It may seem like the most obvious thing in the world: your desired job title on your resume is the job you are applying for… duh, right? Turns out, it’s not quite so simple. It’s true that every time you send your resume in for a job application, you should tailor it to match the position you’re applying for. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should put, verbatim, the job title of the position you’re applying for.
Seem counter intuitive? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Help the hiring manager out.
Remember that your resume is just one of hundreds or thousands the HR department is filtering through. Listing the job title you want at the top of your resume helps them sort you into the right search and get your materials seen by the right people. Don’t leave the hiring manager guessing as to what job you are after.
2. Reference your target job.
Be a little ambitious and list the position title for the job you really want at the company. Not CEO or anything, but perhaps a rung or two up from the position you might be applying in with. This shows your ambition and your commitment to growing and moving forward—hopefully at this company.
3. Reference your old job.
Unless you’re trying to move up or laterally or between fields, you might find it easiest to list your current job title. This only really works if you’re going for the exact same job at a different firm or company. But can be very helpful because your experience ought to match the position title perfectly.
4. Don’t play it safe by trying to keep your options open.
You might think listing a job title on your resume will limit your options—say the company doesn’t have that position open, only one below it? But the risk is much higher if you keep HR in the dark. And you just might get considered for a higher-up position.
5. List multiple titles.
If you qualify for more than one open position, you might feel the urge to list both. As long as these positions are similar enough—or at least in the same department, with different level gradations, this is fine. Just note, if this is for a resume, write it like this: “Software Developer/Web Programmer,” separating the two titles with a slash. (If you are really applying widely, try not to apply for two drastically different positions at the same company to avoid having to say: “Front Desk Manager/CPA.” That just makes it look like you are taking lazy shortcuts and/or don’t know what you want to be when you grow up.
6. Be realistic, but strive for the best.
Again, you don’t want to list a position three pay-grades away from anywhere you could possibly hope to be. But do set your sights on something a little better than your current position, especially if your skills and experience aren’t far off from reaching that level and you believe you’d be well up for the challenge.