Posted: Dec 18, 2013 12:01 AM

With a still mostly jobless recovery, resumes are an important way to distinguish yourself from the crowd. But before you race off to hire someone to rewrite your resume, remember the lesson of Milli Vanilli. They were a popular band from the 1980s 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, Conn., when the record started skipping while Milli Vanilli was performing on stage. They pretended to sing and dance along with the skipping until they finally ran off stage. Oops.

We can all learn an important lesson from Milli Vanilli: Don't rely on someone else's voice. Your resume should be all about you. I've listed four tips for an effective resume below. These appeared on my blog a few years ago, but are just as relevant today. The tips are built around the word "TYPO." Why "typo"? Because that is one of the top reasons that HR employees toss out resumes. 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. Why? Because a manager or HR professional, on average, spends only 30 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 once hired a resume writer. After he was done, her resume 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 should sound like something that you would actually say during a job interview.

-- 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 percent," "I cut department costs 6 percent" or "I managed the relationship with a customer who provided the company with 17 percent of our revenue and 22 percent 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.


-- Thirty seconds.

-- Your voice.

-- Performance-based.

-- Out-work.



Color Me Successful: What Your Interview Clothes Tell the Hiring Manager

-- Black: Leadership

-- Blue: Team Player

-- Gray: Logical/Analytical

-- White: Organized

-- Brown: Dependable

-- Red: Powerful

-- Green, Yellow, Orange or Purple: All four colors were associated with Creative.


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

(Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Also check out 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