By Kim Isaacs
, Monster Resume Expert
If youâ€™re an experienced worker, you might be considering dumbing down your resume to land an interview for a position for which you might seem overqualified. This strategy could include downplaying or omitting work experience, resume skills, degrees and other credentials. But is reworking your resume in this manner a wise thing to do? Employment experts weigh in with their advice.
Special Circumstances Can Warrant It
Tracy Parish, a certified professional resume writer and president of resume-writing firm CareerPlan in Kewanee, Illinois, has encountered situations when dumbing down the resume can work. â€œObviously, a person needs to keep bread on the table, so accepting a lower position is becoming more common and the resume needs to be appropriately tailored,â€ she says.
While you donâ€™t have to include everything youâ€™ve ever done on your resume, donâ€™t cross the line into dishonesty. â€œNever lie,â€ Parish says. â€œIt will come back to haunt you.â€ If you decide to omit some of your credentials on your resume, you still must provide a thorough account on a job application. A resume is a strategic marketing piece, whereas a job application is a signed, legal document that requires full disclosure.
What Are the Risks?
â€œJob seekers should think carefully before dumbing down their resumes,â€ says Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, a staffing agency based in Menlo Park, California. â€œEmployers can easily learn about job seekersâ€™ work histories, education and credentials online or through references, so they should be truthful.â€
â€œWe do not recommend that job seekers hide relevant information,â€ says Carrie Stone, a former Disney executive and current president of cStone & Associates, an executive search and leadership consulting firm in San Diego. â€œIf job seekers misrepresent credentials, they are seen as dishonest and employers will question their integrity.â€
William Finlay, PhD, professor of sociology at the University of Georgia and coauthor of Headhunters: Matchmaking in the Labor Market, also agrees that job seekers shouldnâ€™t dumb down their resumes. â€œMisrepresentation, if it is discovered, is a deal breaker because it calls the candidateâ€™s honesty into question,â€ he says.
Overqualified Workers May Have an Edge
Finlayâ€™s research suggests some good news for job seekers who are willing to accept lower-level positions but are concerned about being perceived as overqualified. â€œWe may be entering an era in which being overqualified is no longer a liability,â€ he says. â€œA generation ago, a college degree became a requirement for jobs that previously required only a high school diploma. Now, we are seeing evidence of people with JDs and MBAs being hired for jobs that previously would have gone to people with undergraduate degrees.â€
Stone has seen this trend in her recruiting career as well. â€œPreviously, employers may have been concerned about hiring overqualified individuals, fearing that when the economy rebounds these employees may leave for other opportunities,â€ she says. â€œSince we are not seeing a robust rebound in the market, savvy employers are hiring these overqualified employees while achieving value pricing.â€
Parish, who agrees that dumbing down the resume is generally not a good idea, says job seekers should shoot for the stars. â€œIf experienced workers are armed with an extraordinary resume and launch an aggressive job search, they could find their ideal jobs and wonâ€™t have to settle,â€ she says.
Here are three strategies for experienced job seekers who donâ€™t want to dumb down their resumes:
Customize: â€œA resume needs to be custom-designed, highly targeted and well above average to gain interest,â€ Parish says. Include a targeted resume title so employers understand your career goal, followed by a qualifications summary that provides an overview of your value.
Summarize: â€œItâ€™s perfectly fine to omit details that arenâ€™t relevant to the position you are applying for,â€ Hosking says. â€œFor example, you donâ€™t need to include a job you held in high school 40 years ago or expound on a job in another field that isnâ€™t relevant to the position youâ€™re seeking.â€ Parish recommends detailing only the past 10 to 15 years of your employment history, and relegating older employment to an â€œAdditional Experienceâ€ or â€œEarly Careerâ€ section at the bottom. Unrelated degrees or specialized training can be downplayed or eliminated as long as they are appropriately listed on an application form, she says.
Overcome Objections: Stone says job seekers should anticipate objections employers might have, and use the cover letter to address how age and experience can be a tremendous asset to the organization. â€œSeek to understand employersâ€™ concerns and then sell around those concerns with brevity, clarity and confidence,â€ she says.