Make us your home page
Instagram

Is your resume too good?

McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — 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 where the national unemployment rate for January was 7.6 percent. 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.

Using euphemisms for prestigious titles

Gerry Kirkland of Global Recruiters Network in Fort Mill, S.C., said he has 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 says "plant manager" or "manufacturing manager," Kirkland said.

Another woman 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.

"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.

Good reasons not to omit qualifications

Richard Smith, who moved to Charlotte from Michigan last year, has used 25 to 50 versions of his resume in the past few years, playing up or down qualifications based on the opportunity.

Smith's last job was as a project manager in the automotive industry. When he 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 schools.

Employers have mixed opinions on toned-down resumes. Sandy Cranford, director of hiring for the amusement park Carowinds, which is filling more than 2,100 seasonal jobs this year, said she has seen candidates with MBAs apply.

"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?"

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."

Tips to broaden your resume's appeal

Most recruiters don't recommend dialing down a resume, but offer these tips to broaden your resume's appeal:

• Customize your resume and cover letter for each opportunity. Play up skills and qualifications that would make you a good fit for the job.

• Consider putting your education and work experience on the second page of a resume, using the first page to highlight specific skills and accomplishments.

• Be careful when changing job titles. If your title was well known or even on your business card, it might be hard to hide. Otherwise, you can make small changes in how you phrase it.

• Be careful in deciding what information to leave out. Employers say it's okay to omit work history from more than 15 years ago, for instance. But if a hiring manager sees gaps in your work history, or other missing pieces, it will raise questions.

• Don't be deceptive. Hiring managers are tough to fool.

• Don't panic. Try to hold out for a job that fits.

Is your resume too good? 02/28/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 28, 2009 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  4. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]