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Don’t Get Pigeon Holed by Your Resume

Recently, Sally came to us for help with her resume. She is a very qualified management professional who had spent the last several years in the video game industry and wanted a change. Despite earning a solid reputation with former employer and having earned promotions she was not having as much success as she had wanted in the job market with her current resume.

Upon reviewing her resume, we identified several potential problem areas that were holding her back. The most obvious was her job titles. When you look at Sally’s resume, the job titles listed do not indicate at a glance few key things such as:

  • What the job does
  • What level is the job

The reason is because her former employer chose to use very obscure, creative and industry specific job titles. So even though she was a software project manager, you would never guess by looking at it. Also, you would never guess that she got promoted from junior project manager to a senior project manager.

So what happens to your application if you do have an obscure job title? There is a good chance that you will be bypassed. Having been in HR, we have seen first hand applicants that should have been considered but were bypassed. This is typically because the resume tracking software or recruiter does not recognize a certain job title that is too industry and company specific.

In the field of hiring, there are many levels of screening designed to screen applicants long before the decision makers ever get to lay eyes on your resume. Typically HRIS and very junior recruitment people do this first and second levels of screening and sometimes both do not have enough experience to recognize uncommon job titles. If you have an uncommon job title, you will be screen out well before you get a chance to speak to the hiring manager whether or not you have the experience. Let me put it to you this way, what are the changes that someone hiring for a communications professional would enter “Story Teller” in their search query? Would a junior recruiter with less than a year experience immediately recognize this job title when screening hundreds of resumes?

So if you have a strange job title what should you do? (Particularly if you want to expand your career options) Should you choose a title that is more appropriate or would that be misrepresentation?
The answer to the above questions is that it all depends (How can you tell you are talking to someone in HR?).

It depends on how reasonable the fit is with the new title you choose. If the new job title you choose is a better fit with your responsibilities then it is a logical choice. The second important caveat is that you must explain this to the employer in your job interview. If you can satisfy both of the above criteria then I believe you stand on solid ground for changing your job titles. Let’s be clear, I am not advising that you lie on your resume. You should never lie your CV, misrepresent by inclusion or omission. Remember, there is such a thing as reference checks, testing and so forth. Hiring professionals can be small circle and unqualified applicants that repeatedly toss their name in the hat for every job application are soon recognized and dismissed.

There are many unique situations when you might be justified to list a different job title. Suppose, an applicant whose formal job title is “Secretary” is looking for a job. Let’s call him “John” for the sake of this exampleSo let’s suppose John who has been a Secretary for several years wants to make a move into entry-level management. Suppose also that John works in a very small company and does all the traditional secretarial functions but because it’s a small company John wears a few different hats. In top of the admin functions, he also does the accounts payable, payroll, and answers HR related questions from his office colleagues on benefits, pay, time off, and etc. (He used ask HR but overtime the questions were similar and he knew the answer). Now suppose the budget expands so the company decides to hire a receptionist and they ask John to hire this person, and manage their performance. Now, suppose he wants to apply to a supervisory role. Is it more accurate for John to list “Secretary” or should he consider something like “Office Manager” or “Administrative Manager”?

A job title is nothing but a label for a set of job functions. When employers choose a job title they usually choose one that communicates critical facts like what the job does, what level in the job sits within the organization, and so on. But there are times when an employer chooses a more creative job title such as to drive or align with internal culture. For example, I have met some HR managers whose title is People Experience Manager. And of course, who can leave out the famous Sandwich Artist from Subway or Barrista from Starbucks.

So in summary, if you do have a strange job title in your resume and you have not had much success in the job market. You may consider another job title that is a better fit.

Job Interview Tip

So how can you respond or explain the changing job title question? Here is an example:

“While I was a Communications Director for ABC Company, my formal title was “Story Teller”. I adjusted it since whenever I tell someone I am a “Story Teller“, no one ever knows what this means. Everyone thinks I am in the children’s book industry rather than a communications professional in a corporate environment. I guess you can say that the HR department was very CREATIVE with their job titles”.

Having been in HR, I believe if you explain this jokingly most HR professionals would get a chuckle. Since it is HR who manages the job titling process and can empathize with the “creativity” of the choices made by hiring manager and HR colleagues.

So give your resume a new look by researching the latest resume writing tips and do it yourself.  Also check out our online job interview and resume writing courses for a good source of information.

professional resume writer from GreatResumeExample to create a custom resume for you, give us a shout and we would be pleased to assist. So until our next post, we wish you much luck and success in your career search.Post by GreatResumeExample:Use our employment preparation services to give We have over 1.5 million jobs online, apply today and find the right job!If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to subscribe by email.

Photo by Chad Sparkes

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