How to Design a Resume That Will Get You Hired

Topic(s): personality, selection
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology
Article: Effects of applicant personality on resume evaluations
Authors: G.N. Burns, N.D. Christiansen, M.B. Morris, D.A. Periard, & J.A. Coaster
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

When writing your resume, you probably thought about how potential employers might perceive you. Many articles and books give advice regarding what to include and how to design a resume, but many of those authors don’t actually agree on what method works best. A recent exploratory study discovered what personality traits people attribute to different parts of your resume, and how hirable they might make you appear.


This probably comes as no surprise, but past research suggests that people viewing your resume will make personal judgments about you based on what they see on your resume. In addition, parts of your resume are related to individual differences, like extraversion or conscientiousness. However, there is little research that has been conducted to understand what aspects of your resume lead to certain judgments.


In this paper, Burns et al. (2014) attempted to extend the previous research to better understand specific resume cues and how they are perceived. They actually conducted two related studies. In the first, they had participants view resume cues (e.g., GPA, job titles, extracurricular activities) and link them with personality adjectives (e.g., hardworking, creative). Participants also rated each cue regarding its importance in determining hirability. Not surprisingly, the majority of the cues that participants rated as being important to hirability came from the experience section of the resume. Participants also seemed to easily link cues to personality traits, especially conscientiousness.


In the second study, the researchers had actual HR professionals evaluate real resumes and give their impressions regarding the applicants’ personality and hirability. The HR professionals had low levels of agreement about hiring recommendations. The applicants’ self-ratings of personality only contributed slightly to the hiring recommendations, but the HR professionals’ ratings of the applicants’ personalities was a major contributor to the hiring recommendations. In other words, what the HR professionals thought about the applicants’ personalities was very influential in their hiring recommendations.


The researchers gave several important recommendations for job seekers based on the results of these studies. First, job seekers should provide detailed information about their education and be sure to include honors and awards. Second, job seekers should use a school email address (or other formal email address) instead of a personal email address, and they shouldn’t use any unusual fonts or formats. Third, job seekers should put their educational information before their past job information, and include any information about leadership roles or ways they financially benefited an organization. Finally, it seems to be good to include extracurricular or volunteer experiences. Following these tips will make sure that your resume gives you the best chance to land the new job.