There has been a lot of talk and stories written lately about job seekers dumbing down their resumes. For the un-initiated, this is when you leave information (accomplishments and successes) off of your resume because you want to give the impression that you are not as experienced as you actually are. In my mind there are at least three distinct types of job seekers. You are either employed (congratulations), unemployed (help is on the way), or underemployed (probably looking). I think it is absolutely ridiculous for someone who is unemployed to sell themselves short and do themselves a career disservice by playing dumb. Why? Take a look at the following scenarios and see if you can relate.

You work your entire career to climb that corporate ladder; a metaphor from the late 80’s that is undoubtedly dated but gets the point across. You’ve worked overtime, missed a couple birthday parties or anniversaries, showed up late to school functions or your child’s sporting events trying to impress the boss and show that you are a team player.

You’ve gone to college or a trade school intent on focusing on a specific and specialized career or skill area. You’ve toiled and worked countless hours as you learned your trade and are now ready to face the world.

You spouse or parent has put their career on hold for you to pursue your career dreams.

These are just a few of the real life situations that I know some of you reading this have endured. I know times are tough. I know the unemployment rate is astronomical. I know desperate times call for desperate measures but I also suspect that you don’t want to let yourself, or those that have supported you, down. I maintain that dumbing down your resume is basically lying to yourself and potential employer in an effort to get an inferior job. If you need to pay the bills, you can find a job to do that honestly. Dumbing down your resume is akin to creating a false identity, or at least a half identity. You are trying to get a company to interview a shell of who you really are. I know there are those that maintain, as I do, that a resume is only used to get you the interview. Many people have different versions of their resume that they use for different levels of positions but that’s not what I’m talking about. If you are a VP, you shouldn’t be selling yourself as a junior level project manager. If you are really looking for a job, and you land that junior level role, does that really help you?

- Approach each interview like an open book.
- Apply for positions that you are qualified for and interested in.
- Send resumes that are appropriately tailored for these roles.

You will be all the better for it. Say no to playing dumb!

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Comment by Brad Zirulnik on June 5, 2009 at 4:53pm
This is good news because I just lost my recruiting job and after 3 years I am now tasked with writing a new/updated resume. As I spent several hours this week thinking of what I should be including in my new resume, I definitely thought it was a good idea to specify all of the great things I accomplished while I was there!! After putting pen to paper, I realized how much I did for the company in 3 years. WOW. Why the hell would I not want another company to know all of this? If the fear of being "over-qualified" scares you then that job is clearly not for you. One step forward two steps back is not a strategy, it's an accident. As a recruiter, I ALWAYS put the best resumes first, too much experience never disqualified any of my leads. I used them to call on for other leads or saved their resume for the next time my office was hiring.
Comment by Duane Roberts on June 5, 2009 at 5:11pm
Brad - I agree completely. I think it's always best to present the "full range" of your background when sending over your resume. The conversations/interviews you have will go down a path based on specifics that pique the companies interest.


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