BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Perhaps in some other universe ...

As I've previously noted, I will, from time to time, get queried by any of a handful of publishes (on whose radar I apparently appear) as to my interest in getting a review copy of an upcoming book. This one came from such a communication by the good folks at Ten Speed Press, the home of the Bolles' “Parachute” job-search book empire. It's been a while since I'd read any books specifically about the job search, and was, frankly, feeling a bit guilty that I was letting down my readers over on The Job Stalker by only bringing them “societally important” or “business trend” books in recent months, so I was quite open to adding this to my “to be read” pile.

Had my reading over the past half year or so trended more to job-search topics, I might have taken a bit more discerning look at Quentin J. Schultze's Résumé 101: A Student and Recent-Grad Guide to Crafting Resumes and Cover Letters that Land Jobs. First of all, The Job Stalker is largely focused on those “in between jobs”, meaning that I'd assume that most of my readers there would have at least a modicum of professional background to work with on their resumes. This, being quite directly targeted to those in or recently out of college, has an entirely different focus … which, additionally, really didn't “speak to me” much, given how long I've been out of college! Secondly, there's the old joke about opinions, and how they're like certain bodily orifices in that “everybody's got one” … this adage is perhaps cubed when it comes to the subject of resumes.

I can not begin the count the number of wholly contradictory opinions (often presented as Universal and Unquestionable Truths) I've encountered on the subject of resumes in articles, books, webinars, lectures, workshops, and consulting sessions … the only consistent element is that each disagrees with the others, frequently vehemently. I, of course, have my own thoughts on the subject, and my resume reflects an amalgam of assorted approaches … and it has garnered reactions from folks doing “resume reviews” from total snide dismissal as “hopeless” to “looks good, I wouldn't make any significant changes” (I would like to point out that I've gotten this latter reaction from a number of places who make their money writing resumes, so I feel that's a particularly strong endorsement).

I wanted to set up this context for my review of Résumé 101, which started off quite strong (in my opinion) and then “fell completely off the table” for me. Honestly, there is stuff in here that goes 180° from much of what I've recently paid to hear about resume development that it boggled my mind … the one defense that I can come up with for Dr. Schultze here is that he is a college professor working with college students who, generally speaking, have “nothing to say” (professionally) on their resumes yet need to say something. He also makes recommendations for preparation of resumes that, were I to do these things in my job search, it would double my time devoted to getting out applications, and probably cut down the number of things that I could apply to by a factor of 10 or more!

Again, this started off well in the introductory chapters where the author is dealing with the philosophy of the resume, I felt that the first two of these were particularly good examples:
{in comparison to a “sales piece”} … in a résumé you leave out as much as possible, because the employer is reading your résumé to see if there's any excuse for screening you out. Put in one or two sentences too many, or mention something that you think might eventually “sell” you but is misinterpreted on a piece of paper that an employer spends about eight seconds scanning (typically), and you're toast.
{A}n authentic résumé is far more than a list of jobs. A résumé is “you” in a particular written format. A résumé is “you” on paper or on a computer screen. A résumé is what you offer to an employer – somewhat like what a restaurant menu offers its customers. … Your résumé is like your personal, specialized menu of what you offer your customers – your potential employers.

The big three aspects of your life story – your skills, knowledge, and traits – are the keys to transforming your life experience into a standout, interview-generating, career-opening résumé. Why? Because every employee is a person, not just a worker. And because employers seek employees who have the right combinations of skill, knowledge, and personality.
This last quote is where the book veered off into unreality for me. In the vast majority of cases, no “employer” is going to see your resume. It's going to be scanned by a machine, and if that machine finds the right key words/phrases that it's programmed to look for, it might get routed to an intern who's been given another set of filters to look for as they take those 8 seconds or so that they'll spend looking at your resume … as noted above, the goal of the resume reading process is to ELIMINATE as many would-be candidates as possible … and unless you're very lucky and your resume ends up in the dozen or so that get handed to the actual Hiring Manager, all that touchy-feely stuff about your “potential” as an employee is just “noise”, and probably rejection-generating verbiage at that.

In discussions I've had with various recruiters, most are looking for a very specific profile, which I envision as being an exact multi-sided polygonal shape … if you're a circle, a square, a triangle, you're shot down at the first view, after that it's a matter of counting your sides and measuring your angles. If you pass that inspection, you might get called in to see if they can fit you into the exact polygonal hole they're trying to fill. Most of this book ignores this reality, and attempts to make the best of slim achievements, but in reality, unless an employer is looking for somebody who can run and talk at the same time they're not going to care if you played soccer and were on the debate team!

My reactions aside, the book is very well structured, taking the new job seeker from the very basics through a lot of details on crafting one's resume, getting references lined up, developing cover letters, etc. , with examples, tips, and recommendations (and stories from the author's own experiences, which I found charming), all through the book. The most useful part of this, however (and I'm extrapolating to what I'd guess college kids would find most handy), is the last quarter of the book where Schultze presents check lists, worksheets, editorial guides, word lists, and lots of examples of resumes and cover letters.

Obviously, I “had issues” with Résumé 101 … but I'm a long way from college and have been fighting the job search out in the trenches of the real world for years, so I'm probably taking a more reactive view than most would on this. I don't doubt that this would be a reasonably handy guide for a college kid to get out their first resumes and start building up the scar tissue they'll need out there, but from where I sit, its view of what “lands jobs” is pretty Pollyanaish. It's brand new, so should be available at your local book vendor, and, of course, the on-line big boys have it at a discount from its quite reasonable cover price. This drove me nuts reading it, but if you're a college student looking to get started on the long, brutal, soul-crushing job search, it might very well be a good first toe in the minefield.

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Tags: book review
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