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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

What Your Resume Looks Like to a Psychologist

The way you shake hands.

The way you make eye contact (or not).

The way you introduce yourself and talk about your work.

Everything you do offers a “clue” into the kind of person you are.

A happy person? A potential leader? A person with terrific ideas and lots to contribute? Or—someone who is struggling to stay positive?

Your resume—being an on-paper representation of you—says a lot about you, too. In fact, everything from the tone you use to the accomplishments you choose to include gives hints about your confidence, self-esteem, and self-awareness.

So, what does your resume say about you (or someone you’re thinking about hiring)? As a psychologist—and occasional hiring manager—here’s what I might see.

1. If You...

Use dry, cookie-cutter language to describe your goals (“I am seeking a full-time position within a company that values innovation and growth…”).

It Might Mean

That you are emotionally detached from your true goals and desires—or afraid to express them out loud.

The Fix

Spend some time considering what you really want out of your next job, your career, and your life. Be honest with yourself, and try to get clear and specific. Then rewrite those “goal” and “objective” sections (yes, they’re OK in some cases) with newfound clarity.

Hint: Hiring managers typically want people who are passionate about a specific industry, company, or role—not people who say “I’ll do anything”—so tailoring your application is bound to get you better results.

2. If You...

Write a resume that doesn’t reference any specific accomplishments (“Responsible for customer invoicing”).

It Might Mean

That some part of you is afraid to say, “This is what I have done. This is what I can do. This is why I’m amazing.”

The Fix

Get in the habit of tracking your successes and accomplishments—and drill down to specifics. Remember: You’re not “bragging,” you’re just stating the facts (and by doing so, showing a hiring manager exactly what you’re capable of). You have every right to be proud!

Try: “With a team of 4, increased ad revenue by 45% in 12 months.”

Not: “Assisted the advertising team.”

3. If You...

Write a resume that is 10 pages long, crammed with absolutely every single thing you’ve ever done, right back to the lemonade stand you ran when you were eight years old.

It Might Mean

That you don’t really believe that you are worthy of being hired—so you feel compelled to overload potential employers with tons of information in an over-the-top effort to impress them.

The Fix

Trust that you’ve got valuable skills to offer, and prove it—by describing the “highlights” of your career, not every single micro-step along the way. Trust that you are worthy. Trust that less is more.

And trust that you can fit everything that’s relevant to a hiring manager neatly onto one page by following these steps.

4. If You...

Write your resume with tons of resentment (“Ugh—this is the worst”) instead of with enthusiasm (“I want to create interest so that my dream employer will call me. This is exciting!”). (And, yes, hiring managers can tell.)

It Might Mean

That you have some negative feelings about your job search (anger, frustration, guilt) that you need to resolve. Otherwise, your resume will come across as boring (at best) or tinged with bitterness (at worst).

Plus, you’ll probably walk into your next job interview carrying that grudge on your shoulders. Not the best way to make a first impression, even if you’re a really talented actor who can temporarily “fake” a happy attitude!

The Fix

Take action to get into a positive frame of mind.

Share your frustrations with a caring friend. Smack a punching bag at the gym to release those pent-up emotions. Talk to a therapist or a life coach to get a positive reframe on the situation and come up with actionable next steps.

Or just make the choice—right now—to start viewing your job hunt in a different light. (Think: “This is my story. I write the next chapter.” Not: “It’s so tough out there. What a nightmare.”)

The truth is, you can have any kind of job or career that you want.

But you’ve got to step into your job hunt with a positive attitude and a healthy dose of confidence and self-respect.

Make sure your resume indicates, “This is a positive person who knows what he or she is capable of accomplishing”—and your phone will be far more likely to ring.

Photo of psychologist courtesy of Shutterstock.