Q&A: Job Titles

Early this week, I was asked this question by an engineer at Microsoft regarding job titles:

How important are internal titles vs. the industry standard titles?
I am worried about this nuisance of employment titles in background checks if I want to switch companies later in my career. For example, for me is it better to use Standard title of “Software Engineering/Data Engineer” or Internal title of “Service Engineer”?
There a lot of special titles for the type of development within Microsoft, but know one seems to understand this externally. “Service” means the “outlook.com” web service which focuses on the data analysis for the service user base. However sometimes I have gotten contacted for “Service” such as customer service instead of software engineering/data science. I would also like to know your thoughts about the standard title of “product manager” which is used globally outside of Microsoft.

On your resume/LinkedIn, it is better to use a standard title that is more representative of what you do than an internal title. On your LI and resume, you want to make it easy for your recruiter to understand what you did in that role. By changing your title to reflect what you actually did, you aren’t lying or misleading anyone. You are simply decoding the internal company jargon for the recruiter/hiring manager so that they understand what your role was quickly and succinctly without having to read your entire resume.

SIDE NOTE: a lot of recruiters are lazy and don’t look pass a title when trying to recruit passive candidates. They reach out to 10-25 people a day and it is easier for them to do a LI search by title–which is probably why you were being contacted for jobs that were not relevant for you.

On the other hand, if you change your title to something that is not representative of what you did or includes more than what you did, then that would be a big no-no. For example, calling yourself a project manager when you only managed 1 short 3-week project on a year-long contract would be wrong. But, calling yourself a Software Engineer for the Outlook Team (representative title) rather than a Service Engineer (actual internal title) when you actually did software engineering is completely kosher.

Now, titles do matter more when you are completing the job application. An employment application should have your actual title since the recruiter will use this when running background checks and contacting your previous employer for verification purposes.


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