Q: I’ve been searching for a job for several months and I’m not having much luck securing interviews. I have a graduate degree, certification in project management and 12 years of management experience.
I was discussing this with a friend and he suggested that I “dumb down” my resume so I don’t come across as overqualified in today’s ultra competitive job market. Is this is a good strategy?
A: I’ve been asked this question by several clients over the past year and it is a tricky subject. On one hand, you need the paycheck and may be willing to take a lower level job in the short term. On the other hand you must be extremely careful not to misrepresent your background to recruiters and hiring managers. Employers will consider any false information on the resume to be grounds for disqualification as a candidate or termination of employment if hired.
Candidates need to present resumes and cover letters that communicate a focus on a specific career title or role. So I often create additional versions of a resume for clients pursuing different types of jobs.
For example, an English teacher might have alternate versions to use while targeting a part-time or short-term roles as a writer, editor or book researcher. An accountant might have a second or third resume for freelance payroll or bookkeeping work for small businesses or for her role as an adjunct accounting instructor at a local college.
The individuals in these examples would not be altering their background information; they would be focusing the resume content to illustrate a match to other types of career roles.
To answer your question, don’t “dumb down” your resume. If you feel overqualified for available positions, consider creating a “light” version of your resume.
Drop your professional certifications and bury your graduate degree at the end of the document, with no mention of it in the body. You can also scale back the descriptions and the accomplishments listed for each career position, as well as honors and awards you have received. This draws emphasis away from your higher level managerial and leadership experience.
I do not recommend altering dates of employment or making major changes to a job title, as this information to critical to any background checks. But a title of Senior Vice President of Business Development might be edited to Business Development Executive without misrepresenting the role. Remember, though, that when asked to complete a formal application, answer all questions honesty and include all the information that is requested.
I never fully understood why employers are reluctant to hire overqualified candidates. Sure, these employees may end up leaving after a year or two, when a better offer comes along. But typical employees are also jumping ship when they see an opportunity.
The probability is pretty high that an overqualified candidate will contribute excellent work during their stay, while setting a nice example for their co-workers to follow. So there is a “win-win” scenario for employee and employer.