Executive Resumes, Personal Branding & Executive Job Search

Is Your Job Title Sabotaging Your Job Search?

Posted by Tyrone Norwood

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Nov 29, 2016 11:36:54 AM



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Sam has a title problem. He is VP of IT for a small company. He basically manages all aspects of IT, from infrastructure and application development to information security and cloud computing. He manages a couple of technical resources. But now Sam wants to change jobs. He seeing layoffs at his company and hears rumors of financial insecurity. Now he's started a job search targeting larger, more established firms.

But, guess what? He’s not qualified to be a VP of IT for a mid-sized or large company. BUT, he might be able to get a job there but hold a less senior title. He sees a Senior Project Manager job he thinks would be a good fit. He would be managing a globally distributed development team of 30. He would also be making more money than in his current job, even though the title is two to three management levels below his current title.

But, if he doesn’t do something about his title, he may find his resume never makes it past ATS (applicant tracking systems) to the recruiter seeking to fill the open position. (The recruiter will be searching for the keywords “Senior Project Manager.”)

If his resume passes the ATS hurdle, it still has to convince the recruiter that Sam has the skills, knowledge, and experience required.

Let’s say Sam can work the keywords into his resume so it gets retrieved in a search for “Senior Project Manager,” what does he do then about conveying what he has accomplished as VP of IT? The recruiter won’t work hard to see if somewhere in his current job he has done the duties of a Senior Project Manager and demonstrated relevant skills. S/he will want to see terms like and content about: "project life cycle management" and "Agile/Scrum." Sam has to make that experience abundantly clear. (And probably strip away much that he accomplished that isn't immediately relevant.) You can see the challenge here.

Titles for managers in technology have proliferated. And, as you can see, they often differ significantly from company to company both in the actual terms used and in the responsibilities associated with them.

Why is this a problem for you? Because you need your target title keywords in your resume, even though you haven't held the title. And, your current title is probably the single most important part of the recruiter’s first impression of you. And if it’s different from the job title you are applying for, most recruiters will not take the time to go deeper and your resume won’t make the interview pile.

Increasing, I'm seeing clients with title problems. Some are like Sam's. But here are a few other common scenarios:

  • A job seeker has a VP title but it is ideosyncratic to his current company. Some very large companies have title progressions that don't correspond to the common title-and-responsibility pairings in most of the rest of the corporate world.
  • A job seeker has managed 100+ resources at the C-level in a small company in a previous job, but he has been working at a large company for several years and holds the title "Manager," not Director, VP, or CIO/CTO. How does he get back into the executive ranks?
  • A job seeker is a Senior Director in his current company but has huge responsibilities, hundreds of reports, large strategic impacts. He is obviously under-titled. How does he get the recruiter to see him as a VP or SVP?

These are some of the challenges my clients are facing everyday.

It's tricky to write a resume or LinkedIn profile so that a recruiter sees the job seeker as qualified if some of the above scenarios pertain. I recommend that job seekers work with a qualified and experienced IT executive resume writer. As you know I usually provide DIY solutions for issues I raise in my blog posts, but this particular one needs broad knowledge of the IT landscape and top-notch strategic resume writing skills.

Be aware that title problems are very common – and there are solutions. Contact one of my esteemed collegues or me if you need help. Good luck!


Topics: Resume Writing & IT Executive Titles

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Tyrone Norwood