There are wildly varying opinions on this topic, but in my opinion in some circumstances it may be warranted to “dumb down” your resume just a bit. If you need to keep food on the table by accepting a position somewhat (not drastically) below the level for which you are qualified, it is legitimate to tailor your resume for that position.
However, take care that you are not actually dishonest. You can leave out advanced credentials if you wish. You can use position descriptors/titles that aren’t quite so high-level as long as they are still reasonably descriptive of your role. However, be aware that even this tactic can be perceived as dishonest by potential employers if you are not careful, and can unfortunately be a dealbreaker.
One strategy is to include a targeted job title at the beginning of your resume, and then craft your profile and work history to demonstrate your qualifications for that title, while downplaying or omitting responsibilities/accomplishments which are not relevant.
It is also important to think ahead about the objections a potential employer might have and prepare answers to them, such as why you will NOT be likely to jump ship as soon an opportunity for a higher level job for which you are qualified comes along. It is critical to convince them that you are not a flight risk, and that you will not become bored. No company wants to invest in onboarding and training if they afraid you will not stick around.
If age is a perceived issue, be sure to effectively emphasize how your wealth of experience will present great value to the company.
Since your resume is a marketing document and not under any legal requirement to give full details about anything, you are relatively safe from issues regarding not coming fully clean about your background. However, for this very reason, some companies ALSO require a completed employment application before they will interview you, and you ARE legally required to be complete in all your answers on that application.
Some basic techniques for dumbing down or disguising age on a resume include:
1) Omit dates of graduation/degrees
2) Don’t list advanced degrees or credentials that are not required for the position you seek. However, the benefit of doing this in looking “less qualified” may be offset by the lost opportunity to show your investment in your personal development and ongoing drive to acquire knowledge.
3) Limit your career history to the last 15 years (this is good practice in many cases anyway).
4) Rather than actual job titles, list your department and/or function. For example, rather than EVP of Finance, you could say: Finance Department Management. Make sure you can communicate a good rationale for the title you chose, and DO NOT apologize for dumbing down your resume.
One strategy is to create two versions of your resume, the “dumbed down” version and a full-fledged higher level resume. This, of course, creates the dilemma of which resume to post online.
There are a number of inherent “gotchas” in the strategy of dumbing down a resume.
1) One of the bigger ones these days is that the web and social media will likely contradict the picture you are painting–your LinkedIn profile, articles which you have authored or been mentioned in, etc.
2) A big stumbling block is that your application will not match the resume, and you do NOT want to be less than truthful on that application.
3) You’ll have to carefully plan your interview responses to make them mesh with the career history you have put forth. Facts or stories that reveal you really oversaw an organization of more than 100 will not be congruent with a job entry that is headed “Office Support Professional.”
Better than dumbing down the resume, how about ratcheting it up? Position yourself for the next level on the career ladder, rather than stepping down a rung or two. Network harder. Make connections with hiring decision makers.