Out of all the books I’ve featured in this newsletter, I’ve never been as conflicted about recommending one before as I am with this particular offering. On one hand, the author makes some wonderfully accurate and hard-hitting points about how the hiring process really works in today’s organizations and the many perils, pitfalls, and traps that the uninitiated job hunter might encounter. At the same time, she also says some things that are significantly off-kilter, and downright wrong, in my opinion.
Let’s think positively for a second, however, and start with “what’s right” about this book. As a former Human Resources executive, Ms. Shapiro pulls no punches in describing the true hiring dynamics that take place behind the scenes in many modern companies. She reveals the many overt and covert forms of discrimination, the superficiality of the resume screening process, the dirty tricks that some employers now use when interviewing, and the multiple reasons why companies refuse to give constructive, useful feedback to applicants during the interviewing gamut. So in this sense, her book is quite refreshing, since it captures the true nature of corporate hiring today and dispels a lot of myths and misconceptions that many people carry around (including many Career Horizons clients) about how the hiring process actually works inside organizations. For this reason alone, I’d have to say that this book is worth a read by any serious job hunter or career professional in transition.
At the same time, as much as she’s to be complimented for exposing these underlying hiring dynamics, Ms. Shapiro’s proposed solutions aren’t nearly as original, effective, or innovative as she would lead us all to believe. Despite all the hype about “insider secrets” and such in the book’s title, most of the tips she shares have been circulated around for years are fairly shopworn and can be found in any number of career books and websites. For example, in the chapter that discusses how to write a sure-fire resume that will land you an interview, her main suggestions are to focus on quantifiable accomplishments, not boring job duties, and to make sure you include a lot of the same keywords in your document that the employer has listed in their job description. Now granted, I have a little more experience in this arena than the average person, but hasn’t everybody known for years that any good resume should follow the above conventions? She then claims that if a person follows these principles, “There is no reason why a qualified submission wouldn’t get a call for every single resume sent out.” This, to me, is a ridiculous and rather naive claim to make, since studies have shown that even “faked” resumes (written to perfectly match job descriptions) don’t receive more than a 25% call-back ratio due to political issues, timing, changing priorities, internal candidate competition, unqualified screeners, and other factors.
At any rate, the hits go on. Later in the resume chapter, you’ll find a section where Ms. Shapiro reveals that people can and should “lie” on their resume on occasion. Sound like a shocking, controversial suggestion? Don’t worry. As in many places throughout the book, this statement (which I’m not embellishing) turns out to be just more empty hyperbole, since in this case the author simply means by “lying” that it’s okay to leave some of your past experience off your resume, especially positions from farther back in your career. In one sense, I suppose such errors of omission could be considered a lie, but come on, let’s get real. By this definition, every resume is a “lie” of sorts, since no resume could possibly contain everything one has ever accomplished throughout their entire career!
So as I said, I have real mixed feelings about the book. On one hand, it’s got important things to say about the nature of the job market today, and on the other hand, one has to suffer through a fairly melodramatic writing style and some proposed “solutions” that are questionable, at best. If you can separate the wheat from the chaff, however, it’s definitely worth a read for those who are serious about understanding the true nature of the employment marketplace today — and how to navigate it!