‘Dumbing Down’ Your Resume


Maybe it’s the title itself that irks me; ‘dumbing down’ your resume. In case you’re unfamiliar with this term and what it means, it refers to omitting qualifications, education and experiences you have in order to get an interview for a job you are applying to.

Typically those who take these steps are frustrated with being told they are over-qualified for jobs they’ve applied to. The employers they speak with are concerned that the well-qualified applicant would not be content to stay in the job for long, would continue to look for work better suited to their qualifications, resulting in the person leaving for another job shortly after being hired. All employers want a reasonable return on their hiring decisions, and don’t expect to be conducting a search for a new employee to fill the same role in quick succession. Their time is better spent doing other things; not going through the selection process too often.

When asked by clients if it would be advisable to leave out degrees and supervisory jobs when they are applying for entry-level positions, (as in the case of a career change or wanting to get into an organization that typically hires only from within), I generally advise against the practice. There are a number of reasons I feel this way. For starters I believe everyone should be proud of their achievements. They’ve worked hard to get that degree; they’ve demonstrated skills required to effectively supervise and lead.

The other concern I have for omitting experiences and education is that it can create what appears to be gaps in a resume. If you took 3 or 4 years to get your degree, and perhaps another 1 – 2 years to get your Masters, how will you explain those years?

Now I get your concerns and the concerns you imagine the employer having should they hire you. Your higher education suggests a level of intelligence and a different way of perceiving the world. How are you going to fit in if your job doesn’t call for you to over think the job and what it entails. Could be that the employer is thinking ahead and visualizing you creating unintended problems with team chemistry. Will you start giving your immediate supervisor the benefit of your previous supervisory experience? Will you challenge their decisions? Will you rock the boat and be more of a problem than you are worth? There are some highly skilled, intelligent people who would fail miserably in some entry-level jobs. They’re so busy thinking of how to make improvements and where change is needed, they can’t focus entirely on the job before them.

So the real crux of the matter for me is not ‘dumbing down’ the resume at all, but rather convincing an employer that you bring both the right attitude required to succeed and an enhanced skill set. In other words, you have to market yourself in such a way that they see the immediate benefits to be gained by having a highly skilled employee, who will take direction and all of this at an affordable rate of pay. If you can accomplish this, you have a better shot at getting a job offer.

Now the other thing that makes me always lean towards giving yourself full credit for your learning and work experience is that it may expose you to opportunities which you would not otherwise be aware of if you concealed those same attributes. You may for example go for an entry or mid-level position which was advertised, and do such a great job of making a positive first impression that the interviewer introduces a different position in the company for you to consider. In other words, you apply for a Data Entry Clerk job but end up mid-interview being considered for an IT Support role with a higher rate of pay and greater responsibilities which are a better fit for your skills and interests.

So why would someone even be interested in an entry or mid-level job if they have skills and experience which qualify them for roles higher up in the organization? Well maybe they are burnt out, need less stress in their work, want to launch themselves in a new direction, or have found out that the company they want to work for only hires internally for senior roles, so they just need to get in however they can.

Is leaving out things on your resume lying? I think not. No resume should contain every single thing you’ve ever done; it’s always a case of marketing yourself to best fit the needs of the employer, positioning yourself to solve their problems, address their needs.

A cover letter is imperative in situations where you may run the risk of being passed over because of your past work and qualifications. Explaining why you’re the right choice, the added value the employer will realize, while at the same time reassuring them of your motives and providing them with a solid return on their investment in you is the key.

In summary, take pride in the accomplishments you’ve realized. Employers have every right to be concerned about new hires, how long they’ll stay, how they’ll fit in, and most importantly how they will alter the existing chemistry on the teams they will be assigned to. Your job is to position yourself in the mind of the interviewer and employer as a positive addition to the organization, where your benefits outweigh their concerns.