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Should You Dumb Down Your Resume? PDF Print E-mail
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by Terri Bruce, CWDP, GCDFI, JCTC


The Career Corner (monthly column)


Published in the Carriage Towne News


September 9, 2003


Q: I'm being told that I'm overqualified for the jobs that I've interviewed for and I should dumb-down my resume. But I feel that this is insulting to me and I don't want to do it. Any advice?


A: Most likely, you are proud of what you have done and what you have accomplished during your lifetime, and you want to share that pride with potential employers. However, employers are not always going to view your accomplishments the same way you are.


How many times have you been shopping for something - a car, for example - looked at the features listed in the brochure, and said, "I don't need the leather seats and seat warmer, I just just need ABS brakes, a CD player, and power locks," because you know that extra features will cost extra. You usually will buy the product that has just enough features to meet your needs, instead of paying for a lot of extra frippery that you don't need. Employers think the same way. Why would they pay for extra features they don't need, when most likely those extra features will translate into extra costs, such as hgher salary?


Resumes are probably the most misunderstood element of a job search campaign. Many people don't understand the resume's purpose and are very resistant to a large portion of resume-writing advice because they don't really understand what the resume is for. Most people believe a resume is the same as a work history; it's not. Many people believe a resume's function is to get you a job; it's not. A resume's only function is to get you an interview, and it does that by promoting the skills and qualificationsyou have to do the particular job for which you are applying.


You should think of your resume as a marketing brochure, promoting your advantages over the competition to potential employers. If you think of the resume in those terms, it becomes clearer why you don't necessarily want or need to put your entire work history, your personal information, your entire educational background, or all of your skills on your resume. The only things that should be on your resume are those that tell the company why it should buy (hire) you instead of the other products (candidates) out there.


Look at everything on your resume line by line, and ask yourself, "how does this convince the employer that I'm the best candidate for the job?" Does the fact that you have a Master's degree in History really help make the case that you're qualified for the job as a computer programmer? Does the fact that you have ten years of experience in retail sales management really scream, "I'm perfect for a position in accounts payable?"


If you think of your resume in these terms, you will see that leaving out some of your work experience, education, or skills is not "dumbing-down" your resume but is, instead, aligning your marketing "brochure" with the needs of the customer (employer). A good rule of thumb is to not waste your time, or theirs, trying to sell employers on features they don't need.