Urban myths from the business world: the “6-seconds test”

“Listen Mr. Vena, I get thousands of resumes every day, if they were all 4 pages long like yours, I’d have to work day and night. And I assure you, I don’t need that.
You have to be concise, get straight to the point.
Just three or four lines, no more.”

“Yes, but I have a long professional experience.
I’m not sure I can put 20 years of work into two sentences.
Besides, there’s always one headhunter who wants to know the structure of the companies where you’ve worked, another one who wants to see the personal results you’ve achieved and another one who’s only interested in knowing the skills you’ve acquired.
I should keep updated 200 different types of CVs.
And I would have to do it in 3 languages too: it would be a full-time job.
As a recruiter, couldn’t you rather make the effort to spend a few minutes reading the CVs that are sent to you ?
In the end, it’s a bit like your job.
If there’s something that’s not clear or that catches your attention, you can then make a phone call.
I may be old-fashioned but I liked better the times when candidates had the opportunity to actually meet the recruiters and talk to them.”

“Excuse me, how can you expect that a recruiter spends time reading resumes or making phone calls ?
Don’t you think we have better things to do ?
You better not exaggerate.
All scientific research says so.
Read HBR’s latest post on Linkedin, for example.
CVs have a life cycle of only 6 seconds.
Beyond that they do not catch people’s attention anymore.
Look, really, just give me a few details, the last position you held and the languages you speak.
We have a foolproof algorithm, don’t worry.
I’ll find you your dream job in less than a week!”

I am doubtful and yet she’s talking about HBR, scientific research, algorithms.
Maybe I should trust her and I should finally stop thinking that in Management the 4 principles of this, the 8 rules of that, are just bullshit.
So, I get started.
Synthetic resume.
Just a few lines.
Contact information, last position held and languages spoken.
In the end it all makes sense.
It’s not stupid at all!
There’s nothing that can tell something about me in two words better than my job as CFO, the prestigious education at Bocconi and HEC and the three languages I speak at a good level: Italian, French and English.

In fact, not much time passes before I am called back.

“Mr. Vena, your synthetic CV passed the 6-second test and I immediately found a perfect match: a Finance Manager position not far from where you live! Sounds good ?”

“Well, I don’t know, maybe…”

“What do you mean, you don’t know ? You aren’t working and you don’t know ?”

“You didn’t tell me anything about the job. I am afraid that with all those things you made me cut on my CV, you might have missed essential things like my age and my experience.
“Manager” sounds pretty junior to me.
Besides, I don’t know anything about the business this company is in too. What do they expect from me ?
Talk to me, let me know: I can allow you much more than 6 seconds.”

“What are you talking about ? I know my job, I told you.
The algorithm, HBR, there’s scientific evidence.
For our client, foreign languages are essential. And you have them.
German is mandatory. You speak German, don’t you?”

“No, I don’t”


  • Often the recruiters who state that they have studied my CV “with the utmost attention” in their answers, start their emails with “Dear Madame”.
  • This one made it at least to the photo “with the utmost attention”.
  • It is possible that “scientific” research also applies to Management theory and that general principles that are effective in every context do exist.
  • Even with people who do their work without passion and without interest.
  • It is also possible that I am cursed to only find such losers.
  • In any case, even the 6-second test didn’t convince me and I strongly advise you to stay away from those who think that the job is done by simply ticking some box.
  • Real life doesn’t work like that and if you don’t put any passion nor interest in what you do you’re just wasting yours and other people’s time.

But what about your CV ? Would it pass the 6-second test ?