Tag Archives: book synopsis

New Rules of Work about Cover Letters and Resumes

On Friday at the Park City Club in Dallas, I will present a synopsis of this best-seller by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn MinshewThe new rules of work:  The modern playbook for navigating your career.  New York:  Crown Books (2017).

You can register for this event on the home page of 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.

One of the issues the authors discuss is whether job seekers still need resumes and cover letters, given the amount of information available about them on social media sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

Here is what they say:

Believe us, we’ve heard that question many times before.  But heed our advice when we say that nothing replaces your formal resume and cover letter.  Not your LinkedIn profile.  Not your impressive personal website.  Not your articulate expression of your skills and talents in your informational interview, or your well-written email to the hiring managers.  These are all important, of course.  However, you absolutely still need to have a polished resume and cover letter prepared.  Because all those extra trappings won’t matter if you don’t have the right packaging to catch the eye of your target audience – the hiring managers” (p. 125).

They publish a list of resume and cover letter do’s and don’ts (pp. 149-150)



Cover Letter



·      Tailor your information

·      Include quantifiable achievements

·      Show, don’t tell

·      Make contact information easy to find

·      Stick to one page – two at most

·      Check for skimmability

·      Include key words from job description

·      Use powerful and unique verbs

·      Proofread

·      Save as a PDF



·   Share your personality

·   Tell a relevant story about what brought you to the job

·   Expand on your resume

·   Highlight key transferable skills

·   Use the company’s “voice”

·   Address the letter to someone specific



·      Make bullets read like job descriptions

·      Include confidential information about a previous employer

·      List “references available upon request”

·      Neglect application instructions

·      Squish it all to one page – six point font

·      Lie



·  Fail to write one

·  Regurgitate your resume

·  Use stiff, formal language

·  Address to “whom it may concern”

·  Include a desired salary – unless asked


Long Run for LEAN IN is Over – Quite a Ride for That Book!

The long run at # 1 for LEAN IN by Sheryl Sandberg (2013, Knopf) has ended.

In today’s (7/27/2013) Wall Street Journal list of best-selling hardcover nonfiction books, LEAN IN has been unseated. At # 1 is a book by Phil Robertson with Mark Schlabach entitled HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY, published by Howard Books.

It was quite a ride for LEAN IN. We don’t have any figures on the number of books sold, nor the amount of revenue generated, but it is most likely at the top of both of these lists for nonfiction books in 2013.

Don’t forget that we can present a synopsis of LEAN IN for your organization. We have a 25-minute synopsis, followed by a 25-35 minute discussion period. You can contact us for details at: , or by calling at (972) 601-1537.

Finding time to Read Books – It’s Not as Simple as it Sounds

I want to tell you about a friend of mine.  He is a doctor.  He performs an important out-patient surgery.  His calendar is full.  He arrives in his office early in the morning, and the first surgery is scheduled pretty much right off the bat.  I have lunch with him about once a month.  I bring lunch to his office.  He walks into his office for lunch just having finished with a patient.  He has one hour, and usually has to make a phone call or two before we can visit – to other doctors, about the needs of his or their patients.  He then operates on others through the afternoon.  He has an amazing support staff.  They keep his schedule flowing smoothly.

He takes off early one afternoon a week.  On that afternoon, he catches up on “paper work,” and reads professional journals.  This really is mandatory reading for a man in his profession.  (He also gives lectures to others in his field).  He is very, very good at what he does.  D Magazine listed him as among the best in the city for his type of medical practice.

He has more than one child – at the age where they do everything:  soccer, baseball, Lacrosse, and that’s just the activities I remember.  He described a recent weekend, and it was multiple locations, multiple events, all week-end long.  He is a former top level athlete, in great shape, and he was exhausted by the demands of the weekend.

His wife is also a Doctor, with the advantage of working a self-imposed reduced schedule.  But when she works, she works as hard as he does.  (She is also very, very good at what she does!)

So, I have a question:  when will he read books that would be “good to read?”

He is not lazy; he is not a poor time-manager; he is simply too busy doing his job and serving/enjoying his family to read books that he wishes he had time to read.

When you read this blog, you are inundated with book titles that make you say:  “I need to read that.” And so you buy the book, open the book…but, I suspect that your stack of partially read books is becoming a mountain.

I don’t have a solution to this problem.  I do know that my Doctor friend needs to be doing what he is doing, and reading the books may never make it into his schedule.

By the way, I share most of my book synopsis handouts with him.  It is not enough; it is not as good as hearing the synopsis while following along with the handout.  It is not as good as reading the book himself.  But he can find the few minutes it takes to read the handouts that I point out to him as especially valuable, and he is grateful.

