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Resume Preparation Dos and Don'ts: Be Wary of Fudging Job Titles

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Marjory Pilley•updated: 6/17/2011

A resume is a marketing tool, style statement and a candidate’s concise biography, all rolled into one. Job titles are a major element that lends clarity to this document. Candidates, however, need to exercise caution when making changes to job titles for resumes.

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    Honesty

    Job Titles For Resume The adage “honesty is the best policy” applies everywhere. Do not lie in resumes. False or misleading information especially annoys recruiters. They ranked it as their top pet peeve in a resumedoctor.com survey.

    A lie might get you through the sifting stage or even a screening interview. But, very often, an expert interviewer sees through the lies and exposes the candidate at the detailed interview stage. On the rare occasion that the candidate manages to bluff her way through the interview, the final security check, wherein the employer verifies the experience of a candidate before making an offer, would nail the lie. Ninety-six percent of all companies conduct background checks and half of them find inconsistencies regularly. Even if the candidate’s previous company closed leaving no trace or contacts and the candidate is hired based on a lie, the Damocles’ sword of termination always hangs above the employee’s head. Companies have a zero tolerance policy for lying and the punishment is instant termination if already hired, immediate rejection if not hired, and blacklisting from consideration for future employment.

    The principle of honesty extends to the title used for the job carried. Inflating titles, exaggerating specific roles and duties connected to job titles, changing the department or section, or claiming positions and job roles one never had count as lying and attract the consequences mentioned above.

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    When to Make Changes

    Candidates may take limited liberties with job titles on resumes in certain situations. For instance, if the previous job had an odd title that revealed very little about the actual level or job duties, the candidate may denote an equivalent standard job title alongside the actual title. For instance, a company might hire a marketing and sales head and give him the title “Chief Breadwinner.” Dotcoms have given titles such as “Princess of Persuasion,” “Chief Super Mom” and “Cultural Czar” in the past. In such cases, mention the job title as “Head – Sales and Marketing,” or whatever is most relevant. List out specific job duties and possibly the salary level to justify the title, and do mention somewhere that the official title was “Chief Breadwinner.”

    At times, the title may not reflect the candidate’s actual position in the company. For instance, the official designation may be “Senior Human Resources Executive” when the role for all practical purpose might be “Human Resources Manager” or “Head of Human Resources.” Similarly, designations such as “Accountant Level 1” might denote General Manager, “Accountant Level 2” might denote Cluster Head and so on. All of these titles make sense internally but may confound outsiders. Similarly, a person who joined as an “Assistant Manager” may have earned a promotion to “Manager,” but official confirmation was not made before the candidate quit. Selecting an appropriate title in such cases is a tricky issue, and the candidate would require strong supporting role descriptions, details, and documents to substantiate mentioning a higher job title. If mentioning a higher designation, do mention the actual designation in the description part, and provide an explanation for the discrepancy.

    In some cases, the company themselves might provide an inflated title to soothe an employee's ego in a bid to either attract them in the first place or retain them. For instance, the senior-most employee in a four-employee strong corner shop might be a General Manager. In such cases, it makes sense to mask such titles because it gives an impression of over qualification. Rather, provide a title that accurately describes the role. In the example here, an appropriate title might be “Supervisor” or “Team Leader” with a description that mentions “independently handled all aspects of operations.”

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    Selectivity

    Another way candidates take liberties with job titles for resumes is applying selectivity, or highlighting the most relevant portions, usually when looking for a career change. For instance, a candidate applying for a marketing job that has experience in both marketing and accounting would need to only highlight the relevant marketing duties and job positions. Extending this concept to job titles, a candidate applying in another area of expertise may choose to include only the general title without the accompanying prefix or suffix. For instance, an IT manager with the job title “Chief Manager – IT Services" applying for a marketing job might simply choose to mention the job title as “Chief Manager” and highlight the marketing portions of the job profile.

    Selectivity, however, does not mean changing titles. For instance, changing the job title from “Chief Manager – IT” to “Chief Marketing – Marketing,” even if the job duties included some marketing activities, is a lie. Adding prefixes or suffixes also counts as a lie except in rare cases. For instance, if the job title was simply “Chief Manager” the candidate has no business changing it to “Chief Manager – Marketing” unless the entire gamut of job activities was confined to marketing. A clerk assisting a manager, however, remains a clerk and does not become “Assistant Manager,” even if his job duties matched that of an assistant manager. In such cases, try to prove worth by crafting a good job description.

    The bottom line when providing job titles for resumes is to refrain from making any changes as much as possible. In the exceptional case that it becomes necessary to do so, make sure it is for the sake of lending clarity rather than to enhances one’s standing and thereby mislead the potential employer.

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    Reference

    Morsch, Laura. "Can you fudge on your resume?." http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/Careers/09/09/resume/index.html. Retrieved June 14, 2011.

    Image Credit: flickr.com/kafka4prez