The First Ten Minutes

Have you noticed when you watch a movie, the first few minutes, usually less than ten minutes, are filled with action? That’s because movie producers have discovered moviegoers have to be “hooked” in that period of time or they walk out! Just a few minutes!

Some movies even run the credits over the initial action, so they don’t waste your time with, well, no action! I even saw a movie recently that ran all the credits at the end of the movie – none up front. That got my attention right away.

The same principle is true for a book – the first chapter is usually an eye catcher! The main character is introduced in some meaningful way so you want to read the rest of the book.

Now hang in there while I do some math. Ten minutes out of a 2-hour movie is about 8.3% of the total movie time. If we use that same percentage for a 90-minute movie, that “hook” action only lasts 7 ½ minutes. Not a lot of time to make an impression.

Now how do we apply that principle – make an impression right away – to the different parts of a job search – the job description, your résumé, the interview, and the job offer. Let’s look at each.

The Job Description

The job description, which usually includes the job title, should get your attention within just a few seconds. If it doesn’t, then it’s probably not your job. Don’t waste time trying to read something into the job description that isn’t there. Move on with your search.

I will admit however, I’ve read some job descriptions that did a good job of hiding what the employer really wanted. Shame on them! But do you really want to work for a company that cannot clearly express their expectations? Unless the position is being filled to correct that shortcoming, don’t waste time entertaining yourself; move on with your search.

Your Résumé

When you find a job that seems attractive to you, it’s time to craft your résumé. I say craft because every résumé you submit should be written to address a specific job. If you send the same résumé to ten different jobs, you are wasting your time and theirs.

Now is the time to put into play the principle discussed above. You have to make a good impression in about 10 seconds. That’s right! Just ten seconds. It doesn’t matter how long or short your résumé is; if you don’t get their attention in the first ten seconds, they won’t read the rest of your distinguished list of achievements and skills.

In the “old” days, we used to put a paragraph at the top of a résumé describing what we wanted out of a job; in other words, what our goals were. Nowadays, you must put your best foot forward and describe how you will help the employer reach their goals. It takes practice to accomplish that in no more than four or five lines.

This is when you discover the reason we say looking for work is a full-time job. You must do your research on each employer! Find out what they do and how they’ve become successful. See who their competitors are. Discover their weaknesses, if you can. See what former employees say about the company. Re-examine your skills and experience to see how you fit into their way of doing things.

Now is the time to read the job description with a fine tooth comb and a marking pen or highlighter. Look for and mark key words that can be incorporated into your résumé. Anyone at the company who reads your résumé will recognize those words. And it is a sure bet that if the résumé is scanned by a computer system it will be looking for those keywords, and score your application accordingly.

Remember, you only have ten seconds to make a good first impression with your résumé!

The Interview

So now you get the email saying they want to interview you. What now? Again, the above principle comes into play. It doesn’t matter whether they interview you in person, via Skype, or just on the phone. Many initial interviews don’t last longer than about 30 minutes. Using our derived percentage means you have about 2 ½ minutes, and probably less, to make a good first impression.

A typical first question or request might be, “Tell us about yourself.” Knowing this in advance allows you all week to prepare a pithy statement that grabs their attention and improves their interest in hiring you. But be careful not to talk too much – no more than about 90 seconds is a good response time for this initial inquiry.

Be prepared to ask appropriate questions during the interview that provide you the information you require to make a decision. An interview should be a two-way conversation to be successful.

There are dozens of web sites that offer suggestions on how to answer interview questions. Prepare yourself! Do your research. Prepare answers for all of those potential questions. Every interviewer won’t ask every question, but by the time you finish your 10th interview, you will have touched on most of them. Make sure your answers sound natural and don’t forget to include in every answer a skill or experience you know they want. If you don’t have direct experience, show them with examples how your previous experience has prepared you to successfully address their needs.

The Job Offer

You’ve done your homework, prepared properly, and impressed them so much they now present you with a job offer. Now you have to ask yourself if you really want to work for them. Do you fit into their culture? Will you be happy with the travel requirements? Is the pay adequate? Can you handle the commute? Do they expect you to work overtime?

By the time the job offer arrives, you should already have the answers to these questions and a dozen more. Yes, the question of how to discuss pay is the most frequent question people have asked me. Here is one way to address pay without breaking the basic rule about pay – The first party to mention pay is the loser!

At the point where they ask how much you expect to be paid, say something like this: I’m glad you asked that. We’ve discussed my previous experience, my skills, and my interest in your company. I’m excited with the opportunity to add to your bottom line! You must have given some thought to the value you expect the ideal candidate to bring to this position. Since you have made me an offer, you must believe I am that ideal individual. What did you have in mind to offer that ideal individual?

I have a son who used this strategy, and he ended up with a starting pay 20% greater than what he expected. And that suggested strategy only takes about 12 seconds to throw the ball back in their court!


You now have a strategy for applying the principle of making a good first impression during the different parts of a job search – the job description, your résumé, the interview, and the job offer. Preparation is the key for ending up with the ideal job offer. When you consider that you have eight hours a day for five days every week to prepare, there is no excuse for not making a good first impression right from the beginning!

So, what’s with the title then? The point is, you don’t have a lot of time to make that good first impression. If it takes you ten minutes, you’ve probably already lost your audience – the hiring manager! You are not making a movie or writing a book! You are trying to land the perfect job in a competitive environment. Learn to sell yourself quickly and well. Sometimes, all you get is 30 seconds. Now, as a famous ship’s captain once said, make it so!

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