I asked him recently if my handouts are valuable to him.  He said “absolutely!”  He was not hesitant.  He said they give him ideas, help him think about his practice, especially the “business end” of his practice.  And he said that he simply would never have time to read the books themselves.

I would never think less of him for not finding time to read the books; I’ve seen his work ethic.  If I need his kind of medical attention, I want it from him.  He provides exactly what people need.

You may be as busy as my friend.  Or, you may have friends who are that busy.  A little insight from a book is better than none at all, isn’t it?  And our synopses provide more than just a little insight from the books we present.  We provide two pages of key quotes from the books; the outline of the key content; and if you can find time to listen to the audio, you hear a cool/key/enlightening story or two.

No, it’s not as good as reading the book for yourself.  But it is not nothing!


You can order our synopses, for yourself or that busy friend of yours, with handout + audio from our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.



Book Synopses for Sale – Step Right Up

Randy and Karl hard at work preparing for the next First Friday Book Synopsis

Randy and Karl hard at work preparing for the next First Friday Book Synopsis

Every now and then, I think I should share just what Karl and I do here at and through the First Friday Book Synopsis.  We read books and tell you the key concepts contained in the books.

Think about the possibilities. A book comes out – a good book with good ideas, something you can use and put to work in your own business (or personal) endeavors.  You think “I should read this book.”  And maybe you should.  But the reality is that there are about 786 books you “should” read – and more coming every week.  (Yes, I picked that number out of thin air – the actual number you, and I, should read is much…higher.  There is so much to know, so much to learn).

Here are your options:

1.  Read all of the books that you “should” read. You could probably do this – if you quit sleeping, eating, working, relating.  (Roger Ebert recently wrote of a world-class tinkerer, a man who “didn’t sleep.” If only…)

2.  Get somebody else to read them for you – and give you enough of what’s in the books that you have useful ideas to put to use. That’s what Karl and I do.  We read books for you, and share what we discover and learn.

But, we are not really in the book summary business.  There are too many books.  We could hire an army of readers and presenters to read all of those books.  But we’re not in that business. Instead, we are in the “these are the books we like” business.  We pick and choose – to be precise, we choose 24 books a year (with an occasional extra).  And if you look back over the last 11+years, we’ve done pretty well.  The big best-sellers are all on our list.  And a few rare finds are on the list, also.

But we don’t compete with the companies which provide summaries of nearly all of the business books.  We’re just two guys – two guys who love to read books, and we like to share what we find in them that is useful and valuable.  And we’ve done it for so long that I think we have gotten pretty good at finding and extracting and sharing the most crucial ideas and the best transferable concepts from the good business books.

In other words, other services have a larger selection of titles.  But I think what we offer is unique:  a synopsis, with audio + handout, that provides the key content, in something akin to an “encounter” with the book.  I admit that this is my take, my experience — I don’t just read a book, I encounter a book.  And these encounters are what I try to share in my presentations.

3.  There is a third option – you can just ignore the books. This is an ok option – one we all follow all the time.  I ignore most of the good books out there.  I don’t read the books; I don’t even read reviews of the books; frequently, I never even hear of the books.    There are so many, what other choice do I have?  But – if you will take Karl and me up on our offer, you can at least learn a little more about a few more valuable books.

We provide our synopses to a live audience monthly in Dallas at the Park City Club.  (See the home page of this web site for all the details – it is the First Friday of every month – except for an occasional second Friday thrown in due to holiday conflicts).  Here are video excerpts of my recent presentation of Womenomics by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay (thanks, Doug Caldwell, for the video).

Each synopsis includes a handout with two pages of quotes directly from the book, and then an outline of the key content.  It is ok to read by itself, but it is designed to be used with the verbal presentations, and listening and reading at the same time will definitely give you more of what we offer.

And so we record our presentations, and put our audio recordings and handouts up on our companion web site for people to purchase.  (15minutebusinessbooks.com).  Give it a click.

We’ve got books by Malcom Gladwell, Jim Collins, Gail Collins, Ram Charan, Thomas Friedman …  so many others — the list is long.  Our synopses will help you learn some really valuable stuff.

So  — book synopses for sale – step right up.

An Era Starved for Substance — Some Thoughts on the Value of a Good Book Synopsis

This is primarily a blog about business books, and the ideas and implications in and of such books.  And, to state the obvious, there are good books and bad books – valuable books and not so valuable books.

