Cognitive Daily

There’s a lot of advice online about what makes a good resume, and in these tough economic times, getting a job is tougher than ever.

So this week, I thought we’d test some different resumes and see which factors are most important in picking a good candidate. You’ll be asked to read two resumes very carefully, then answer a few questions evaluating each candidate. I’ve changed just a few items on each resume, so make sure you read them closely. Then next week we’ll see which factors matter the most.

Click here to participate

As usual, the study has just a few questions, and should only take a few minutes to complete. There is no limit on the number of respondents. You’ll have until Thursday, March 5 to complete your response. Don’t forget to come back next Friday for the results!


  1. #1 Donna B.
    February 27, 2009

    I can’t wait to see the results on this one!

  2. #2 Sam K
    February 27, 2009

    I think there is a problem with this survey in that the reason I would one hire one candidate over the other had very little to do with the factors that I rated. What happened to “appropriate for this job?”

  3. #3 zia
    February 28, 2009

    you had me at “vacination” hahahahahahaha! resumes are the best medicine.

  4. #4 Jonathan Morgan
    February 28, 2009

    The resumes were very American in flavour. I couldn’t tell you a huge amount about what what was said about education actually meant.

  5. #5 Dr. Kate
    February 28, 2009

    I agree with Sam K. Also, given that there were only two applicants, I might have chosen to interview (and/or give a test to or request samples from) both, so it might have been better to phrase the question “Which candidate do you think will most likely succeed” or something like that.

  6. #6 just doug
    February 28, 2009

    Asking which would be hired absent an interview is nuts. I would interview both but suspect #2 would end up the winner if I had to choose between just those 2.

    I don’t like resumes that make it hard to tell if there were gaps in employment or determine something about career progression and since the task usually involves sifting through several hundred resumes in practice nobody is going to waste time with either of those trying to figure those things out.

  7. #7 Jennifer Riley
    March 1, 2009

    I think it would be difficult to make a decision based on resume only. Since this is a communications position, I would like to see how they fared in an interview.

  8. #8 Stephen
    March 1, 2009

    Looking at the different variations (by fiddling the URLs) was the only way I could spot the significant differences. I can go through 10-15 resum├ęs a week when hiring so I guess I skim them too fast to notice.

  9. #9 Dave Munger
    March 2, 2009

    Stephen: That’s really what we’re measuring — how much these errors are noticed when people read resumes in a relatively authentic setting. There are some interesting results, which we’ll share on Friday.

  10. #10 Erin Vang
    March 4, 2009

    I was struck by how both resumes were littered with typos and thinkos, but the non-brand-name education recipe had what I would call “more elegant mistakes.” Many respectable writers would miss the errors in the second resume, or even argue that they weren’t errors (and perhaps our author doesn’t even realize he made them!), but the Harvard resume’s errors were glaring. However, I suspect most of my highly intelligent, detail-oriented colleagues from the corporate world would have said there were no errors in either.

    Ironically, one of the best hires I ever made was of someone who told me from the get-go that spelling and grammar were problems, whose resume reflected that, and whose skills in other areas so dwarfed my own that we quickly reached agreement that spell-check was for me, and I would in turn seek politics-check.

    It was astonishingly difficult to write that paragraph in a way that didn’t reveal gender.

  11. #11 Erin Vang
    March 4, 2009

    Ach! “recipe” should have been “resume.” What a lousy place to make a thinko of my own!

New comments have been disabled.