Optimize Your Job Search When Your Current Job Title Isn't an Industry Standard

In theory, job titles should be designed as a succinct description of what you do in your role. However, the reality is, most job titles are too broad or don't accurately describe a person's normal workday tasks.

optimize job title

Experts generally recommend you conduct a focused job search, but for the job seeker with a title that doesn't quite fit into industry norms, this creates a challenge. When your job title isn't an industry standard, you'll want to optimize your search. Here are some tips.

1. Determine the reason for the title misalignment

The reasons for a misaligned job title can vary. It's possible you were hired with the closest title available to fill an empty position or you were given a generic job title that shows no industry context. (Think "tech assistant", "administrator", or "analyst".) Or, your job evolved over time in a changing industry and tasks you did when hired have drastically changed.

Geography sometimes plays a huge role. For instance, positions, such as "marketing manager" might mean different responsibilities in different geographical areas. Once you determine why your title is misaligned, you'll be in a better position to find jobs suited to your skillsets.

2. Think about skills and talents

To work around your quandary, you'll have to think a little outside the box. First, consider what it is you do versus how your job title reads.

  • Evaluate your hard skills. Make a list of tasks you currently do—you'll be surprised at just how many unique skills you probably have in your toolbox that can translate to other types of job titles.
  • Identify your soft skills. Communication, organization, problem-solving, leadership, and conflict solving are all desirable, sought-after attributes in candidates.
  • Think keywords. Look at both your lists and pluck out any good keywords you can use in your search. These words will help you to find jobs you wouldn't have thought to search for otherwise.

As you find potential jobs, match both your hard and soft skills against the listing to see if any are prominent or emphasized. If so, even if the job listing doesn't remotely resemble your current job title, when you find a skills match, it's a good indicator these jobs are worth pursuing.

3. Redesign your resume

If your job title is really strange, consider going with a functional or achievement-oriented resume instead of the traditional chronological style. This way you can craft your resume to focus on your talents and responsibilities rather than titles and dates.

Ideally, you'll want your actual duties to pop off the page before the hiring manager or recruiter tosses your resume in the "nay" pile. Keep in mind, statistics indicate a resume is scanned in about six seconds. If your ill-fitting job title is the first detail they see, any consideration for the position will be history even if underneath the title you're an excellent fit.

Additionally, remember keywords matter—a lot. Some stats suggest up to 75 percent of resumes are vetted by applicant tracking systems (ATS). If want to pass the ATS scan, you'll have to work in the keywords that align with your skills. One way you can do this is to mirror the company's terminology. Keep in mind, you don't want to lie on your resume. Be accurate and apply the terms that complement your abilities and skills.

4. Write a killer cover letter

A cover letter is a great opportunity to truly sell yourself, especially if your job title doesn't remotely resemble one found in your industry. Be concise and to the point, but allow just enough detail to persuade the hiring manager to call you in for an opportunity to learn more about your unique abilities. If you are called, don't be modest about your accomplishments. Outline specifics so the prospective employer doesn't get caught up in your current job title.

5. Make job title a part of your negotiation

Going forward, a proactive step you can take is to make your next job title a part of the negotiation process. Before you ask, check out industry norms and get a good feel for suitable titles for your skillset. Once in a position, periodically review your title, and if it's no longer applicable, it can't hurt to ask for a better one.

Remember, even if your job title isn't an industry standard, you can work around it by highlighting the skillsets you possess. If you successfully demonstrate your skills in a unique way, you'll give yourself a competitive advantage in the candidate pool. Focus on—and show—employers the distinctive talents you can bring to the table and you’ll position yourself to land the job.

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