by Scot Herrick

Job titles are important to people. They are often used to provide unique recognition to people on the job - usually to provide the title and not the pay. After all, who wouldn't want the title of Chief Technology and Program Officer? My favorite was a database administrator who casually used the unique job title of "Data Janitor II" in his e-mail signature. It was, after all, a better description of what he was doing than his real title.

Standard Titles Trump Unique Job Titles on ResumesBut unique job titles are killers when it comes to your resume. Resumes are used to get that first interview, so you want it to represent all of your job skills to the maximum amount of possible searches. That means you should junk your fancy, customized job title - "Senior Administrator, Blowhard Division" - and use the standard industry title - "Database Administrator." There are some good reasons why.

Recruiters Search on Standard Industry Titles

This is, perhaps, blindingly obvious, but when a recruiter goes to search Dice for job candidates, he's not going to put "Senior Administrator, Blowhard Division" in the search box. No, he'll put in the standard industry title of "Database Administrator," then limit the search to a geographical area and go from there. If you have the standard title and the locality, you have a search hit. If you have the "Blowhard Division" on your resume, the search engine will blindly bypass your resume and continue on.

Another job opportunity bites the dust. And you didn't even know it existed.

Companies Use Unique Job Titles Internally, Standard Job Titles Externally

Companies need to know where they stand with their competitors when it comes to the market price for people. They do that by comparing their job titles and pay structure to other companies through independent surveys. But it's pretty hard to compare your "Blowhard Division" job title to another if the company hasn't already mapped it to an industry standard. Plus, when your company goes out to look for candidates, they don't advertise the position as a "Senior Administrator, Blowhard Division." No, they post the job as a "Database Administrator" position.

The point here is that if companies are using standard industry job titles when they look at pay and advertise job openings, why shouldn't you be using the very same standard job titles for your resume?

Standard Job Titles Come with Assumed Standard Job Skills

If your resume does get picked up with that fancy "Blowhard Division" job title, the recruiter will have to determine if you have the job skills of a "Database Administrator." If you're fortunate enough to get a phone interview and not rejected in the 30-seconds the recruiter reads your resume, you'll get questioned to see whether you have the job skills necessary for the position.

Now, if you have "Database Administrator" on your resume, that comes with assumed job skills. Instead of questioning whether you have them, the interviewer will assume you do and ask how you've used them. Think of how much further along you are in getting a new gig simply because you have an industry standard job title.

You Are Not Unique, So Use It To Your Advantage

Listen, I hate being labeled as an Industry Standard Dude. I'd rather be a Ninja. I don't like being the square peg fitting into the square hole. I don't like being plug-compatible into a job, or a widget that fulfills a ubiquitous need. I have unique capabilities to bring to the job. I'm a person.

Do you know what I hate worse? Showing that uniqueness on the job title of a resume and never getting the opportunity to show an interviewer what great, unique talents I can bring to the party. Use the industry standard job titles to your advantage by putting them on the resume so recruiters can find you in a job search. Then party on.
Scot Herrick is the author of I've Landed My Dream Job -Now What? and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. provides online career management training for workers who typically work in a corporate cubicle. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.