Q: I am trying to re-enter the workforce after spending some years off with my children and recently went back to school to earn a master’s degree and update my skills. A friend who works in HR tells me that because of my master’s degree, I’m overqualified for entry-level positions. But when the gap in my resume is compared to someone who has been working for the past five years, employers deem the other candidate more reliable. What advice do you have?
A: Claiming a degree you didn’t earn is a known sin in resume writing — but when you’re trying to get that first foot in the door, what about not claiming a degree you did earn?
“Some people interpret this as ‘dumbing down’ the resume, but I disagree,” says Lauren Milligan, founder and chief executive of ResuMAYDAY. “A candidate is entitled to leave off information that may dissuade an employer from considering that candidate.”
However, she cautions, you should assume employers will research you online before contacting you for an interview: “If you leave your degree off your resume, but it’s on your LinkedIn profile, that raises a red flag.”
So if you’re sure your advanced degree is a hindrance rather than an asset with the jobs you’re applying to, leave it off your resume — just make sure you’re consistent about omitting it everywhere.
Or, Milligan suggests, “make sure that the rest of the resume is written so specifically to the position that everything on the resume [including your degree] becomes an asset.” And, says Milligan, you should be trying to “use any available space to explain the gap” in your work history and how your degree compensates for it. Space such as the summary on your LinkedIn profile or in a cover letter.