You are not your resume. Not even close. That should go without saying. Of course you are much more of a person than can be illuminated in a document listing your past jobs, skills, and education. That’s just your professional, work side.

However, a new study shows that this information is even misrepresenting who you are on the job to potential employers. New research published in the Journal of Business and Psychology found that employers completely misjudge candidates’ personalities based on what they read in their resumes.

For this paper, the researchers gave the resumes of 37 MBA students to over 100 professional recruiters and asked them to evaluate the personalities of each applicant. At the same time, the students filled out detailed personality assessment tests. The results are telling.

The recruiters were asked to predict five key personality traits of the students, solely based on their resumes. They gave their opinions of each subject’s openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. All key factors in ‘hireability.’

These were then compared to the more reliable indicators of the students’ actual personalities: the in-depth psychological testing. It turns out that resumes tend to give the wrong impression particularly of how extroverted and conscientious candidates are. These are the two personality traits that showed the greatest discrepancies between the testing and the assessments.

Candidates who listed volunteer activities appeared to be more organized than others to the recruiters, and those who described adventurous hobbies were thought to be more extroverted. Both of these qualities were deemed to make a candidate ‘more hireable.’

Applicants who had attractive resumes with effective use of white space were thought to be more hirable than those who used long blocks of text.

The study’s lead author Gary Burns of Wright State University advises that despite the miscommunication in resumes, candidates shouldn’t include a ‘personal statement’ about who they are. Employers spend so little time reading resumes and forming that all-important first impression that this would be a waste of valuable real-estate.

Bottom line: you are not your resume, and it gives employers the wrong impression of what you are actually like. However, it’s still an essential part of applying for a job. So make it attractive to read, get to your essential qualifications quickly, and make sure that even if it might be offer an inaccurate impression of who you are that at least it’s a positive one.

See also:

What employers see in your resume that you don’t
What employers are really thinking when they read your resume

Peter Harris

Peter Harris on Twitter