How your resume can mislead a recruiter

A good resume is concise and straightforward, but can a recruiter still extract the right character traits from it? Prospective employers have a hard time drawing the correct conclusions from the resumes presented to them.

A Wright State University study shows that recruiters are bad at deducing an applicant’s personality from a resume.


The researchers tested their theory by submitting the resumes of 37 students to 120 recruiters. They then asked the potential employers to rate the curriculum vitae on five character traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, lenient/kindness, and neuroticism.

The result was surprising and disappointing because the recruiters proved to be very poor in assessing the applicants’ personality.

Wrong interpretation

According to researcher and psychology professor Gary Burns, employers were incredibly generous with their extraversion scores but stingy with their orderliness. As a result, many candidates were over-or underestimated.

A candidate who had volunteer work on his resume was quickly seen as organizational talent, even though that activity didn’t prove it.

In contrast, the trait that should say the most about a personality, “agreeableness” (can be interpreted as how lenient, friendly, or agreeable the applicant seems), contributed little to the likelihood of being invited for an interview.

Add to that that applicants are not always honest in their CV and sometimes gloss over or exaggerate, or just forget something and get a completely distorted picture. An image that future employers will ultimately base themselves on to provide someone with an invitation.


Burns says the study results show that the candidate’s personality has only a limited impact on recruiter perceptions. A conclusion that has consequences for both the applicant and the employer.

After all, misinterpreting a resume is enough to miss out on an interview and miss out on that one job you wanted to see.


What can you do about this? Burns says he has derived some tips from his research:

  • Put educational qualifications (diplomas, education, training) above professional achievements.
  • Highlight leadership positions. This can range from a management position in a previous job to leadership in a youth movement.
  • Include hobbies and volunteer activities that contribute to your personality on your resume. Do you have an exciting hobby that emphasizes your adventurous side or another action that makes you stand out? Mention!
  • Don’t forget the layout of your resume. A clean and attractive design works wonders and makes you stand out from all the standard a4, black and white, Times New Roman, 12pt resumes.

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