I’d like to think that most business professionals know they need to have some sort of presence on LinkedIn. The platform has 467 million members from at least 148 different industries, including all of the Fortune 500. There are over 100,000 recruiters on LinkedIn.
There’s also plenty of LinkedIn advice. One school of thought is to think of LinkedIn profile as your “online resume”. But that raises the question, is it okay to make your job title on LinkedIn recruiter-friendly? That’s what today’s reader note is all about.
The article you posted on the dilemma of creating a resume and a LinkedIn profile for one with a dual career was most helpful. It’s a dilemma I face, and I’ve been unable to receive good guidance. The article reaffirmed that I am doing the right thing. I have an HR and a healthcare compliance background. The two are interrelated but are definitely separate career paths. The resume was no issue – just simply create separate ones for healthcare HR, non-healthcare HR, and healthcare compliance. The bigger issue was LinkedIn.
At first, I combined HR and compliance on my LinkedIn profile. However, I found that it then lacked focus and my skills for either were buried in verbiage and didn’t stand out. My job prospects and income potential are probably better in healthcare compliance as that is a narrower field with less applicants; and often requires a Juris Doctor (JD) and Certification in Healthcare Compliance (CHC), which I have.
As I mentioned, HR and healthcare compliance are interrelated, and I do list some of my HR experience that is relevant (i.e. internal investigations) and HR certifications on compliance applications, but the focus is on the regulatory aspects and leadership experience gained in HR and the military. The largest issue that seems to be killing my prospects is my job titles. They have mostly been HR director though more than half of my job duties have been in the healthcare compliance area. My employers would not change my title. Obviously, I have to list my true title to be consistent with reference checks, but the dilemma is when your job title is one thing and the duties are another.
Instead of going to one person to help answer this question, I asked several talent acquisition professionals for their thoughts. These people using LinkedIn all day, every day to find the best talent. Here’s what they told me:
Matt Craven, senior sourcer at Schneider Electric said, “Definitely! The whole idea of a posting is to attract qualified candidates. Some company job titles are company specific and to the outside world candidates will not know what they are really applying to. Plus, in most organizations job titles are very generic.”
Ed Han, an “in the trenches” recruiter, seconded Craven’s comment by saying “Especially in some organizations, the title may be meaningless to anyone outside of the organization.”
Suzanne Crest, HR Manager for SRK Consulting Inc., US shared how she used this strategy in her own personal job search. “I had to do this during my job search last year. Although my current title was HR Director, my duties were really those of an HR Manager. The Director title must have scared some recruiters away, because after I made the switch, I started receiving a lot more response to my job applications.”
Beth Hudson, community recruitment marketer at Recruitee, reminded us not to overstate qualifications. “I think it’s perfectly fine, as long as the candidate doesn’t exaggerate their actual position. If the person wasn’t in a managerial position, they shouldn’t put ‘manager’ just to look better. Fibs will be caught! If they aren’t, then you’re not applying to the right companies.
However, if you are looking to secure a certain type of role, I think it’s fine to ACCURATELY change the title to be more appealing to those companies hiring for that role.”
My friend Jennifer McClure, CEO of Unbridled Talent and DisruptHR, recommended taking some time to come up with the right adjustments. “I think it can be a little tricky. If you’re just generalizing your responsibilities – something like HR and talent – then maybe that works. However, if you’re change your title to something that reflects a specific position – like manager, director, etc. and then if you’re selected for an interview, or it comes out that your title is something different (less than), then it looks like the candidate is trying to inflate their qualifications.
I think it would be better to be general in LinkedIn’s headline field, but use your actual title in the Experience section, and describe what their role involves there. Mary Faulkner’s profile is a good example – https://www.linkedin.com/in/maryfaulkner1/. In her headline, she lists Talent Strategist & Business Leader, but has her specific title in the Experience section.
For me, it comes down to is someone trying to appear to be something, or a level they’re not, versus trying to make weird, or non-descriptive job titles specific to their organization more relevant on LinkedIn.”
Dominique Rodgers, an HR specialist in Portland, Oregon, added to McClure’s comment. “With the plethora of deliberately ridiculous job titles, sometimes you have to do it. Does your business card say you’re the People Ninja? Or Chief Executive of Awesome? NOOOOOOO. Tell me something I can translate into real business speak, but as Jennifer McClure says, don’t inflate.”
Andrea Cale, HR advocate and former SHRMStore manager, suggested focusing on accomplishments versus titles. “In my experience, when you list your responsibilities and accomplishments, most recruiters can ascertain the level of work you were doing in the role, even if the title didn’t reflect that work. Also, the type of organization you work for with that title can shed light on why the title didn’t match the responsibilities.”
Patricia Spiegel Montville is an independent recruiter and LinkedIn trainer. She suggested “listing the actual title and in parentheses list the duties or a more commonly used title. For example, Human Capital Manager (HR Manager).”
Keirsten A. Greggs, the TRAP Recruiter, offers a suggestion for employers. “I worked in organizations where people had both descriptive and formal job titles. For internal purposes they used their grade/level + labor category (i.e. Sr. Principal Software Engineer). For their business cards they used more descriptive titles like ‘Senior Java Developer’.”
I want to thank everyone for weighing in on this issue. My takeaway from their insights was it’s okay to make adjustments but be prepared to explain the rationale. I haven’t said it lately, but I want to thank everyone for the notes and questions. I love getting them and working on finding answers for you. So, keep those questions coming…
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after thoroughly enjoying brunch at Elizabeth’s in New Orleans, LA14