7 Things Hollywood Can Teach about How to Write a Resume

Hollywood is arguably the biggest and most experienced marketing machine in the world. It earmarks massive budgets for feature flicks and often exceeds them because it has mastered the art of advertising the appeal of these films to the masses. In fact, Hollywood is so great at crafting amazing movie trailers that we often feel duped once we’ve actually paid for and committed hours to watching a bad movie.

And while Hollywood may want, or even need, to trick us into seeing a terrible movie, you definitely don’t want to take the same approach when applying for a job and marketing yourself to hiring managers. However, there are plenty of lessons that Hollywood can teach you about how to write a killer resume.

#1 – Showcase the Highlights

When you watch a movie trailer, it’s packed with snippets of the best parts of the film. If you’re watching one for an action movie, there’s no doubt you will see a bunch of explosions, car chases, fights, and other action-packed scenes. All of this is done to give you a taste of the movie as a whole rather than allowing you to consume the whole movie via the trailer (at least, you hope!).

The goal of a movie trailer is to get you excited about the movie, so excited that it compels you to go see it! Your resume must have the same effect. If it isn’t exciting, what other reason does a hiring manager have to move you through to the next step of the interview process?

I know what you’re thinking: resumes are impossible to make exciting. Not true! I get excited about Kibin editor applications all the time. When I receive a resume that highlights experience in a way that fits with our needs, I immediately move that person onto the next step.

#2 – Edit Ruthlessly: Keep It Short

How long is the average movie trailer? You probably don’t know. But you wouldn’t be surprised if I told you that movie trailers must be shorter than 2 minutes and 30 seconds. While that’s a great benchmark for advertising your soon-to-be-released flick, it doesn’t help you much when advertising yourself to a potential employer.

So what’s the best length for your resume?

While opinions vary, I’m a huge advocate of the one-page resume. It’s clear that we, as humans, have very short attention spans. It doesn’t matter whether you blame genetics, the media, Twitter or Facebook. The fact remains that we are easily bored. And you definitely don’t want someone becoming bored with your resume!

Hack out anything that doesn’t really matter, and get it down to one page. I see too many experienced people wanting to include every job they’ve had for the past 20 years. Don’t. It’s now easier than ever to create a short resume without leaving anything out.


Add everything under the sun to your LinkedIn profile, and put a simple snippet at the bottom that says something like this:

“To learn more about other positions I’ve held, please see my LinkedIn profile at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/travisbiz.”

If hiring managers really want to know every detail about your past, they’ll appreciate the ease at which you provide them the opportunity to do some cyber stalking.

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#3 – Leave Them Wanting More

If you’ve done a good job with showcasing your highlights and keeping it short, this one is much easier. However, many people still go into too much detail even after they’ve chosen to include only the most relevant information on their resumes.

Let’s think back to movie trailers. Nobody wants to watch a trailer and feel like you’ve been told the entire story in that short two and a half minutes. The same goes for your resume. Hiring managers don’t want to read your resume and feel like they now know everything about you. That’s a rookie mistake!

You need to leave your reader wanting more, feeling compelled to invite you in for an interview. Just as we’re bombarded with movie trailers each week, hiring managers are bombarded with resumes. If you give too much away, it’s too easy for your readers to make up their minds about you before you have the chance to get in front of them.

The good news is that it’s easy to prevent this. All you have to do is make sure you do not expand on your highlights. That’s right. You read that correctly. A resume is no place to expand on the things that make you great. Save that for the interview.

By doing this, you leave your readers wanting more. Rather than reading all about a particular job or achievement, they’ll be intrigued to hear more about it from you directly. The last thing you want to do is cover too much information in your resume and be left with nothing to talk about during an interview.

Just as a movie trailer is a stepping stone to get people to go see the full-length film, your resume is a tool to earn an interview. Don’t give away the whole story before you have a chance to tell it!

