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Is your resume too good?

There is a tendency in a tough job market to try and “force-fit” yourself into many of the job descriptions you find.  When overqualified, this can be a humbling experience, but sometimes can be a bad approach.  Kirsten Valle of published an article today about this predicament where job seekers fear being labeled overqualified and omit or reword impressive aspects of their background.  The article provides good food for thought.

Is your resume too good?

By Kirsten Valle,

Faced with the cruelest job market in years, some unemployed professionals are lowering their standards for the jobs they’re seeking – and even toning down their resumes to avoid seeming overqualified.

To try to land interviews, they’re mum about master’s degrees they’ve earned and omitting lofty-sounding executive titles. Still others have left out everything from salary histories to the years they graduated to appear more attractive to employers.

Experts say it’s a sign of growing desperation in a tough economy. The Charlotte area’s unemployment rate hit 8.9 percent in December, far above the 7.6 percent national average reported for January. Job openings are scarce, and some employers turn away overqualified candidates, worrying they can’t afford them, or that the new hires will be dissatisfied and move on quickly.

Gerry Kirkland of Fort Mill, S.C.’s Global Recruiters Network said he’s talked to two job seekers in the past month who have listed lower-level titles. One worked as general manager at a steel manufacturer; his resume now say “plant manager” or “manufacturing manager,” Kirkland said.

One Charlotte woman, who asked not to be identified, has had two recruiters present her former title as “director” of marketing, rather than “vice president,” thinking the latter would make her seem overqualified, she said.

The woman, who is in her 40s, agreed to ditch the title in hopes of getting an interview and deciding for herself whether the job was a fit, she said.

“Anybody who’s been out of work for a long period of time begins looking for, ‘What can I do to survive?’” said Doug Forrest, a researcher at recruiting firm CEO Inc. “They’re doing what they have to do in order to become employed.”

It’s hard to say whether leaving information off a resume is unethical. Generally, recruiters say it’s smart to tailor your resume to different positions and play up the strengths that would be a good match. Omitting details is not considered as serious as inventing qualifications you don’t have.

Barry Wohl of Carolina Custom Resumes often discusses with clients the best way to phrase titles and qualifications, he said.

“We don’t want them to look like they’re in that rarefied atmosphere where it looks like there’s very little demand,” he said.

Wohl frequently omits college graduation dates, for instance, so hiring managers can’t immediately tell how long an applicant has been in the work force. He has worked with at least one client who left out his master’s degree.

“The feeling would be that they just did not want to appear too educated or like they would require a higher salary,” he said.

Some workers still hold out for a job that fits, like Lysa Schmidt, 50, who lost her job at Citigroup in December after 19 years.

“I’m not going to take anything off my resume,” she said. “I’m not going to settle.”

But for others, settling has become the only option.

Richard Smith, who moved to Charlotte from Michigan last year, has used 25 to 50 versions of his resume over the past few years, playing up or down certain qualifications based on the opportunity, he said Thursday at a local networking event.

Smith’s last job was as a project manager in the automotive industry. When he first moved to Charlotte, he was looking for jobs with similar pay. Now, he has lowered those expectations and is checking out teaching and coaching positions at area schools.

T.J. Broadnax, who lost his job as a sales agent with a home builder last year, hasn’t made significant changes to his resume, though he’s targeting lower-level jobs than he would normally pursue.

“I’m finding that the positions that are out there – the only ones available – are the entry-level ones,” he said. “They are positions I normally wouldn’t have thought twice about.”

Employers have mixed opinions on toned-down resumes. Sandy Cranford, director of hiring for Carowinds, which is filling more than 2,100 seasonal jobs this year, said she hasn’t seen applicants toning down resumes. She said she has seen candidates with MBAs apply there.

“For those that are overqualified, it’s just less training we have to do,” she said.

Cranford said she wouldn’t be bothered if someone chose not to disclose certain qualifications – but that those things are nice to know and can sometimes result in a better position, if one becomes available.

Betsey Walker, human resources manager for Charlotte’s Carilion Labs, a hospital lab company, said it’s best for applicants to play up certain skills or accomplishments, but they should rarely leave anything out.

“Probably in this market, it’s not unwise to be appealing to different employers, but you don’t want to try to be everything to everybody,” she said.

Walker has seen candidates leave information off because they feel it’s irrelevant to the job. She considers that a misrepresentation.

“I find myself wondering, what else did they leave out?” she said.

Tough job market or not, most recruiters and resume experts don’t advise clients to tone down their resumes.

“You should never apologize for your experience and skills,” said Bill Reading of King Career Consultants. “Our advice is to be somewhat patient.”

After all, while toning down a resume isn’t as bad as pumping it up with false credentials, it’s still dishonest, some say. It’s also tough to fool hiring managers, who can expose inconsistencies with a quick reference check.

“As a general rule, I don’t recommend that folks accept jobs where the job requirement is much below where they’ve been,” said Kirkland, the Fort Mill recruiter. “It was a long, hard fight to get to that level, and it’s going to be a long, hard fight to get it back.”

March 15, 2009 - Posted by | Careers, Job Search, Resume Writing

1 Comment »

  1. […] Is your resume too good? […]

    Pingback by Resume Writers: Keep Your Plate Out of the Boiler « Jeff Lipschultz’s Blog | July 10, 2009 | Reply

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