When you send your resume to a potential employer, you’re expecting it to speak volumes about your personality — and you as an employee. But recent research published in the Journal of Business Psychology shows recruiters may be missing the mark on the personality judgments they make.
The research, performed by Wright State University researcher Gary Burns and colleagues, points to a huge disconnect between recruiters’ perceptions of their ability to spot personality traits in a resume, and the reality. Because these perceptions can have such a huge impact on a candidate’s ability to land a job — qualified or not — Burns sought to measure how accurate a recruiter’s personality judgments really are.
Do recruiters get personality right?
First, Burns and his colleagues had 122 HR professionals evaluate resumes from 37 MBA students. The HR pros were asked to rate 77 different aspects of each resume in terms of the “Big Five” personality traits: conscientiousness, extraversion, openness, neuroticism, and agreeableness. At the same time, the MBA students completed a Big Five personality inventory, so researchers could compare their actual personalities with the personalities recruiters inferred from their resumes.
Burns and colleagues found that HR professionals often rated candidates lower in conscientiousness and higher in extraversion than their actual personality scores revealed. What makes this such a big deal is that they also found these mistaken personality judgments accounted for nearly 50 percent of the variance in their hiring decisions.
In other words, recruiters aren’t just making bad personality judgments based on your resume, they’re actually making decisions based on those poor judgments.
What resume components make the biggest difference?
The second experiment asked 266 participants — recruited online — to play the role of recruiter. Researchers took each resume and broke it down into its individual sections, to see which aspects of a resume led to the most impactful personality judgments.
“Recruiters” reviewed, among other things, they look and feel of each resume, activities the candidate mentioned — extracurricular, volunteering, etc. — and the skills they listed, then formed conclusions based on those components.
In the end, researchers also found that, like the recruiters from the first experiment, these participants also tended to form conclusions — often incorrect — about extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness. Moreover, the more “personality” they saw in a resume, the more they tended to use that personality as a factor in hiring.
For example, in the real world, the look and feel of a resume can influence a reviewers feelings about a candidate’s conscientiousness. Candidates with clean resume layouts and logical progressions appear to be more conscientious, while those with different fonts or disorganized information appear to be less conscientious. The more — or less — conscientious a resume appears, the more likely a recruiter or hiring manager is to hire an individual.
What do these results mean?
When you’re applying to jobs, it’s important to send the right message to potential employers. You want your resume to reflect you so, that when you do interview, hiring managers know they’ve made the right choice. With personality being more important than ever to companies, it’s key that your resume reflects who you really are and how you can make contributions to the employer right off the bat.
Don’t believe it? Consider the results from Leadership IQ’s 2014 Leadership IQ’s Global Talent Management Survey. Leadership IQ surveyed more than 5,000 hiring managers from a wide range of industries to determine why most new hires fail, and what they found was astonishing.
Skills-related issues only accounted for 11 percent of new hire “failures.” While personality and attitude-based issues accounted for the other 81 percent.
The top four reasons for new hire failure can all be tied to at least one of the Big Five personality dimensions:
- Coachability (26 %) – The ability to accept feedback from peers and superiors, and implement changes based on that feedback, is closely related to one’s openness.
- Emotional Intelligence (23%): Related to the personality dimension of agreeableness, emotional intelligence measures how well individuals both understand their own emotions and the emotions of others.
- Motivation (17%): Because everyone is motivated by different things, a person’s motivation can be impacted by their openness, their level of extraversion, their agreeableness — any of the Big Five, really.
- Temperament (15%): An individual’s temperament measures whether or not their personality and attitude fit in a particular work environment. That’s why extraversion/introversion play a big part in temperament. Does a candidate work better alone or on a team? In an open office or closed off from co-workers?
Clearly, it’s important to make your personality shine through, to make an impact on hiring managers and recruiters.
How to make your resume reflect your personality
So, how do you make your resume accurately reflect your personality? How do you ensure that recruiters and hiring managers aren’t making the wrong personality judgments about you as a candidate when they read your painstakingly crafted resume?
Here are three resume-building tips to make your real personality come out in your resume:
1. K-I-S-S (Keep It Simple Silly).
Whether you’re extraverted or introverted, high or low in conscientiousness, agreeable or disagreeable, keeping your resume simple is a must.
Unless you’re a creative, tasked with presenting a new take on the traditional resume or trying to catch a creative agency’s attention, your resume should include no more than one or two colors (black/white plus one other, if absolutely necessary), and one font (including its bold, italic, and underlined iterations) with two to three font sizes, maximum. Multiple colors, different fonts, and multiple font changes may seem eye-catching, but they suggest an inability to focus and — as seen in the study — make you appear less conscientious.
Use white-space to create sections in your resume, and focus on letting your personality come across in your writing. Set off important points using bullets, and make a point of highlighting how you work with others, what work-related interests you have, and how you’ve integrated employer feedback into your professional life, to drive results.
2. Tell the interviewer more about your personality.
What’s the easiest way to make sure your personality comes through in your resume?
Talk about it. Use the information you give to highlight things like your introversion/extraversion level, your organizational abilities, and your ability to collaborate.
For example, if you use a resume objective statement, let your key personality traits come out. Instead of stating your objective as, “To successfully manage a team of employees and increase revenue by 10 percent in the first 2 years,” use something like this:
“To secure a managerial position where I can use my outgoing personality and team building skills to increase revenue by 10 percent in the first 2 years, by connecting on a personal and professional level with both employees and clients.”
This statement gets your main objective for the position across, and tells the hiring manager or recruiters how your personality will make an impact at the organization. Similar strategies can be employed throughout your bulleted points, to make your personality come alive.
3. Let your online presence make an impact.
Lots of job seekers are afraid to share their social media accounts with recruiters and hiring managers. Don’t be. It doesn’t matter if you give them your profile information; they’re going to find you. According to Jobvite’s 2014 Social Recruiting Survey, 93 percent of recruiters will use social media to screen candidates and make hiring decisions.
Make sure you audit your social media profiles for potentially harmful content, then post your profile addresses proudly on your resume (the header/footer are great places). Your social media personality can help you emphasize your real-life personality to potential employers.
For example, if you love to share key industry knowledge or like to participate in group discussions and Twitter chats, among other things, hiring managers will have more opportunities to evaluate your extraversion level, agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness, just by looking at how you interact.
It might seem scary to invite this kind of scrutiny to your social media presence, but it can also give hiring managers and recruiters the insight they need into your personality, and keep your resume off of the “no” pile.
In the end, it’s your job to clearly articulate your personality in your resume. Consider how this new research plays into your personality-revealing strategy and how you can take advantage of these three tips to get the most out of your resume.