Should I Dumb Down My Resume to Get Hired?

dunce cap“You are overqualified”

I don’t know of three other words that can tick off a job seeker more than these.

It brings an immediate sense of, “Well, gee, I can do the job and do it well so for crying out loud do not hire me!” It is an insult, not a compliment. It feels like a cop out and a smack in the face.

Unfortunately, it is heard a lot.

But why?

It could come down to money. You are going to cost the employer too much money either in assuming you want a larger salary or the cost of losing you in a short time when you jump at the chance for a better job once things turn around for you.

There are times in a career that you just want a job. You have bills to pay, mouths to feed, pride to maintain.

There are some pretty distinct and strong opinions about dumbing down your resume. My personal opinion is I don’t like it, but I get it. I also use the term dumb down in this article, even though I find it insulting – it is not meant as an insult, just a blunt way to describe the topic.

I don’t like it because it makes you diminish your value. It takes almost an apologetic tone for being driven, accomplished, smart, educated or good at what you do. I am a firm believer in not apologizing for who you are so this really rubs me the wrong way.

I get it because, unfortunately, in the job market you are not always playing by fair rules. There are factors that are out of your control and you have to learn how to adapt. I had a conversation with a client last week about this very topic. He went through seven rounds of interviews for a job – seven! He was then sent a dear john email with the over qualified line.

Here’s the thing, the three people he was reporting to had less combined experience and expertise in the field than he did. Based on their profiles, work histories and conversations, we both firmly believe that it was a case of being smarter than the boss.

Personally, leaders should always hire people smarter than them, but that is a subject all on its own. The fact is, there are people in position of offering jobs that are threatened by people smarter or better than themselves and therefore they disqualify them using this cop out.

My thought on this is if you have to dumb down to get a job, more than likely you will not like the job or environment; however, if your short term goal is to keep the lights on I understand you have to do what you have to do.

I am not an advocate of this, however, if you are going to or feel that you need to dumb it down then here are a couple of suggestions.

Tone down the summary. Make it as bland and equal to the job description. Let’s face it, most job descriptions are not prose. Make it simplistic and equal in depth.

Tone down the bullet points. Your resume is your story, if the story they want to hear is that you are not going to balk at doing repetitive, mind numbing work than go ahead and throw in those tasks into your bullet points.

Tone down the accomplishments. Focus more on the duties you performed that are in line with the position rather than how you knocked each one out of the ball park and received numerous accolades and awards.

Tone down the tone. I am a huge advocate of using your voice; however, a lesser version of you would require a tone that is in alignment with the tone of the job description.

The whole point of toning it down is to qualify and not scare them with your awesomeness.

I have read other articles that offer other tips for dumbing down a resume, these are some that I do not agree with and why. Forewarning, I get a little worked up on these.

Omit advanced degrees. First of all, do not ever apologize for bettering yourself. Secondly, a degree is something that is easy to verify or discover. If you omit it and it is discovered than this could translate as lying by omission. If you lied about this, what else did you lie about?

Change titles. First of all titles are meaningless anyway. Secondly a background check can easily prove a discrepancy. Again, if you lied about this, what else did you lie about? One article suggested changing Manager to Admin Support. No. No. No. This is a lie.

Omit jobs only listing things that are more in line with the job. This could create a gap in work history which is harder to explain and would throw up all sorts of red flags.

I think overall the concept of dumbing down a resume is creating a lesser version of you, not a lying version. Lying or lying by omission holds an element of mistrust or mistruth. I know above a suggestion was omitting accolades or toning down accomplishments. Technically this could be classified as omission; however, it is not omitting the skill set or job specific elements.

Even in my own mind I struggle with this concept, as you can tell by that last paragraph. If this is a “get me through this rough period” I get it, just don’t make it a habit. Before you get drastic on dumbing down keep in mind two last thoughts:

Your resume will be held on file somewhere – that dumbed down resume will be kept.
You will have to explain this job in the future.

I think there can be a happy medium, but that is dependent upon each individual. Look at the pros and cons of creating a lesser you and do what is best for you.

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