Workplace Rights

Weekly (12/30/13)

Topic of the Week  TYPO, Writing a Great Resume

  • Thirty seconds.
  • Your voice.
  • Performance-based.
  • Out-work.


The Write Stuff: Writing a Great Resume

With a still mostly jobless recovery, resumes are an important way to distinguish yourself from the crowd. But before your race off to hire someone to re-write your resume, remember the lesson of Milli Vanilli. They were a very popular band from the 1980's that was busted for not using their own voices after they won a Grammy. Less well known was the concert a year earlier in Bristol, CT when the record started skipping while Milli Vanilli was performing on stage. They pretended to sing and dance along with the skip until they finally ran off stage. Oops.

We can all learn an important lesson from Milli Vanilli, to not over-rely on someone else's voice, your resume should be all about you. I've listed four tips for an effective resume below. The tips are built around the word "TYPO." Why typo? Because that always is one of the top reasons in surveys of HR people that resumes get tossed. For more check out, "Resumes for Dummies," by career advice pioneer Joyce Lain Kennedy (Wiley, 2003).

Thirty seconds. A resume is more of a billboard than a biography, literally. Why, because a manager or Human Resources professional, on average, spends only thirty seconds reading it. A resume shouldn't be a puzzle or a riddle. You need to make it easy for someone to figure out who you are and what you can do, immediately. Far too many resumes fail this test.

Your voice. My sister hired a resume writer for her resume. After he was done with it, it sounded computer-generated. Whether you use a resume writer or a resume book; be sure that you don't just steal their language. Your objective statement is something that you should actually say during a job interview, or at least sound like you would.

Performance-based. Most resumes that I've seen are like a laundry list of tasks. "I facilitated this committee," "I reported to this person," or "I have this skill." Most resumes don't spend enough time discussing achievements. Things like: "I increased sales 11%", "I cut department costs 6%" or "I managed the relationship with a customer who provided the company with 17% of our revenue and 22% of our profits." Don't have this kind of data? Then start collecting it.

Out-work. One-size-fits-all may work for the Snuggie, but it is a disaster for a resume. You've got to tailor each resume for the job. Sure this is a lot of work, but remember there are a lot of people out there looking to be hired. How can you stay ahead of this herd? Simple, turn your resume into a document that isn't just a look in a rear view mirror about your career, but shows a potential employer what you can do for them.

Milli Vanilli's career crashed and burned because they didn't use their own voices. Hopefully you can follow these tips so that you don't experience the same fate.


Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via


Thought of the Week

"A resume is one way to get yourself invited in for an interview. There are other ways, even preferred ways, if your resume fails. Know what they are."

–Dick Bolles, author of "What Color Is Your Parachute" (10 Speed, 2009).

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

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