A recent New York Times article by Stuart Elliott about retailers using Vine provides solid guidance how to better tell your personal story to advance your career. While I’m focusing on resumes, the concept applies to most communications.

It seems that the time we’re expected to present our career story has decreased along with TV commercials as :60 became :30 became :15.

Now, Vine seems to represent the next limitation, :06, which coincidentally is the amount of time Executive Recruiters are reported to spend screening resumes.

Therefore you have only six seconds to generate enough interest for the resume reviewer to take the time to actually read your resume.

Wait, this gets worse.

  • It takes about four seconds to simply read your history: jobs, titles, companies and education, to see if you qualify based on the specs.
  • That leaves about two seconds to differentiate and levitate your career story into consideration.  This length isn’t new to advertising or newspapers.
    • How long do drivers on the thruway have to read a successful billboard?
    • How many words do the NY Post and Daily News need for their front-page headlines to convince you to buy their papers?

Tom Lamb, Lowe’s CMO, is quoted in the Times as saying that using short form advertising such as Vine “forces you to have a sharp point and get to it quickly.”

John Osborn, BBDO New York President & CEO, is more specific in the article as he is described as praising Vine for helping “cut through the clutter.”

Here’s a second way to look at the importance of delivering your career story message quickly.

The Useful Usability blog by W. Craig Tomlin, a friend as well as usability guru and blogger, recommends a five second test to increase website conversion. I’m merely suggesting that the same test works for resume review.

Craig conducted hundreds of website audits and found that a critical driver of website success is the ability of the home page to deliver three pieces of critical information in five seconds:

  • Who are you?
  • What product or service do you provide?
  • Why should I care? (aka What’s in it for me?)

Don’t be discouraged: many people have figured out how to communicate their positioning in two seconds.

I recommend that you look up ten people you respect on LinkedIn. Hopefully you will find at least a few who are successfully communicating their career story in three to nine words… which takes about two seconds to read.

  • Delivering better leads for better ROI.
  • Sell new large volume outlets.
  • CEO looking for next turnaround.
  • Bootstrap marketer maximizing small budgets.

When I worked for small town dailies during college, my newspaper editors told me:

  • Get to the point fast.
  • Don’t bury the lead.
  • The headline has to grab the reader.

This is still good advice that applies to newspaper articles, advertising, and career tools such as resumes and LinkedIn.

While the exact length of time is debatable and will vary by the reviewer, I think ignoring the concept of a fast and sharp sale puts your job search (and any sale) at peril.

(This content was originally posted at MENGonline.)


Richard is Chairman Emeritus of the Marketing Executives Networking Group, founder of Demand Marketing consulting firm, and former Sr. VP of Marketing for three multi-billion dollar companies: CEC, WLP, and Service Merchandise. His early career was at GE, P&G, Playtex, and Marketing Corporation of America. He’s also a volunteer counselor for SCORE assisting small businesses in upstate New York. You can follow his communications about marketing, job search and careers here and at mengonlineENTREPRENEURS QUESTIONS, and on Twitter at @Sellers_Richard.

About Richard Sellers

Richard is Chairman Emeritus of the Marketing Executives Networking Group, founder of Demand Marketing consulting firm, and former Sr. VP of Marketing for three multi-billion dollar companies: CEC, WLP, and Service Merchandise. His early career was at GE, P&G, Playtex, and Marketing Corporation of America. He’s also a volunteer counselor for SCORE assisting small businesses in upstate New York. You can follow his communications about marketing, job search and careers here and at mengonlineENTREPRENEURS QUESTIONS, and on Twitter at @Sellers_Richard.

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"You Have to Tell Your Career Story Fast" by @ShellyPalmer

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