Can I leave out a qualification I'm not proud of?
June 23, 2009 11:48 PM   Subscribe

Would a potential employer feel that I had violated the honesty requirements of my CV or résumé by leaving a qualification out?

I understand of course that when employers see a CV or résumé, they expect to see the unvarnished truth. Is it intellectually dishonest for me to omit a qualification that I feel detracts from the others? Or would an average employer not mind the omission since it isn't vital information?
posted by malusmoriendumest to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think the answer is that it depends what it is. If I left out a minor educational qualification I took 20 years ago, I don't think anyone would care. If I'd done two degrees and left one off, they might.
posted by rhymer at 11:54 PM on June 23, 2009

If it's not relevant to the job in question, leave it out. I don't include every employer I've had, since some aren't relevant or useful for the job in question. This is not a problem. The information in your CV or resume is there to highlight your strengths only, not to be a comprehensive timeline or laundry list.

If it is relevant to the job, and they ask you to do it later on, at that point it would be important to say something like, "Actually I have had some experience doing this." and that should cover it.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:55 PM on June 23, 2009

You will get better answers if you tell us specifically what qualification you intend to omit.
posted by ryanrs at 11:57 PM on June 23, 2009

Oh, and FWIW, I'm not sure they expect the unvarnished truth. If they did, I'd feel obliged to to put "taking credit for the work of others" and "covering up laziness" with humour as my "key skills and attributes". The idea is to present yourself in the best possible light without actually, you know, lying.
posted by rhymer at 11:57 PM on June 23, 2009

Oh, I don't think most people expect a tell-all memoir when looking at a resume. It's a marketing tool. If you don't think a fact about you will help you get the job you want, I don't think you're under any obligation to put it on your resume.

As an example, on some of my early resumes for software engineering jobs I listed some writing awards I had won, to highlight my communication skills and general awesomeness. I got a question from an interviewer along the lines of "So, is what you're looking for a technical writing position?" - despite the rest of my resume, which was an alphabet soup of languages and frameworks with these two lines about writing (I suspect there might have been a teeny bit of sexism at play here but who knows). I was totally taken aback, because I certainly was not after a technical writing job at all, and those awards fell off my resume that very day. Yes, they were things I had achieved, on purpose, and they were pretty great and all, but they were confusing interviewers by making them think I wanted a position other than the one I was applying for. Not generally the goal of a resume.
posted by crinklebat at 12:05 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I handle a few thousand resumes annually.

You are absolutely allowed to leave out any qualification you don't feel is relevant to the job you're applying for, no matter whether that's a CPR certificate or a PhD in zoology. You are applying for a certain position, not describing every possible arbitrary detail about yourself.

As I've probably said in 100 different AskMe relationship threads:

Honesty is not the same things as unrelenting disclosure.
posted by rokusan at 12:19 AM on June 24, 2009 [20 favorites]

Yeah, definitely no problem to leave out a qualification.

This is the same reason I look oddly at people who mention, say, their honors achievement in High School when they've already gotten a masters... leave that shit off.
posted by disillusioned at 12:28 AM on June 24, 2009

I see you're in the UK; there will be some complications depending upon the field you're considering.

There is a fundamental difference between your CV and the application you submit to HR. Lots of stuff can happen to a CV after it leaves your hands and before it ends up on an interviewer desk. The application is where you'll certify as factual factors important to the employer.

Keep in mind here in the EU employers simply can't get away with much of the invasion of privacy that is routine in America, and generally not only accepted but also expected by prospective employees. So what they ask on the application is of particular interest to the employer and its there you should be totally truthful.

For many fields in the UK the application will consist mostly of emergency contact details, since everything else that was relevant will have been discussed / disclosed during the interview. For example, until recently age was a common topic of discussion during interviews in the UK (I hire lots of people in my banking job), something one just couldn't ask in US interview (sidenote, until 2006 there weren't any laws prohibiting age discrimination in the UK). From personal experience here I'm thinking of education; I teach finance part time at three Universities in London, and for each the formal application was less than half a page. Name, address, birthdate, next of kin, signature that one will adhere to code of conduct, thats about it.

However there are fields where disclosure on the application is much, much more stringent. Application for jobs in banking, for example, will ask that you disclose all material considerations, and typically will note that failure to disclose is a disciplinary offence. For these positions you'll have to disclose ALL jobs and provide a complete education history.

Now would they discipline for not revealing a qualification? Doubt it, unless they wanted to get rid of you, and were looking for a clean way out.

So on my banking CV under 'education' I only disclose two masters degrees, omitting other qualifications simply because they aren't relevant to the work I'd like to do, the position I applied for.

But still I note them on the application, as that document calls for full disclosure.
posted by Mutant at 12:53 AM on June 24, 2009

Regardless of the details, your CV/resume is your submission. It doesn't have any threatening legalese attached like you would find on an application; you can't be expected to list every social skill or party trick you know. Save those for when you ask for a raise.
posted by hypersloth at 12:58 AM on June 24, 2009

I've probably screened > 500 resumes and interviewed dozens of people. Leaving out a qualification is fine.
posted by zippy at 1:43 AM on June 24, 2009

Is it intellectually dishonest for me to omit a qualification that I feel detracts from the others?

No, unless the omission is to cover something up. In fact, most people involved in hiring would prefer you leave out crap that simply isn't relevant to the job at hand.
posted by rodgerd at 3:26 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

You mostly post relevant experience on the CV especially with lots of experience. If it would otherwise be a recent gap in your job history then you should account for that time but you don't have to be overly specific.
posted by JJ86 at 5:29 AM on June 24, 2009

Having recently reviewed scores of résumés for a position being filled at my company, I want to join the chorus of those who say that the omission shouldn't be an issue. If anything, anyone tasked with sifting through CVs should only appreciate your streamlining the amount of stuff they have to go through.
posted by adjockey at 6:38 AM on June 24, 2009

N'th ing what the majority are saying - when I'm reading your resume, I don't care if you took basket weaving in college.
I want to see why you might be the person to fit the position I'm trying to fill - that's it.

* If you leave off things like jobs you got fired from or don't wish to list, that's your perogative - but gaps in employment on a resume will be noticed, and questioned. I don't expect that's what you are referring to though.

* if you are leaving off a qualification because you don't want someone looking at it and saying "Yeah, overqualified" - I can see the sense in that. As long as you aren't planning on becoming disgruntled immediately and whining about being overqualified for your job....
posted by TravellingDen at 9:15 AM on June 24, 2009

I've done this before when I've applied for positions and it was for my PhD degree!

I found that most people find the PhD a little overwhelming in industry, so I will commonly either put something like "postgraduate studies" or leave it off entirely (I tutored at the same time so there is no gap as such) when I'm applying for a non-academic job.

I don't see the problem with doing this, because I am trying to sell myself on the job. Experience has taught that the PhD is not relevant (and can scare people off), so I leave it off to provide a better sales pitch.

Of course, if someone asked me "What other quals do you have?" then I wouldn't lie about it, but I don't see the need to over disclose either out of some sense of ethical obligation.
posted by ranglin at 2:45 AM on June 25, 2009

Only include information that's relevant to the job in any case. Better to have a one-page, succinct resume than a five-page bio that makes it impossible to get a sense of whether you're a good fit for the job. I've both gotten this advice from recruiters and friends in supervisory positions, and have looked for it when sifting through applicants myself.

(Caveat: this is not true if you're applying for a government job. If you are, include everything.)
posted by timoni at 3:32 PM on June 25, 2009

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