There was an article in the Wall Street Journal recently, titled:
The New Resume: Dumb and Dumber with a subtitle of:
Job Seekers Play Down Their Credentials to Avoid Looking Overqualified
The story was about people that took graduate degrees, years of experience, or titles off their resumes that made them appear ‘overqualified’ for jobs to which they were applying.
Does that work? and… Is that a good idea?
Two very different questions, and in my opinion, with two very different answers.
Most people would agree that it’s a bad idea to add credentials to a resume that aren’t true. Adding a degree, an inflated title, a company, or certification that you don’t have is both wrong and potential career suicide. Not too long ago the CEO of Texas Instruments was famously dismissed from his position when it was discovered he didn’t actually have a degree that he listed on his resume. The truth may be discovered in a pre-employment background check, or it may be discovered a year after you’ve been in the job. Either way, it won’t be a positive outcome when it happens. Perhaps the truth will never be discovered. What will your life be like in the meantime, waiting and wondering?
When excluding relevant information from your resume, it is also deceiving the employer in order to get a job. A quote in the Wall Street Journal article from a recruiter is dead on:
"How do I know I can trust them later down the road if there's something on their résumé they decided to take off so they could have a better chance at getting that job?"
If the employer would not have hired you because you’re overqualified, they are not going to be pleased later to find out that they now have an overqualified employee… that deceived them. The reasons they did not want an overqualified employee in the first place haven’t likely changed and now they feel they have an employee they’re not sure they can trust.
Companies often have legitimate reasons for not wanting to hire someone with more experience or qualifications than the role requires, such as:
- Statistically, the employee is much more likely to jump ship if a more appropriate opportunity arises.
- The employee is less likely to feel fulfilled or challenged in their position, leading to complacency.
- They are less likely to be ‘coachable’ in company processes or procedures
- There is a higher likelihood of an employee with an “I’m better than this” attitude
If the company feels that way to begin with, it’s not likely to be a satisfying place for you to work. Yes, it may be tougher and take more effort to find a position that is more appropriate to your qualifications. However, it will also much more likely be the better situation for both you and the company.
All that said… I do believe it’s acceptable to downplay your qualifications on your resume. If you have a PhD and you’re applying for a Sales position, you don’t have to put your degree at the top of your resume in bold font. Listing the information in a normal font at the end of your resume is fine. If you’ve had 25 years of experience and you’re applying for a position that requires 10, include details of your positions for the last 10 years and then only have a line that states something like: Additional related experience 1984 – 1999.
You are acknowledging your past and not trying to deceive them, you are just presenting your experience in a way most appropriate for the position you’re applying to.
As in every area in life: Honesty is the best policy!
Go out and find the position most appropriate for you!
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