Is Your Resume the Book or the Movie?

book v movie

I have a rule that I will not see a movie that is based on a book that I have read and enjoyed. I tried, I really did, but I was always disappointed.

The characters on the screen never live up to the characters that I have already formed in my mind. In my mind they look and sound different and have lived out their adventure in much greater detail. I am a huge Janet Evanovich fan and the Morelli and Ranger in my mind, well, nothing can compare with that.

There is a deeper connection to the characters formed in my mind and too often I find a movie tries to compensate for a lesser connection with an overload of visual and audio: longer more daring car chases or massive explosions coupled with blaring music and so on.

The reason is the words. I think it best described by actor Martin Sheen during an interview about speech writing for the show The West Wing when he said, “I’m always looking for words like musical notes that are sung and that have a rhythm and a clarity and an image all their own.” Perfect.

Words are powerful. They have the ability to evoke emotions and feelings, inspire action and create images – good or bad. They are the brushes and paint on the canvas that is our mind.

If your resume is not gaining an audience the reason could be that you have created a movie rather than a book.

Movie Version

No Character Development

Audience engagement is paramount, failing to express who you are complete with a back story that supports the value you bring to the organization leaves them disappointed and forgetting the main character as soon as the credits role.

Unanswered Questions

The most important question of the audience is “What can you do for me?” If you have not answered this question you will not engage the audience and they will be left feeling disappointed or worse disinterested.

Visual overload: An overuse of color, imagery, fonts, borders, characters may gain attention; however, it will quickly be discovered that this overly stimulating visual content is a means of overcompensate for a weak plot.

Misleading Title

If the audience expects to see one genre and is duped into another. This almost happened to one of my best friends when he forgot the title of the baseball movie we wanted to see. He started to walk into the theater for Pitch Perfect assuming this was our movie, when in fact we were going to see Trouble with the Curve. Imagine the disappointment he would have had expecting Clint Eastwood and getting a cappella singers.

Book Version

Book Flap/Jacket Copy

This area is designed to help sell the book and can have a definite impact on book sales according to a Codex Group study. On your resume this translates to your opening statement under your letterhead. This is the first point of engagement, enticing your audience to read the entire book by presenting the most important information by answering “what can you do for me” by giving your value, successes, expertise and strongest skill sets.

Front Matter

This is all the information prior to the body, in a resume it includes things like section headings and important areas. If your education is more important than your experience, it will be listed before the body of the book – experience section. Each section should be clearly defined for visual ease in reading and identifying important segments. This includes a table of contents weaved within the body including skills, professional experience, education, training, community leadership, awards, publications etc.

Body of the Book

This is your professional experience. This is where you tell your story in a way in which you want your audience to understand. There is a theme to your story and this is where you translate that theme from chapter to chapter for your audience. Utilize your strongest skill sets and accomplishments and weave them into each chapter with consistency building from the earliest chapters to the most current. If you are in a position in which a certain skill set is most important, weave the characteristics of this skill set into each chapter.

Utilize your words to paint the proper image for your story. Simply stating that your character walked in the saloon, drank a whiskey then ran Bad Bart out of town evokes no emotions, no demonstration of a good cowboy. These are duties. Use descriptive words to demonstrate the value. Bart was bad, this is the old west so there was value in running Bad Bart out of town. Why was it a good thing to rid the good townspeople of Bad Bart, how did it help them, what improvements were made on his departure, how was Bad Bart run out of town?

Use words that truly represent you. In most old west novels there is a character is who quiet, reserved and a behind the scenes kind of person not really getting involved in the action, more cowering behind the bar during the action. Authors would not use words like “grit” or “steely-eyed” to describe him. On the other hand, if the hero has a strong presence, keen eye, can rope a calf in seven seconds and not break a sweat then the author is probably not going to use words like “meek” or “timid” to describe him. Demonstrate your value through appropriate thought or emotion provoking words.

Book Cover

If the book is about saving an old west town from Bad Bart you would not expect to see pictures of dolphins on the front cover with a title of “Cheesecake and Other Happy Things” in frilly font. Let your letterhead and visual represent your story appropriately. Clearly stating your name and contact information; using a title if appropriate and a font that is easy to read – and used for each piece of your business communication (i.e. cover letter, thank you letter etc.).

Creating the right images, interest and on-target messaging will entice a reader to read your book cover to cover.

The Meaning Behind The Words

wordsIt is a pretty established fact that I am an over-analyzer; this coupled with the fact that I am a writer can sometimes be the source of great insight or great frustration.


The other day I was having a conversation with a friend and we were discussing a text.  I had asked for clarification and he looked at me like I had three heads.  I explained that it could have been taken one way, or another or even a possible third.  After I explained each possibility he looked at me and simply said, “All that over a three letter word – wow.”


It is a blessing and a curse.


I will admit that sometimes I am a little overzealous in diving into the meanings of words, specific words, as well as the entire content in which they were used.  But this is why I am good at what I do as a professional.


Words are important.  They purpose is more than just filling up space on your resume.  They must be weighed in consideration with the immediate context as well as the entire presentation as a whole.


Oh yes, I am serious.


I can read a resume and tell a person how they felt about a position, their current job searching and their attitude about it all.  Words are powerful.  The combination of the individual, context and presentation paints a picture and we form unconscious images in our head about the writer.


Let’s just take a look at two little words and their difference.


To versus That


If you include the word to in a descriptive statement about what you were hired to do that is exactly what you are conveying: you were hired to do it but it doesn’t mean you did it.


If you replace it with which or that then it communicates an accomplishment of those tasks.


Responsible for oversight of department to increase production.

Responsible for oversight of department which increased production.


Of course you want to add the details of how you increased production, but that is getting a little deeper than I want to go at this time.


The point is one word can change everything.  It can change the context and meaning.


When preparing your business writing take a moment and read it from a detached perspective.  Think about it in terms of “could this be taken in another context?”  This may help you identify just one little word to change which will make a huge impact on your overall presentation.


Words – they matter.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.