With unemployment still pretty high, there are many people with great qualifications out looking for work. I have a few friends who are in the same predicament as everyone else. No matter how much someone has to say about it, this isn’t the easiest environment to get a job, or a contract I have to add.

Something that keeps coming up is what a person’s resume looks like, but it’s not what you might be thinking. The question that keeps coming up is whether resumes should be “dumbed down” if the person is looking for a job for which the qualifications aren’t all that hard to attain.

This is a very valid question. I have to admit that many years ago when I had an open entry level position open I was stunned to receive two resumes from people with masters degrees. With some of the work they had done, I thought it was overkill and I didn’t even interview either of those people. In retrospect, I wish I’d at least have brought them in because it’s possible that their skills would have been suited for something else, even though neither one of them had a background in health care. Then again, neither did any of the people who didn’t have their level of education.

What makes someone who’s hiring look at a resume with qualifications that seem like overkill decide against that person? Oddly enough, the main reason is that managers look at a resume like that and think to themselves “this person isn’t going to stay.” That’s really it. It’s not that they’re worried someone with strong qualifications might take their job or make them look bad. It’s the worry that they’ll spend time training someone who’s really looking for the first opportunity to leave and go take a job in their original career, and thus one has wasted training time.

While that might seem like a valid reason, it’s inherently unfair. Truth be told, people leave for many reasons, and someone with great qualifications for a position could leave just as suddenly. One of the consulting gigs I got came about because the first person hired by a hospital showed up, got a call 2 hours later for something better, and was gone an hour after that. Lucky for the hospital there wasn’t any training time they’d had to spend, but it shows just how tenuous hiring someone can be.

Of course there was one major difference between then and now. There was no high unemployment at the time. I was never sure how the two people that were overqualified had even heard of the position being open because they didn’t live in the community where the position had been posted. Nowadays, there are so many highly qualified people out of work that it makes sense for some of them to look for almost anything to bring money into the house.

I have been counseling people who have asked to not take things off their resumes. Instead, mention in the cover letter as briefly as possible the circumstance of why they’re applying for certain positions and then leave their resumes alone, unless they can highlight a job skill they attained that helps to make them qualified for the position. I ran this thought through a friend of mine, Ann Messenger of Messenger Associates, a career and employment expert, and she agrees that in this day and age removing anything from a resume might bring up even further questions regarding someone’s background. Also, one never knows if there are other positions within an organization that might better suit those other qualifications.

Be proud of your background no matter what job you’re looking for. Don’t ever disqualify yourself before someone else does it for you. Let someone else tell you that you’re overqualified, and if you need to, then argue for the job, showing the skills you hopefully learned in previous employment. It can’t hurt, and you might end up with something greater than you expected.

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