The Initial Ten Minutes

Walker Brown

Have you ever noticed that the first few minutes of a movie, usually less than ten minutes, are filled with action? This is because movie producers have discovered that moviegoers must be “hooked” in that time frame or they will leave! Only a few minutes!

Some films even run the credits over the first act to avoid wasting your time with, well, no action! I even saw a movie recently that had all of the credits at the end and none at the beginning. That immediately drew my attention.

The same is true for books: the first chapter is usually an attention grabber! The main character is introduced in an interesting way that makes you want to read the rest of the book.

Now bear with me while I do some math. Ten minutes out of a two-hour film is approximately 8.3 percent of the total running time. If we use the same percentage for a 90-minute film, the “hook” action lasts only 7 12 minutes. There isn’t much time to make an impression.

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

The Position Description

The job description, which usually includes the job title, should pique your interest in a matter of seconds. If it doesn’t, you’re probably not the right person for the job. Don’t waste time attempting to read something that isn’t in the job description. Continue your search.

I will admit, however, that I have read some job descriptions that did an excellent job of concealing what the employer truly desired. They should be ashamed! But do you really want to work for a company that can’t express its expectations clearly? Don’t waste time entertaining yourself unless the position is being filled to address that shortcoming; instead, move on with your search.

Your Curriculum Vitae

When you find a job that interests you, it’s time to start working on your résumé. I say craft because each résumé you submit should be tailored to a specific job. Sending the same résumé to ten different jobs is a waste of both your and their time.

Now is the time to put the preceding principle into action. You have about 10 seconds to make a good first impression. That’s correct! Only ten seconds. It makes no difference how long or short your résumé is; if you don’t capture their attention within the first ten seconds, they won’t read the rest of your impressive list of accomplishments and skills.

We used to put a paragraph at the top of a résumé describing what we wanted out of a job; in other words, our objectives. Nowadays, you must put your best foot forward and explain how you will assist the employer in meeting their objectives. It takes practice to do that in less than four or five lines.

This is when you realize why we say that looking for work is a full-time job. You must conduct thorough research on each employer! Discover what they do and how they’ve achieved success. Look at who their competitors are. If you can, find out what their weaknesses are. Check out what former employees have to say about the company. Examine your skills and experience to see where you fit in with their way of doing things.

Now is the time to go over the job description with a fine tooth comb and a highlighter or marking pen. Look for and highlight key words that can be used in your résumé. Anyone who reads your résumé at the company will recognize those words. And you can bet that if your résumé is scanned by a computer system, it will look for those keywords and score your application accordingly.

Keep in mind that you only have ten seconds to make a good first impression with your résumé!

The Meeting

So you get an email saying they’d like to interview you. What happens next? Again, the preceding principle is at work. It makes no difference whether they interview you in person, via Skype, or over the phone. Many initial interviews last no more than 30 minutes. Using our calculated percentage, you have about 2 12 minutes, if not less, to make a good first impression.

“Tell us about yourself,” for example, is a common first question or request. Knowing this ahead of time allows you to spend the entire week preparing a succinct statement that captures their attention and increases their interest in hiring you. But be careful not to talk too much – a response time of no more than 90 seconds is appropriate for this initial inquiry.

Prepare to ask pertinent questions during the interview that will provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision. To be successful, an interview should be a two-way conversation.

There are dozens of websites that provide advice on how to respond to interview questions. Take precautions! Do your homework. Prepare responses to all potential questions. Every interviewer will not ask every question, but by the end of your tenth interview, you will have covered the majority of them. Make sure your answers sound natural, and don’t forget to include a skill or experience you know they want in every answer. If you don’t have direct experience, show them how your previous experience has prepared you to address their needs successfully.

The Job Opportunity

You’ve done your research, prepared properly, and impressed them so much that they’ve extended you a job offer. You must now decide whether you truly want to work for them. Do you fit in with their way of life? Will you be able to meet the travel requirements? Is the pay sufficient? Will you be able to handle the commute? Do they expect you to work extra hours?

By the time the job offer arrives, you should have answers to these and a dozen other questions. Yes, the most frequently asked question I receive is about how to discuss pay. Here’s one way to talk about pay without breaking the basic pay rule: the first person to mention pay is the loser!

When they ask how much you expect to be paid, say something like this: “I’m glad you asked.” We’ve talked about my previous experience, skills, and interest in your company. I’m excited about the opportunity to contribute to your bottom line! You must have given some thought to the value you anticipate the ideal candidate bringing to this position. You must believe I am that ideal person because you have made me an offer. What did you have in mind for that ideal individual?

My son used this strategy and ended up with a starting salary that was 20% higher than what he expected. And that suggested strategy only takes about 12 seconds to put the ball back in their court!


You now have a strategy for applying the principle of making a good first impression during the various stages of a job search – the job description, your résumé, the interview, and the job offer. Preparation is essential for obtaining the best job offer. When you consider that you have eight hours a day, five days a week to prepare, there is no excuse for not making a good first impression right from the start!

So, what’s the story behind the title? The point is, you don’t have much time to make a good first impression. If it takes you ten minutes, you’ve probably already lost your audience – the hiring manager! You are not making a film or writing a book! In a competitive environment, you’re attempting to land the ideal job. Learn to sell yourself quickly and effectively. Sometimes you only get 30 seconds. Now, as a famous ship’s captain once said, make it so!