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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is it time to "Dumb Down" your resume?

Securing work in a tight economy means more job seekers might find themselves applying for positions below their qualifications. Many unemployed professionals are willing to take paycuts for the promise of a paycheck. But to get a foot in the door, candidates are gearing down their résumés by hiding advanced degrees, changing too-lofty titles, shortening work experience descriptions, and removing awards and accolades.

In the past eight months, Jamaica Eilbes, an information-technology recruiter for Milwaukee employment agency Manpower, has had to weed out more overqualified résumés than usual from the stacks that cross her desk each day. "I'd never feel comfortable putting a really high-level candidate into a lower level position," says Ms. Eilbes, who recruits for Manpower and other clients. "We don't want to take you on if we think you are going to jump ship."

But in recent months, Ms. Eilbes has seen more master's and doctoral degrees at the bottom of résumés instead of at the top. She's also seen candidates omitting or trimming job descriptions that showed they had substantial years of work experience. Résumés on which job descriptions taper off as they progress down the page raise Ms. Eilbes's suspicions. "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?" she says.

Still, for some professionals who find themselves constantly rejected despite decades of experience, scaling back the truth -- or at the least, some of their experiences -- can feel like the only chance at an interview.

Jane Doe, 52, has 32 years of marketing experience but doesn't want her résumé to show it. When she lost her job as vice president of marketing at a small LA marketing firm in January, Ms. Doe searched for work with little success. At an interview for a fast food marketing-director position in February, she was told that the hiring budget had only enough for a junior-level employee and that her résumé showed she was overqualified.

Many of the jobs she comes across ask for far fewer years of experience than she has. "There is nothing to apply for" at my level, Ms. Doe says. She quickly realized her job experience was pricing her out of too many positions. Her solution: To try not to look as senior level as she really was. So she eliminated certain jobs and removed details about speaking engagements and board positions.

Career counselors advise against making too many drastic changes. But they also say the demand for this kind of restructuring is on the rise. In the past three months, Tammy Kabell, a Kansas City, Mo., job-search coach, says more clients are requesting her help to "dumb down" their résumés, whether by changing job titles, playing down experience, or altogether omitting some impressive achievements. One recent client, a 61-year-old former chief learning officer at a tech company, insisted on omitting her C-level job title from her résumé. She was fearful her application would be weeded out by the Web search-optimization tools companies use to manage résumés.

Some résumé writers advise reworking a résumé into a functional one stressing transferable skills instead of past job titles and accomplishments. "Instead of focusing on the big achievements that might scare an employer away, you can spell out what you can bring to an employer in the next position," Ms. Kabell says.

Joe Work, 55, has 30 years of experience in IT education and training management, an advanced degree, and has run a $200 million global business. After four months of sending resumes into what must be a black hole, he dumb down his resume to reflect 20+ years of experience running large training business in the US. He received three inquiry's after taking this action.

"You have to make those creative edits when it comes to short-term work, but in terms of long-term work, you have to stay true to your experience," says Joe.

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Anonymous said...

I think its good to remember that your resume is a marketing vehicle to get you the interview. Yes it must reflect the truth and align your experience with the requirements of the position. After you get a recruiter to respond (the biggest part of the battle) you can embellish.

If they want chocolate cake, advertise your chocolate cake - if they order it, then tell them it also comes with great frosting and ice cream all with no extra calories.

Anonymous said...

Its a strategy that has to be tried - a good plan B Joe.