Job titles can be really frustrating. They rarely capture the actual scope of a role and often don’t seem to make any sense at all. For example, I work with a lot of professionals from a major technology company where a large group of employees share the same non-descriptive job title despite performing very different roles. While there are ways to compensate for a frustrating title, there is little you can do about the title itself.
On the other hand, I work with a lot of clients who are self-employed, work for small organizations, or have flexibility when it comes to their titles. In these cases, it is not uncommon for titles to – as perceived by potential employers – significantly overstate an individual’s actual qualifications. For instance, I recently worked with a very accomplished freelance marketing consultant who, because she owns her own company, assumed the title CEO and VP of Digital Marketing. Those titles may catch the eye of potential consulting clients but, as I advised this client, had the potential to work against her when applying for less-lofty internal marketing positions. Here are two reasons why:
1. Readers may dismiss her application simply because they quickly review titles (or the automated resume screening system reviews her titles) and make a snap decision that she is significantly overqualified.
2. Readers may believe she is purposefully trying to overstate her skill level and be turned off. This is especially likely if the title she has adopted aligns with the title of an internal employee who is several levels above the position she is applying for.
If you have flexibility with your title, make sure that the title you choose aligns with the overall market. This will save you a lot of headaches when you decide to take your next career step.