btripp_books (btripp_books) wrote,

More as branding than as a quality statement ...

One of these days I'm going to swear off “resume books”, but they keep coming my way (thanks to my penning The Job Stalker blog over on the Chicago Tribune's “Chicago Now” site), and I keep reading them. As regular followers of this space will appreciate, after spending the first 25 years of my professional career between two gigs that I only left because the companies folded, I have since been through an unending scramble … essentially a full decade of on-and-off looking for work (with a few years of scattered employment in various entrepreneurial settings which also went out of business). I have worked with “career management” groups, various “coaches” and consultants, and a whole parade of seminars, workshops, trainings, support groups, along with the assorted recruiters "slumming" around in those settings. The one constant of all this is that everybody you talk to has a fairly particular concept of what a “proper resume” should look like, but they are all different, and all in deep disagreement with one another.

Given this background, I was, obviously, not the most open-minded place for a review copy (kindly provided to me by the good folks at Ten Speed Press) of the The Damn Good Resume Guide, Fifth Edition: A Crash Course in Resume Writing to end up. I know it may sound cruel, and snarky, and unkind, and mean (yet I assure you that it's true), but one of the best things about this book is that it is very short, getting to the point without much fluff or posturing. It has 10 pages of introduction, 26 pages of instruction, 36 pages of sample resumes, and 12 pages to cover five appendices.

This book at least has an interesting back-story, its (late) original author, Yana Parker, had started this as a handout she'd provide to clients and others, eventually charging a couple of bucks for a print-out, and then landing a “real” publishing deal. Parker died in 2000, and the most recent previous edition came out two years later … this one has been updated by Beth Brown, who had been a writer for Parker's newsletter. Obviously, a lot had changed in the world in the decade between the 4th and 5th editions, but I still don't think it's “up to speed” with the ugly realities of the current economy. The 5th edition still clearly operates under the assumption that “real people” will be reading one's resume and thinking about it, when the likelihood is more that a computer will do a key word search and summarily reject the vast majority of the resumes submitted to any job, totally unread by a human, and the remaining smattering that made it through that cut will be handed over to an intern to further filter (and “round-file”) this remnant down to a handful that will actually be considered by a hiring manager. It's nice to think that there's somebody on the receiving end of your resume who cares about it, but it's been my experience that there are a LOT of machines and people whose sole function is to find an excuse, any excuse, to throw resumes out ... basically unseen and unread beyond the most mechanical and cursory review.

Anyway, the “meat” of The Damn Good Resume Guide is the 10-step process to take a job seeker from a helpless newbie to a polished presentable candidate.

Step 1:   Choose a job objective
Step 2:   Find out what skills, knowledge, and experience are needed to do the target job.
Step 3:   Choose a resume format that fits your situation.
Step 4:   Make a list of past jobs you've held.
Step 5:   For each job, list your skills and accomplishments.
Step 6:   Describe each accomplishment as an “action statement”.
Step 7:   Arrange your action statements in your resume format.
Step 8:   List your education, etc.
Step 9:   Write a summary.
Step 10: “Polish and proof” the document.
Each of these has its own section in the book, with further instructions, and “cute” responses to commonly raised objections. This 10-step approach is at least consistent, comprehensive, and (reasonably) easy to implement. It is aimed more at new-to-early-career job seekers, with a lot of advice on how to bring “non-job” activities into play within the context of one's resume. I'm guessing that Beth Brown had to “walk a fine line” in updating The Damn Good Resume Guide for this 5th edition, as there are elements here which are quite dated (seeming more apropos to the 3rd edition, fifteen plus years ago, than they are now), such as spending time on the look and graphic presentation of your resume. In the past 3 years of my job search, I have sent out a physical paper-in-envelope resume less than five times, one of which was somewhat as a joke to a tech-industry contact who does almost nothing on paper – just to stand out. Obviously, you do want to have a resume that is clean, well organized, and proofread to perfection, but in nearly all job applications it will be parsed by a machine, or you'll be asked to cut-and-paste in a text-only version. Fonts and visual styling are not concerns except in the hard-copies that you'll bring to interviews or job fairs.

There is a web site associated with the book,, which is the career service company for which the book was developed, and they offer resume writing and critiquing services (surprise!), counseling, coaching, and vast numbers of sample resumes (whole books full of them). This book has 25 sample resumes, each with a little note (which I thought was very useful!) indicating why the various resumes ended up with the format and the particular information that they had.

The book finishes up with five appendices, one on “action verbs”, one about “informational interviewing”, one on Social Networking, one on “customizing” your resume, and finally one on cover letters and e-mail. It's odd that something that is frequently seen as “essential” like cover letters ends up in the last appendix, but, as noted, any two books on resumes are likely to be in strident disagreement about any number of points, and here this seems to be an afterthought.

As I said, The Damn Good Resume Guide is short, to the point, and presents a consistent “system” for developing resumes; it would no doubt be a good place to start for somebody who hasn't been massaging theirs for decades. The focus is definitely on the lower end of the career ladder (featuring sample resumes that target jobs such as line cooks, cashiers, retail sales clerks, various types of “assistants”, etc.), more so than I can recall in any other resume book I've plowed through ... so that's something else to keep in mind. It's inexpensive (the on-line big boys currently have it discounted to under ten bucks), so if you, or somebody you're handing out advice to, is in need of a starter resume book, this might be what you're looking for. Be careful, though, when ordering it, as copies of both the 4th and even the 3rd editions are still out there, and you'll want to have the version that's as up-to-date as possible (and this 5th edition officially goes on sale tomorrow!).

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