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Is It smart to dumb down
your resume?

Overqualified? While you don’t have to include everything you’ve ever done on
your resume, don’t cross the line into dishonesty.
Kim Isaacs, Monster contributor

If you’re an experienced worker, you
might be wondering if you should
dumb 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, education
and 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
TrendSettingResumes in Kewanee,
Illinois, has encountered situations
when dumbing down a resume
can work. “Obviously, 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,” she says.

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

Headhunters: Matchmaking in
the Labor Market, also agrees that
job seekers shouldn’t dumb down
their resumes. “Misrepresentation,
if it is discovered, is a deal breaker
because it calls the candidate’s
honesty into question,” he says.

What are the risks?

Overqualified workers may
have an edge

“You should think carefully before
determining if you should dumb
down your resume,” says Robert
Hosking, senior vice president
and managing director of search
practices at Lee Hecht Harrison
Knightsbridge, a global staffing
agency. “Employers can easily learn
about job seekers’ work histories,
education and credentials online or
through references, so you should
be truthful.”

“We do not recommend that job
seekers hide relevant information,”
says Carrie Stone, a former Disney
executive and current president of
cStone & Associates, an executive
search and leadership consulting
firm in San Diego. “If job seekers
misrepresent credentials, they are
While you don’t have to include
everything you’ve ever done on your seen as dishonest and employers
will question their integrity.”
resume, don’t cross the line into
dishonesty. “Never lie,” Parish says. “It William Finlay, PhD, professor
will come back to haunt you.”
of sociology at the University

If you decide to omit some of your

of Georgia and coauthor of

Finlay’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.
“We may be entering an era in which
being overqualified is no longer
a liability,” he says. “A 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.”
Stone has seen this trend in
her recruiting career as well.
“Previously, employers may have
been concerned about hiring
overqualified individuals, fearing
that when the economy rebounds
these employees may leave for
other opportunities,” she says. “Since

When is it wise to downplay your experience?

we are not seeing a robust rebound
in the market, savvy employers
are hiring these overqualified
employees while achieving value

Smarter strategies
Parish, who agrees that dumbing
down the resume is generally not a
good idea, says job seekers should
shoot for the stars. “If experienced
workers are armed with an
extraordinary resume and launch
an aggressive job search, they could
find their ideal jobs and won’t have
to settle,” she says.
Here are three strategies for
experienced job seekers who don’t
want to dumb down their resumes:
1. Customize: “A resume needs
to be custom-designed, highly
targeted and well above average to
gain interest,” Parish says. Include
a qualifications summary that
provides an overview of your value.
2. Summarize: “It’s perfectly fine to
omit details that aren’t relevant to

the position you are applying for,”
Hosking says. “For example, you
don’t need to include a job you
held in high school 40 years ago or
expound on a job in another field
that isn’t relevant to the position
you’re seeking.”
Parish recommends detailing only
the past 10 to 15 years of your
employment history, and relegating
older employment to an Additional
Experience or Early Career 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.
3. 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. “Seek to understand
employers’ concerns and then sell
around those concerns with brevity,
clarity and confidence,” she says.


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