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Resume writers might do it by the book


The average resume gets about as much attention from potential employers as you give to a television commercial. That means you have roughly 30 seconds to get your foot in the door.

Bookstores are full of titles promising to show you how to do it, and I recently looked at three of the latest additions: "Resumes That Knock 'Em Dead," by Martin Yates (Adams Publishing, $9.95; [800] 872-5627); "National Business Employment Weekly Resumes," by Taunee Besson (John Wiley & Sons, $10.95; [800] CALL-WILEY); and from the same publisher, "The Resume Makeover," by Jeffrey G. Allen ($9.95).

One of the more controversial topics in resume writing these days is whether it is better to use a chronological resume, which lists your jobs starting with the most recent, or a functional one, which highlights specific skills. These authors agree: Chronological resumes are still the most widely accepted and the best bet for people with solid work experience.

Functional resumes can be useful for people with job gaps of a year or more, new grads, people entering or returning to the paid work force and those who have spent a long time at a single job. You should know, though, that many bosses think functional resumes are a red flag for people with something to hide or not enough to say.

These books supply lots of samples. Mr. Yates offers 100 but rarely analyzes the strategies behind the winners. Ms. Besson is far more instructive. She begins with resumes that are already good and explains how to make them better.

Mr. Allen starts with resumes that contain what he considers bloopers -- like including graduation dates if you've been out of school more than five years. (He says it invites age discrimination, but I think he over-generalizes.) While his make-overs of 50 resumes are often impressive, he doesn't always explain the changes.

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