Job titles can sometimes be confusing. In some organizations, they are taken very literally and can tell people internally and externally about your role and responsibilities. In other places, they can have some whimsy which may reflect the company culture. Sometimes the job title on your employee paperwork isn’t the same as what’s on your business card. So how do you know the best title to put on your resume? That’s what this reader wants to know.
Hi Sharlyn. I came across your YouTube videos and was wondering if you’d be able to answer a question. I’m currently working on my resume and am a little unsure as what to list as a job title at my current employer. For 2 years, I was a manager and due to a company restructuring, my position was changed to clerk, where I have been for the past 4 years. I don’t want to lie to prospective employers. Should I put manager, clerk, or a combination like manager/clerk on my resume?
This isn’t an unusual question. Our resume is a summary of our career. To be effective, we want it to really grab a recruiter’s attention. So I asked a couple of my friends who write resumes and provide career advice to share their thoughts. Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter is a Master Resume Writer (MRW) and owner of CareerTrend, a professional resume writing service. Chris Fields is an expert resume writer and human resources consultant who assists job seekers with their resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles and job search over on ResumeCrusade.com. Chris and Jacqui have shared their expertise with us before and I’m thrilled they offered to help with this situation.
Jacqui, I get asked this question a lot. Should a person list ALL of their job titles on their resume? Why or why not?
[Jacqui] You should list most/all job titles for the most recent 10-15 years’ experience. Prior to that, you can simply summarize achievements without listing job titles. It is okay to omit very short-term roles; i.e., a few months or less than a year in duration.
Since a resume is a marketing document, and not a legal document, the key is to be forthright, while also positioning yourself in the best light. In other words, if your most recent role is not indicative of your value, and an immediately prior role at the same company – in this case, the ‘manager’ role – speaks more to your competitive value, then make sure THAT role is showcased and the clerk title is downplayed. For example:
The key with the above example is to NOT omit the clerk title, but also not lead with it. Tone down that fact and play up your value proposition. Also, if after the restructuring, you still held responsibilities from the Manager role, you want to leverage that fact and not get mired down in the change in title.
Chris, on the other hand, does a person have to list ANY job titles on my resume? What are the advantages / disadvantages?
[Chris] This is a very good question and, believe it or not, more and more people are in this situation. With different companies using different titles, the words and jargon have changed quite a bit. Also, as in this example a merger, acquisition or realignment can cause someone to get a lesser title by no fault of their own. And consider this, some companies will use titles to compensate you, so this is a big deal.
Here is my best advice for handling this situation. First, use the official title that the company has listed for you just in case someone calls for a background check so it’s not misleading. However, on your resume in parenthesis you can put the title that more accurately describes your day to day job duties, for example, AMC Corp., Clerk (Manager) or another option is to list the title and duties before the restructuring and then the title and duties after the restructuring. It’s perfectly okay to have a bullet point that reads ‘Same duties as Manager, title change due to corporate reorganization (or realignment.)’
And yes, you should list your job titles and the company names on your resume because without those, it looks suspicious; as if you have something to hide and that’s never a good thing in the job market.
Be as honest as possible on your resume because as you know most recruiters and hiring managers screen resumes very quickly and anything that looks suspicious or questionable usually does not make it the next level. Remember, you can use your cover letter to explain changes in the titles or duties.
If I can only list ONE job title, which one should it be – the “last” one or the “best” one?
[Jacqui] I would list a blended job title; i.e., ‘Manager/Clerk’ or ‘Manager, Clerk’ (if the ‘/’ causes an issue). I cannot see any situation where you wouldn’t be allowed to enter your title as such.
[Chris] Let’s talk about tweaking job titles. You may think I’m going to say ‘no’ to this one but I’m not. It depends. The first rule to tweaking job titles is to never tweak upward, meaning don’t change or tweak your title to a bigger position. So basically, don’t give yourself a promotion. However, if you are listed as an office coordinator or assistant, it’s okay to use administrative assistant, because they are the same thing – same duties.
Speaking of tweaking, if have a job title that might not be instantly recognizable (like Facilities Coordinator II or Marketing Administrator III), is it okay to tweak it a little?
[Jacqui] Yes. I would include the actual title (as recorded at your company’s human resources) in parentheses. In front of the parentheses, write out the instantly recognizable, more typical or even the more targeted title (toward your goals, if doing so is an honest representation of work you performed).
For example, using Marketing Administrator III as an example, you could write:
- Digital Marketing Manager (Marketing Administrator III)
- Brand Manager (Marketing Administrator III)
- Marketing + Social Media Director (Marketing Administrator III)
- Marketing Development Manager (Marketing Administrator III)
- Marketing Analyst (Marketing Administrator III)
[Chris] Here are four rules to sum up job titles:
- Best practice is to use the title the company uses for you – you can alter it if your job duties and accomplishments actually support it.
- If your job title changes due to reorg, realignment, merger, or title demotion you can separate it on your resume.
- It’s okay to tweak your job title or modernize it as long as you are not giving yourself a promotion or higher title.
- Remember titles are still tied to compensation so when you outwork your job description be sure to get the proper compensation. It’s important for your future as well.
Again, my thanks to Chris and Jacqui for sharing their knowledge and expertise with us. Be sure to check out their blogs at The Resume Crusade and CareerTrend. You can also follow them on Twitter at @ResumeCrusade and @ValueIntoWords.
If you’ve ever wondered if you should hire a pro to craft your resume, this is exactly the reason.
Image taken by Sharlyn Lauby at the Las Vegas Mob Museum2