Judging a resume by its cover

Who doesn’t like mental shortcuts? Among other things that evolution equipped us with is the ability to judge peoples’ character before ever exchanging a word with them. Revolutions in technology present us with an ever-growing number of new mental shortcuts. In hiring, we may employ all kinds of stereotypes (general beliefs about people that we use as mental shortcuts). Let’s check some of them using data that we have collected. Specifically, we are going to examine a few ways to assess a job candidate’s resume without really reading it.

1. Email provider

We identified 7 different types of email provider used by candidates (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail/Outlook, ISP-based, .edu, Other) and looked at the average Cangrade score for each group. The CG score is the result of a multivariate personality assessment designed to correlate highly with employee’s performance on the job. A first look at the resulting graph confirmed my personal stereotype: while most email providers show no difference from one another and average around 50 (which is the statistical average for CG scores), two types of providers fall behind (~10 points) in the expected performance of their users: one of them is AOL, the other is ISP-based emails (e.g. Comcast, Verizon, etc.). Both groups are relatively small minorities though (about 1.2% of candidates used AOL and about 1.5% used ISP-based emails) so we cannot be absolutely confident in these differences.

2. Skills list length

If you have a specific skill that you are looking for in your candidates, obviously it’s a good idea to check if it’s listed by a candidate. Otherwise, we found no correlation between the number of skills listed on the resume and expected job performance. In fact, we actually found a very small negative correlation. What it means is this: don’t make any conclusions based just on how many skills a candidate claims to have – it doesn’t seem to matter. Look only for specific skills that are relevant to your job.

3. Resume summary wordiness

By “resume summary” I mean the first part of a resume in which candidates try to create a first impression and provide basic information about themselves. It’s also the most overlooked part of a resume. So maybe we can conclude something by just looking at its length? Well, out of luck here too – summary length and expected performance have no correlation whatsoever.

An Interesting observation that we made while looking at resume summary data is that “.edu” email users seem to express themselves in this section with the least amount of words, and Hotmail/Outlook users with the most.


Apart from maybe applying a bit of judgment with regard to candidate’s email provider, you should not trust any of other potential shortcuts that we examined so far. Let us know if you have any resume reading shortcuts of your own and we’ll examine them using our data and report the results in upcoming blog posts.


  1. Avatar Angela   •  

    When I was younger, all I used were my AOL and Verizon Blackberry email addresses. Once it came time to start applying for internships during my college years, I happened to read somewhere that I wouldn’t be taken seriously without a gmail address. Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t make the switch! I also agree with the skills part – I had a career mentor throughout college and he always stressed to have a list of skills on my resume, and to make sure they were specific to my industry. He advised if I was applying to positions in different industries, to make a different version of my resume for each.

    Do you look at the length of time spend at each job? Does it count against an applicant if each company listed on their resume is not hyperlinked to its website? Does it favor somebody to have hyperlinked buttons/thumbnails to their social media accounts?

  2. Gershon Goren Gershon Goren   •     Author

    Hi Angela, good points! But, no we didn’t check these other possible connects (yet). Will do those in the near future.

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