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Dumb Down Your Resume? Nah! Aim Higher, Not Lower!


If you’ve ever been told in a job interview that you’re overqualified, it can be a hard pill to swallow. The natural reaction is to dumb down your resume, eliminating relevant qualifications – so that this painful experience won’t happen the next time. My friends, this blog is going to teach you how to handle it in an interview when somebody says you’re overqualified – so that you can do even better than the original job you applied for next time.

The truth is that you’ll only go in far in life as you see yourself going. The more value you see in yourself, the more money you’ll make. There will be temptations to give in. But you have to fix your attitude and believe in yourself, and then the rest becomes easy. You see, folks, the world will agree with whatever perception of professional self worth you put forth. Perception of value influences paycheck.

My friends, dumbing down is a sign of another “D” word , and believe me, it has a capital D. The word is: Desperation. So before you do anything else, think to yourself that you will sell your iPhone, cancel NetFlix, rent out basement in your apartment, get a part time job, do whatever it takes to buy yourself more time. There are a million ways to make money if you are willing to sit down, think, and get creative. You’ve got to tell yourself that no matter how hard it gets, you will not accept a position that is below you, either in skill level or in salary. Misrepresenting your qualifications is deceptive and manipulative, and even if you get the job in time it will become known. And the fallout from that will not be pretty. It could set you back even further than where you started.

Let’s say that in the first few minutes of an interview, the hiring manager looks at your resume and says something like this.

“Whoa, now that I look more closely at your resume I see that you have 10 years of experience. I’m sorry we didn’t realize this before we called you in. (uncomfortable laugh). You’re way overqualified.”

Now, normally the hiring manager goes into getting-rid-of-you mode where they gracefully make gestures to show you to the door. But here’s what you do instead – try this move –it’ll stop them in their tracks!

Here’s your line – you say something like this. “I understand – that can happen sometimes. I’m glad we figured this out sooner rather than later. Would you be open to connecting on LinkedIn and staying in touch, in case a more suitable position opens up sometime? That way you can see my network, and I’ll also go over my connections and try to figure out if there is anyone I know who could be a good fit to help you get this position filled.”

The hiring manager will almost always say yes, even if they don’t mean it, they won’t want to hurt your feelings to your face. You’re creating an image of yourself as someone of value to network with rather than just a candidate that they turned down for a job.

Here’s your line – then you say, “One thing that would really help me out is this (you’re giving them the chance to redeem themselves from shooting you down because let’s face it, everyone likes to be the good guy or girl not the bad one) . What level of a position do you feel, in your professional experience, would I be ideally suited for given my qualifications? Just curious.”

They’ll probably give you an honest answer here. Why? Because you’re helping them get you out of their faces.

So after they say something like, “District Sales Manager” then you say, “Okay great. I appreciate your help. Since you have my resume, would you consider connecting me with anyone in your network that could possibly benefit from knowing me? ”

Now this may seem like an absurd question to ask, but it’s not. Here’s why. The hiring manager obviously thought enough of you to call you in for the interview in the first place. If you handle yourself professionally in the face of disappointment, you are showing maturity and business savvy. You can elevate yourself even higher in their eyes and set yourself up for a great referral to another job. Hiring managers probably know other hiring managers, recruiters, etc.

Instead of giving in and dumbing down your resume for the next time, which destroys your value, this approach creates value. This won’t work every time, but it is an example of how thoughtfully handling a disappointing result can turn negative to positive. So the next time you’re tempted to dumb down from desperation, think of a third word that begins with D: determination. Work harder and aim higher.

If anyone reading this has any questions about the challenges they are facing in a job search, please feel free to reach out to me for a bit of consultative advice.

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