Dear Sam: I am 60 years old, and I have more than 25 years of experience in my field. I have been unemployed for more than 9 months. I worked for the same company for 24 years and then another company for 3 years. I am told I am “overqualified” for some of the jobs for which I am applying. A friend of mine told me to “dumb down” my resume. How do you even do that? Is that something you recommend? I feel I am being passed over for jobs because of my years of experience. Employers can get someone who meets their minimum experience requirements and pay them based on that. Are they afraid I would be too expensive or that I will leave if something better comes along? I need to get back to work. I feel like my long-term experience should reflect that I do not want to job hop. – Cindy
Dear Cindy: From a review of your resume, I can tell that you have already toned down your experience considerably, given you are presenting almost 30 years of experience on one page. Dumbing down a resume is very difficult, especially if your titles make it hard to mask the level of accountability you held. However, in your case, I feel that the issue isn’t the level at which you have contributed, but the length of time you are presenting on your resume.
Given you were with the same employer for 24 years, it does make it difficult to “trim” that experience. However, I can see that you held three different titles with that company, so I would recommend presenting only perhaps the last one or two titles you had, including the years in each of the roles. You are correct in your assumption that a hiring manager seeking a candidate with say 5-7 years of experience, may see you as being significantly overqualified, given you are presenting almost 30 years of experience. Of course, the assumption would be that you would be considerably more expensive than a more junior candidate. Hiring managers do not expect to see your entire career presented on your resume; instead, they assume you will present about 10-15 years of experience. While you want to show significant tenure with your first employer, perhaps cutting your experience to the early 2000s would still show longevity while presenting a more competitive picture.
In addition to the amount of experience you show on your resume, there is not enough focus on the value you contributed. A key selling point of any candidate is to demonstrate the value you have contributed in past positions. To do this, you would need to incorporate a more well-rounded presentation of your “jobs” and your key accomplishments or aspects of your roles where you felt you performed exceptionally well or went above and beyond the call of duty. Currently, your resume lists a handful of bullet points explaining the somewhat “expected” nature of your roles. Try to differentiate your positions based on a hybrid presentation of your job description—providing the context for your roles—along with bulleted highlights. Approaching your resume’s content in this manner will help show hiring managers that while you possess more experience than they are seeking, you come with a track record of adding value over what you are paid to do.
When right-sizing your candidacy, you will also want to address the content of your qualifications summary. It is rarely a good idea, unless you seek a more senior-level role, to start your resume explaining that you have almost 30 years of experience. Think about that as the opening line; if your target employer is seeking an average of say 5-7 years of experience, you immediately disqualify yourself within the first 10 words on your resume. With a more strategic approach, focus on the value you contributed versus the length of your career; I do feel you will emerge with a more impactful presentation of your candidacy. I wish you well.