"ASK HR" is our advice column where we answer readers' questions about pressing work dilemmas, job search queries, resumes, and navigating Hollywood. If you have a career-related question, email us, and the answer could appear in a future newsletter! All submissions will remain anonymous.
Dear Hollywood Resumes,
I work at a small company where each person is basically their own department. My title is "director," but I don't have any direct reports, and I worry it may be misleading as I apply for jobs at larger corporations. My role is probably more aligned with "senior manager" at those firms, but I'm concerned that if I apply for those roles, hiring managers may think I'm taking a step backward. But I'm not sure I'm qualified for the director-level jobs! Should I amend my title on my resume to say "senior manager" or something more vague, like "consultant?" My actual title is publicized on company materials, so the discrepancy would come up if a potential employer searched for me. I feel so confused!
-- What's in a Name?
Dear What's in a Name,
Oh, the realities of working at a small company! You often find yourself collaborating with people outside your department in a bigger way than you would at a corporate level, you own more projects than would be assigned to you at a larger company, and yet, you don't have any of the org chart familiarity or team management experience your corporate counterparts can claim. We bet your boss just made up your title at some point or another -- small companies often don't have an HR infrastructure that funnels people up the ladder in a specific way.
The thing is, corporate hiring managers know that small companies operate differently and may not have the same title structures. Instead of changing your title, make sure they have context about your company and role in your resume. You definitely don't want to have one title on your resume and another all over Google -- that'll confuse the hiring manager and make it seem like you have something to hide. Instead, use the first bullet under your job heading to paint the picture of your office -- something like "boutique production company" or "start-up" will clue the hiring manager into what your role actually means. And sure, you may not have direct reports or management experience, but you do have a large role if you're handling the responsibilities of an entire department solo! Don't sell yourself short: Being at a small company means you know how to manage every touchpoint of a project, you're used to working with a cross-functional team, and you're directly involved in multiple areas of the business. That may be a value-add to the corporate team you're looking to join.
Every now and then, we recommend changing the title on a resume to something more generic that better describes the role (this usually happens when someone has a title that's very company-specific and could confuse a recruiter). But in your case, you should keep the director title! Regardless of whether a job posting is calling for a senior manager, a director, or some other title entirely, remember that hiring managers are more interested in what you accomplished in your last role than what was written on your business card.
-- Angela & Cindy