Dumbing Down Your Resume

February 23, 2011

by Randy Wooden at The Wooden Group

Perhaps you’ve read my February 13, 2011, article in the Winston-Salem Journal.  If not, here’s a somewhat controversial take on adapting your resume to meet the job requirements.

You’ve sacrificed time and money to earn your degree, perhaps adding a master’s degree or better. You’re not only proud of your achievements, but employers should value your efforts.

But wait. You’ve lost your job and, perhaps, are perfectly willing to take a step or two backward to not only stop the financial bleeding, but to re-energize yourself.

We’ve been taught a résumé should make you look as strong as possible. But in some cases, your résumé can be too strong. It can make you appear overqualified for the job you seek.

So should you dumb down your résumé? And what does dumbing down mean?

Dumbing down typically refers to your education. Dropping a master’s degree from your résumé when the employer doesn’t require a graduate degree is appropriate in a tight market. The same can apply to your experience and accompanying job titles.

Deciding what to keep and what to drop can be tricky. Is there an accepted trade-off between, say, a master’s degree and years of experience? Employers have differing opinions.

Here’s my rule of thumb. Consider what a job is likely to pay given its requirements. Is a degree “preferred” or mandatory? If preferred, then drop the master’s and just list your bachelor’s degree.

Consider your years of experience and your job titles. Consider dropping jobs prior to 1995 from your résumé, particularly when the requirements are five to 10 years of experience. Do your job titles seem to match the job you’re interested in? If not, consider altering your title to one more in line.

What if you’re self-employed? As the owner and president of The Wooden Group, I’d list “Sales Manager” on my résumé. Or “Operations Manger” or “Marketing Director” or whatever role I needed to reflect my relevant skills.

Résumés are as much a reflection of your work history and achievements as they are a game of matching key words and educational requirements. If you’re too “heavy” on experience or education, you may be able to perform the job with your eyes closed, but most employers won’t consider you for fear that they can’t afford you or that you’ll leave once you find a higher-paying job more in line with your experience.

The immediate goal is to get an interview. And, assuming you don’t have a contact to bypass the screening process, your résumé needs to match the company’s requirements. At least once you’re in person you’ll have your chance to explain your situation. But by including all your experience and education on your application you likely won’t get that chance.


Applied Online? Now Get Your Resume to Rise to the Top of Their Pile!

February 1, 2011

By Kathy Bernard, Get a Job Blogs & Workshops

Ever feel like you are sending your resume into a pit of no return when you apply for a job on an online site? I’ve found a good way to get your resume noticed by the hiring manager or recruiter after you apply online. It involves using www.LinkedIn.com, so if you aren’t registered on this important free business networking site yet, establish a profile there as soon as you can. Then invite all of your friends and colleague to connect with you there. The more LinkedIn connections you have, the greater access you will have to an extended network of your first degree connections and all of your connections’ first and second degree connections.

Once you are on www.LinkedIn.com and have established connections, use the search box to try to learn the hiring manager and/or recruiter’s name. Do so by using the drop down menu to “Search People” and then type in the company’s name. Search through the results to find the people with the leadership or recruiting titles you seek.

Contact these people through one of these means:

  • If they are a second degree connection (if one the people is a friend of one of your first degree LinkedIn connections), click the button “Get introduced through a connection” and follow the prompts. This will allow a friend of yours to send your message to the person. Alternatively, you can send a regular email with your resume to your friend and ask him/her to forward your resume to his/her connection and put in a good word for you.
  • Send the hiring manager or recruiter a LinkedIn “Inmessage” (this requires a monthly LinkedIn upgrade cost)
  • Try to find the person’s email address on Google by putting the person’s name and company name in the search box and seeing if his/her contact information comes up in the search findings. (Their contact information might be in a directory, for example).
  • If you can’t find the person’s email address online, but the job requires you to apply by emailing (for example) Bob Brown at bbrown@blank.com, you now know the construction of email addresses at that company. So if you learn the hiring manager is Becky Thatcher at the same company, you know that her email address is probably bthatcher@blank.com. Use that knowledge to send her a personal email and attach your resume.

Of course another option is to try calling the company’s main switchboard and asking for the name and email address of the recruiter or director of the such and such department.

Taking these approaches has worked well for me because they show potential employers that I am proactive and resourceful. Personal approaches also appeal to recipients’ egos because they know I sought them out specifically. So start emailing key people after you apply online … after all, it could help you Get a Job!