Should I Dumb Down My Resume When Applying to Jobs I’m Overqualified For?
Your resume is sterling. You’ve got degrees to spare, a solid work history, and an attractive list of certificates and awards. Any company would be lucky to have you. So why hasn’t anyone called you back?
There are many reasons an employer may pass up an overqualified applicant. They may worry such applicants won’t stick around, they won’t be happy with the salary, or they won’t mesh with the company culture.
This leaves you wondering, “Should I dumb down my resume when applying to jobs I’m overqualified for?” The answer depends on what you mean by “dumb down.”
Dumbing down a dumb idea?
If by dumb down you mean to lie or hide the truth, the answer is an unequivocal no. Much like exaggerating on your resume, it may seem a promising way to secure an interview. But during the interview—or worse, after you’ve been hired—you run the risk of being caught in your dishonestly.
Say, for example, you worry your previous job title or advanced degrees over-qualify you for a position. You decide to alter the title or claim that you have “some college.” But the truth can easily be ascertained by employers through reference checks and online searches.
According to a CareerBuilder survey, 75 percent of HR managers report having caught lies on resumes, but only 12 percent would consider following up with a candidate that did something unusual or outrageous. So, dumbing down your resume risks a ruined reputation and no job anyway.
Beyond that, a dumbed-down resume diminishes your value. You’ve worked hard to reach your educational and professional standing. You shouldn’t have to hide your drive or achievements. You should be proud, and your resume offers you a chance to show that value for anyone lucky enough to see it.
Smarting up your resume instead
If by dumb down you mean to revise your resume to match the job posting, the answer is a potential yes. Though, at this point, we’d say the phrase “dumbing down your resume” is inaccurate. You’re creating a targeted resume, an excellent strategy for any job application.
A targeted resume records your qualifications and experiences to line up with the job posting. You start with a list of applicable skills. You then provide your recent work history, focusing on bullet points that match the position’s responsibilities. You finish strong with any additional information that demonstrates your strength as a candidate.
But you omit any irrelevant degrees, certificates, specialized training, etc. Just ensure these omissions don’t create awkward gaps in your work history. For example, you could remove awards or accomplishments that, while flattering and hard-won, don’t speak to your ability to perform necessary duties. You could also revise keywords to be in line with the job posting’s.
With a targeted resume, you aren’t lying or hiding information; you’re summarizing your qualifications, so they’re presented in a streamlined and strategic manner. Should any omitted detail be broached during an interview, you can present yourself and your qualifications honestly—again, not something you should ever feel the need to hide.
The number one way to land an interview—according to 60 percent of the HR managers surveyed by CareerBuilder—is to customize your resume for the position. If you’re curious, the second and third best ways were to include a cover letter and to place your skills first on the resume.
A resume is a marketing tool. With it, you market your skills and abilities, previewing to prospective employers what you’re capable of. As such, employers won’t see a dumbed-down resume as getting more than they bargained for. They’ll see it as the bill of goods it is.
However, by marketing yourself strategically, you don’t have to resort to dumbing down your resume. You can position yourself as the best person for the job, someone with depths and accomplishments any employer would be happy to invest in.