of Best of You Resumes.