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Should You Dumb Down Your Resume?

March 16, 2009 5:05 PM

If you constantly hear the words “you’re overqualified” from potential employers, it might be time to make some adjustments on your resume. We’re not talking about denying your expertise or years of experience on paper – just some strategic editing so that your resume doesn’t shout I’m Old And I'm Expensive.

A few tips:

• If you graduated from college when the Doobie Brothers were hot, great, but putting 1976 on your resume screams you’re middle-aged. It might put off a recruiter who graduated in 1996. Name the school and degree but omit your graduation date.

• If your career spans 15 years or more, forget about work experience beyond the 15-year mark. List what you’ve done for the last 15. If that doesn’t impress, nothing will.

• A lofty title – say senior executive vice president of marketing – may make a potential employer fear that you’ll demand big bucks and a corner office when all you want is a friggin’ job! Avoid that by omitting your former title. In this case, noting that you were a marketing executive, and where, will suffice. Instead of words like "led customer service department," consider downgrading to "handled customer service issues."

Share with us what's working for you to overcome the "over-qualified" syndrome.

Comments (14)

If you choose to scale back on your resume, then ensure your social media presence reflects a consistent message. When you are interviewing, you may choose to scale your answers to the level of experience required.

I'm female, 63, divorced, and recently laid off. Aside from the age factor, I've also got an ancient BFA degree plus an otherwise "impressive" career history. Both of these factors are problems because I'm now trying to land a hotel housekeeper or fast food counter job...and I'm not sure how to present myself in a resume. I know to NOT mention my degree and to shorten + downplay my work history, but aside from that, not sure what to do. Any suggestions wd be welcome. Thx.

It is up to the you, the future employee to make your resume tasteful and impactful enough with your own experiences so that it will assist to advance your new opportunity. This post makes helpful points that should enhance your resume building.

Kathy of April 05 2009
Have you ever seen american beauty?
"Why surely you have a comprehensive training program"

Does anyone have a good comeback line for the comment, "we think you are overqualified?"
How can I convince an employer that I'm OK with making less money or having a lower position than the one I last held. They are afraid I'll look for a better paying job when the economy gets better. I wasn't able to convince the employer that I wasn't planning to go anywhere and I wanted the job.

The subject is "dumbing down" and not whether or not you've gotten a job. In today's economy, last year's $80,000 is this year's $60,000, so that is the first thing you must face whether or not you're dumbing down. When you lower your title, you must be honest about the companies you have worked for. I agree that the internet and recruiters who hold the jobs close to their vests will not produce results. Those who have met us know we are "experienced" and "old," and anyone who puts more than TEN years and two pages of experience on their resume won't get an interview unless that LEVEL and those YEARS of experience are required. So, logically, if you are "dumbing down" they are NOT. Bottom line: It is a shame that companies and hiring managers don't appreciate what us folks, with the old-fashioned work ethic, bring to the table ... even as we take lower level positions. Just make sure you have the skills your subordinates had when they worked for you.

Absolutely, revamp your resume as many time as possible and gear it towards each job that you apply for. Reality is that too much experience equals "older" and that is a major threat in the corporate world. most HR Recruiters are under 35 years and are intimidated by experience, needless to say the executives and line managers are not any better by indirectly requesting or simply rejecting "seasoned" candidates- they feed off of each other. law of jungle rules in corporate america and nobody does anything about this major issue.The so called EEO is only on paper not so much in practice.
A "corporate hall of shame" site should be created for people to tell their stories and reveal companies name; Perhaps then this shameful practice will be minimized gradually.

I once had the inflated title of "**** Documentation Manger." I managed those document well, but had no supervisory responsibilities. That title came up in interviews often enough that I finally took the word "manager" off my resume. It has resulted in more activity, but my resume still reflects a well-seasoned worker.

I dumb down my resume everything from my physcial home address,so that employers do not know how long my commute is, I did scale back my resume, to show the last 15 years. I did get a job after 12 months, and sure enough it was over a hour to get to, but I did it everyday for the first 3 months, and then they let me go due to the budget
now I am looking again, and so far NOTHING. But I am willing to travel over 1hr if need be.

As an expereinced Executive Director of a nonprofit, I want to get out of the field, and when I apply for positions, with lower titles, I do not seem to get an iterview, even though I do not want all the headache again of being in charge.

I have been searching for a job actively since Nov 2008. If companies posted job openings last year, they did not fill them or waited until 2009. I have been applying to many organizations and have been on 3 job interviews, but no job offer yet. Although I have a great work history and hold a Master's Degree in HR, I am not getting calls even for an interview. I have removed my graduate degree from many of my resumes for lower levels jobs because I believe when employees see that my application is tossed. No one returns your calls, you cannot apply in person, so my application is floating in cyberspace. Trying to remain hopeful.

I don't have a tip, but I do have a comment. Most employers are using online applications that leave little wiggle room. Months and years of employment and education are usually required fields. One application I submitted even asked for the day I began or left a job. Do most experienced people remember such details? I don't.

What I have done is omit everything I did prior to 1985. Those were entry level jobs totally unrelated to what I did for the last 22 years.

Advances in technology are great! But these online applications make it easier on the recruiters, not the applicants. Too bad.

Even though I have over 30 years experience, I only put 15 - 20 years experience on my resume, even if I have to cut the time I actually worked for a company. This does seem to get me interviews. Also, I have learned that if you can cut it to 10 - 15 years, that is even better.

Be careful with dumbing down a resume. I was unemployed for 9 months in 2008. I tried dumbing down my resume to make myself better fit into some lower level jobs. (I had been a Director level.) I submitted my lower resume to a manager level position in July. Before hearing from that company, a Director level position opened up with the same company. Now, I had to approach them and get my "real" resume in front of the right person. I don't think they ever got over the fact that I had submitted a less than honest resume and I did not get an interview even though the Director position was a perfect fit.
Fortunately, I have now been employed for 4 months as a Sr Manager at a very large company.

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