#4 – Cast the Right Characters

Every movie has a plot and storyline. Some of them are incredible, while others… not so much. Furthermore, actors are carefully selected for the type of role they’ll be playing. Chances are Danny Devito wouldn’t be selected to play a heart-throbbing hunk in a frilly chick flick.

Your resume ideally strives to accomplish the same thing. Your past experiences and jobs need to relate to the position you are applying for. If they don’t, you’ll leave your audience lost and confused. If something seems unrelated to the position you’re applying for, make it clear why it’s of relevance or omit it. Leaving it in only makes you seem less qualified than you may actually be.

While this may seem obvious, it’s a very common mistake. This often means that your resume may be slightly or completely different for each position you apply for. Even if positions are related, you still want to tailor your resume for your audience and what employers expect from a potential candidate.

#5 – Nail the Details

movie_errorHow would you react if you were watching a movie that took place in the early 1900s and one of the characters whipped out an iPhone to check the time? The best-case scenario is you probably get a bit confused, lose your concentration, and take a few minutes to get back into the movie as you try to figure out how the heck such a blatant mistake was so carelessly allowed to find its way into the film.

Some more extreme movie fanatics may even walk out of the theater, cursing the director and crew for having such little concern for their movie-going experience. The same thing can happen with your resume if you submit it with typos and small errors.

Hiring managers take typos quite seriously; just one can send your application packing! The assumption here is that if you’re careless when submitting your resume, you’re most likely going to be a careless employee. It’s hard to argue with that logic.

So before you submit your resume, have it double checked by a friend at the very minimum. It is even wiser to have one of Kibin’s professional resume editors take a look at it instead.

#6 – Include a Plot Twist

As moviegoers, we absolutely love a good plot twist. The Usual Suspects, Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, and Se7en are just some of the movies that we love because they take us in a direction we never saw coming.

And that’s what makes plot twists so powerful. We think we know exactly how the movie is going to play out, and then… WHAM! All of our assumptions are thrown out the window, and we’re on the edge of our seats, delighted by the new turn of events.

So what does this have to do with your resume?

Quite a bit, actually.

Like it or not, people will stereotype you as soon as they begin reading your resume. If you majored in engineering, it’s highly likely that people will assume that you are socially awkward. If you majored in communications, you’re probably personable and easy to talk to, but people may also assume you struggle with data and analysis.

People may also form assumptions about you based on your previous jobs or where you went to college. While this sucks and doesn’t seem right, there’s little you can do to prevent these assumptions from forming.

However, you can completely disprove these stereotypes by playing up the skills and experience you possess beyond your major. If you do this, you not only stand out, but you prove that you’re a well-rounded applicant that should never be underestimated.

#7 – Boast Your Box Office Stats

Movies live and die by box office stats. New movies are immediately judged by their opening weekend numbers and viewed as a success or failure based on their overall gross figures. And it’s not hard to understand why.

Numbers and data are easy ways to compare things and judge success. Saying that a movie “performed well” is perhaps interesting, but saying a movie “grossed $250 million in its opening weekend” is much more powerful and effective.

This is something you absolutely must keep in mind when writing your resume.

Pick through each bullet point, and see which ones you can quantify with numbers. This is easy for sales people, but for others it can be a bit more challenging. Did a project you worked on increase productivity on your team or company? By how much? Did you come up with a new and more efficient process that your department implemented? Did it increase sales or decrease expenses? Tell me how much it did these things with hard numbers.

It’s nice to read things like “Initiated and implemented new social media marketing software that increased team productivity.” But it’s also a bit flimsy, and it almost sounds like you could have just made that up. What if you were able to say “Decreased time spent on social media marketing by 3 hours per week by initiating the implementation of new software.”

Now that’s interesting! By quantifying the impact of your efforts, you give the statement more legitimacy. It also shows that you’re results driven and measure the effectiveness of the things you do. That’s a win-win.

Which one of these seven tips do you find the most useful? Are there others we missed? Let us know in the comments.

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