Resumes used to be boring documents that listed the jobs people had and for how long. Resumes do not need to be that way. They can be celebrated documents that highlight your professional accomplishments and tell your career story.

As a resume strategist and playwright, I use playwriting rules when I craft a resume.

1. Format Matters

When a writer submits their play for production consideration, they follow a strict layout standard. Spacing is important, as are dialogue, action description and even the font. Scripts that do not adhere to the format, do not get read. The rules are there for ease of reading, and demonstrate that the writer knows her/his craft.

Resume formatting is important. The loveliest keywords cannot make up for a bad format. Give the reader some white space, a readable font, and ensure that the font that doesn’t date you too much (eg. don’t use times new roman). Some categories are expected on every resume including a profile, work experience, and education.


2. Write it to be Read

While a play is intended to be performed live on the stage, it is created with a reader in mind. It clearly describes the environment in which the action takes place.

It is the same for resumes, set the reader up to understand the type of place you did your work. If you worked in an unconventional workplace, provide a scope statement that lets the reader know that. There has been a movement to ensure that your resume is ATS friendly, but at the end of that system is a human who reads the resume. Make it enjoyable by being clear and telling a story.

3. Every play must have exposition, complication, and resolution.

Every play provides the audience with background information called exposition. Plays also include a complication or obstacle that needs to be overcome or dealt with. Finally, the drama works to be resolved.

Your resume is actually all exposition, but it cannot simply be a list of tasks. Have you been to a play where the main character goes on and on about where they come from and it is boring and you want them to just get on with it? Don’t do that on your resume. Explain your background by showing how you overcame obstacles and show the result.

The result is important. In plays, it gives the audience closure. While some plays purposely leave unanswered questions for the audience to mull over, they aren’t always the most liked. You don’t want to frustrate the reader – include your results in your resume. Provide resolution.

4. Each play has a character that wants something.

Plays are driven by what a character or characters want. It is the same for a resume.

Why are you writing this resume? To get an ideal job.

Use the document to show that you want a particular job with that specific company, what you have done that qualifies you for the job and what skills you will use. Make sure to show those skills in action. The other character in your job search is the hiring manager. Write with their needs in mind. What story or information do they need to see to call you for an interview?



5. Every scene should advance the story.

In a play, every scene builds on the one before it. The same goes for resumes, ensure there is a sense of structure to the way you show your accomplishments and there is a career story to follow. If you find every bullet point is just you saying the same point over and over again, you need to go deeper.

6. Learn to cut what you love.

There are times in playwriting when I write a line that I think is beautiful or funny. When my dramaturg (a playwriting coach) sees the line, he crosses it out. It would hurt because it was a beautiful line, it was art, but he would argue it didn’t add to the story, or it was out of line with the character’s personality. I had to cut it.

I know you have jobs and stories to share that you are proud of and love. But, they don’t all need to be on your resume, especially if they aren’t strategic. I have a document called “Lines I have Loved and Cut” that is full of great phrases that could be used in the future.

7. Show, Don’t Tell

Lastly, show the reader the action instead of telling them. Just like a character who is scared on stage shows more by hiding under their bed, than saying “I am afraid”; you show more about your qualifications by demonstrating the skill through storytelling than just listing it as a skill with no context.

If you need a process for creating a resume from a place of self-celebration instead of dread, get into the resuMAY workshops. 


Kerri Twigg

Career Coach | Mindfulness and Stories Training for Career Contentment

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