Unemployed Are Facing Dual Challenges

August 1st, 2011 by The Responsibility Project

Hard times have job applicants battling for recognition.

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The Responsibility Project

Anyone grazing job openings lately might have noticed a disturbing trend, as more and more positions are explicitly looking for candidates that are currently employed. As if this weren’t enough of a challenge for unemployed job seekers, competition for positions has become so fierce that many have taken to doctoring their resume in order to get a job. 

Resume inflation—with its over-written under-achievements—has long set the workplace standard for autobiographical unacceptability, but is resume deflation just as irresponsible?

Employment agencies and job recruiters are reacting to the growing numbers of unemployed workers they see dumbing down their experience and credentials in an effort to land a job for which they are over-qualified. Their deflationary techniques include “hiding advanced degrees, changing too-lofty titles, shortening work experience descriptions, and removing awards and accolades” from their resumes. 

The new biodegradable biography isn’t sitting well with some employers. “I’d never feel comfortable putting a really high-level candidate into a lower level position,” says an employment agency recruiter who now sees doctoral degrees listed at the bottom of resumes instead of at the traditional top. “How do I know I can trust them later down the road,” she asks, “if there’s something on their resume they decided to take off so they could have a better chance getting that job?”

For over-qualified job seekers, “scaling back the truth—or at the least, some of their experiences—can feel like the only chance at an interview.” The new semantics include downgrading titles like “manager” to “staff” and “office support.”

Job seekers are frustrated and confused by which face to show the new workplace. One under-employed, over-experienced, executive-level resume-sender deleted details of her speaking engagements and board positions. Another complained that when she minimized her experience on paper, a potential employer called her references, only to find out she was over-qualified.

Yet another laid-off worker with years of executive experience sent out thousands of accurate resumes, only to receive zero job offers. “But I can’t dumb down my resume,” he says, “because that would be lying.”

Tell us what you think: Is dumbing down a resume unethical? Should survival trump responsibility, and if so, where do you draw the line? Is it more responsible to state your true experience, or to land a paycheck?

(A portion of this story was previously published as “Dumbing Down Your Degree” on The Responsibility Project on 6/30/09)