Dear Sam: My current job title (accounting coordinator) is considered a junior accounting role. However, I perform much more than data entry. I am the sole accountant and perform every function in accounting, including preparing financial reports and performing variance analysis. I work for a very small company where each person manages his or her own department but has the title of “coordinator.”
When interviewing, the interviewer always seems to get stuck on my title, often questioning why I carry that title yet do much more. I try to explain, in a positive manner, that the manager has labeled all staff as coordinators, but it doesn’t seem to help them get past my job title.
I am trying to break into a larger company and advance my career. I am so much more than a junior accountant. I almost feel as if I played myself down by taking this position, if titles are really that important. Should I avoid using that title at all? — Sadly Stuck
Dear Sadly Stuck: I understand your dilemma, and believe it or not, it is not that uncommon for me to work with clients who possess titles that are not actually aligned with what they do every day. Not to worry; there are lots of ways we can paint the right picture through content development, formatting and positioning.
First, be sure everything in the qualifications summary of your résumé accurately shows the breadth of accounting functions you have performed, never mentioning the title you carried.
I suggest that you open your qualifications summary with a professional title such as “staff accountant” or “accounting manager,” depending on the level of position you are seeking.
In the professional-experience section, downplay your title by avoiding formatting that draws attention to it. Often, when a title does not reinforce a candidacy, I list noun phrases where the title would be expected; this immediately conveys the level of responsibility one has held. Follow this with a description of your role, noting your actual title somewhere within the first sentence. Let me give you an example:
Star Enterprise, Cleveland, Ohio
Accounting Management | Financial Reporting | Variance Analysis
Serve as sole accounting professional for a business with 20 employees, two
locations and $2 million in annual revenue, managing all accounting functions
under the title of junior accountant. Create and maintain solid internal controls.
Do you see how it works? The reader’s attention is first drawn to the functional areas in which you work. You can list more than three noun phrases; perhaps just extend from the left to the right side of your page — and bury your title in the opening sentence. Then, when the hiring manager screens your résumé he or she is not first hit with a title that might taint his or her vision.
I have seen this strategy work time and time again and am confident it will work well in your situation.
Also, be sure you are not getting stuck in a negative mindset. You don’t want to negate this strategy by inserting your job title somewhere else in your résumé or cover letter, or by trying to “explain away” the reason for the title.
— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Email résumé or job-search questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.