The Coming Generational Storm

The Coming Generational Storm

I want to share a story.  A regular participant at the First Friday Book Synopsis has hired us to deliver book synopsis presentations for a client of hers.  The gathering was a “development” gathering.  You know, the client team gets a room full of people and wants them to know what they can provide that they might need.  This client team provides financial services and financial products.  People want to know what to do with their money – what they can do to grow their money, but, especially now, what they can do to keep their money safe.  They brought me in to present a synopsis of the substantive, disturbing book The Coming Generational Storm:  What You Need to Know About America’s Economic Future by Laurence J. Korlikoff and Scott Burns.  Here’s a key excerpt, candidly calling for realism and honesty:

The stakes here are too high to let hope conquer fear and to let wishful thinking perpetuate inaction.  There is, in fact, no realistic painless escape from our date with demographic destiny.  And as we now point out, that date is now much closer than most people seem to think.

The discussion covered the coming generational shift, the huge and growing national debt, and numerous concerns regarding “what do we do with our money now.”  But the conversation was “started” by the questions raised by the book, and thus prompted by the book synopsis.  It was book synopsis as a tool, as PR, as conversation starter.  I think it is  a great use of a book synopsis.  And the members of the client team, competent and trustworthy in the financial arena, were able to address the concerns of the clients and potential clients who attended.

Now here’s the moment that most grabbed me.  After the event, one participant was discussing how much she gained from the book presentation, and she said (paraphrased – I wish I remembered her exact words):  “I think we are really needing some content, some substance these days.”

I think we may be done with shallowness for a while.  The times are too serious.  The needs and dilemmas are too large.  We want to feel like we are actually learning something about how to think and how to be and what to do.  Ours is an era starved for substance – for guidance, for content.  Shallow dives don’t work, and won’t work in such a time of uncertainty.

It is a new era starved for substance.  And that is both a signal of worry, and a sign of hope.


To purchase my synopsis of The Coming Generational Storm, with audio+ handout, go to 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

A “Book” or an “Essay” — Some thoughts on Good Books and Information Overload

I read a lot of books — not as many as some, and in this chapter of my life, not as many as our blogging partner Bob Morris — but I read a lot of books.  Let me state the obvious — many (most) business books are not masterpieces of great literature.  But nearly all of them are worth investing some time to learn what is in them — and nearly all of them have an idea or two that if I actually followed through on, my business life would be more productive, my thinking might be a little clearer, and my path to success would be helped.

Recently, I was reading some reviews for one of the books selected for the First Friday Book Synopsis (no, I won’t tell you which book it was), that complained that the book would have been fine as an essay, but there was simply not enough in it to justify a full book.  And it got me thinking.

First, my agreement.  Yes, there are business books that would be just fine as essays.  The authors had to stretch things a bit to come up with a full book.

And, I have come to learn that a fair number of business books give you almost as much as you need in the introduction.  The introduction is written with thoroughness, and when this is the case, the rest of the book is primarily commentary and elaboration.  There is nothing wrong with this approach — and I appreciate, even love and greatly respect, a well-written introduction to a book.  (By the way, I see this pattern in books on poverty and social justice also.  I present synopses of such books at the Urban Engagement Book Club sponsored by Central Dallas Ministries).

But here’s the thing.  Many times I read a book, and when I reach a key paragraph, I put the book down, and start “working,” because the book gave me the right prompt, the right idea, the right nudge…  

Or, I have listened to a speaker, and a phrase, an idea, something, is said and I “tune out” for a while, because I am thinking about the implication of the idea just heard in the midst of a still ongoing presentation.  I can assure you that I see this happen to people who listen to me — they hear something, and go into their own world of implications searching.  So I miss part of a presentation, and maybe am partially tuned out (even, at times, when I am reading), because I am so energized by a good, important, useful idea.

So I am not bothered by a book that is really only worthy of an essay.  If the ideas are good, I will take them in any form they arrive.  And I will appreciate all good ideas.  And, by the way, there is a chance I would not learn about this good idea if it were in an article or essay — I may have a better chance of discovering it if it is in a book.

Now — certainly, I prefer a book full of good content.  But if all I get is an essay full of good content packaged in a too long book, I’ll take it.  It is the bad ideas, the worthless content, that I dislike.  And I can usually tell that in a hurry.

Maybe this is why our short synopses are so valuable.  And maybe this is why the Q & A format that Bob Morris uses on this blog is so worthwhile.  We are really lucky when we learn any ideas that are genuinely useful and helpful.  And our synopses, and this blog, can provide such ideas from the books we choose.

(Note to authors, and to those of you who have a favorite book or author:  of course I am not referring to your beloved book when I describe a book as not being a masterpiece.  Your book is clearly a true, brilliant masterpiece.  It is all of those other books I am referring to…)