Should I Tweet the Boss? Business Communication in the Digital Age

Hiring managers aren’t just looking for solid interpersonal aptitude and an error-free cover letter anymore. Today, the “communication skills” so valued by employers also extend to texting, social networking, email and any other way you might interact with a colleague or client. In fact, a recent survey by CareerBuilder found that 43 percent of HR professionals use social networking sites to vet candidates. Among these managers, about a third have tossed applicants out of the running specifically because their online presence demonstrated poor communication skills, i.e. writing. Etiquette and tradition have yet to catch up to the many ways we now reach each other, but a few guidelines can help employees stand out in the job search and at the office.

Build a Wall

Tricky as it may be, it’s worth keeping professional networks and social circles separate online. It’s often best, for example, to keep Facebook for true acquaintances and social contacts you trust. By locking down your security settings to make content accessible only to friends, you can ensure the boozy photos your nephew shared of his recent college adventures don’t show up on your page if an employer finds it through Google. Even when a co-worker, boss or client wants to connect directly on a social network you’ve designated as friends-only, you’ve got options. Entrepreneurs can direct people to a Facebook page or Twitter account opened in the name of a business, while public figures can direct them to a Facebook fan page. Another option is to ignore a Facebook request but to immediately invite the requestee to connect on LinkedIn or another professional platform instead to signal respect for his or her desire to keep in touch professionally. Even with carefully curated accounts, though, it’s also important to realize anything you post online has the potential to become public.

Find the Rules

When there was just the telephone, it was a safe bet that the boss wouldn’t want to be interrupted after 10 p.m. unless the building was on fire. With email, texting and messaging apps, though, there truly are no hard rules. After all, the person at the other end can control when he or she checks a message, and the sender doesn’t know whether that note will set the recipient’s phone abuzz during dinner. The frequency, format and expectations of text-based digital communication are a matter of personal preference and company culture. One study, for instance, suggested about half of smartphone users were annoyed when someone didn’t respond to a text within an hour. Some companies have realized productivity gains through policies restricting email after work. It’s now critical to make note, not just of what people say, but of how and when they say it so you can communicate with them accordingly. Likewise, it’s also useful to set expectations. For example, if you’re involved in an email exchange toward the end of the day, let the other person know if you don’t plan on checking your inbox after 6 p.m.

It’s Still Writing

Authors are keen to point out that it’s usually more difficult to write a short manuscript than a long one. Just because a message is limited to a few sentences or 140 characters doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be thoughtful. Reread what you’ve written at least once and fix any grammatical or spelling errors. Even on messaging platforms made for speed, sloppiness can hurt your reputation. Also, tailor the style of the message to the person or people receiving it. If someone favors short, two-word replies to your emails, it’s respectful to send the same. If another contact starts every message with a¬†formal salutation and closes with a full name, assume that’s what that person expects from you, as well. There may be few hard-and-fast communication rules to rely on these days. But people still notice attention to detail and respect for the way others do business.

For more than 20 years, Christopher Frederick has helped match the skills of high-value executives with leading companies in real estate. Visit our website at www.chrisfred.com where you can find exclusive job listings for real estate professionals and read more about our one-of-a-kind approach to executive recruitment.