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My job title is currently Junior Software Engineer.

When I sent out my CV with the title Software Engineer instead, I received a much better response.

If I get offered a role I applied for with that CV, and reference checking comes back with the Junior title, is that likely to lose me the role?

Additionally - If you saw Junior Software Engineer vs Software Engineer on a CV, would it change the type of work, experience, and competence you expected from the applicant?

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The word "Junior" in your job title isn't necessarily a bad thing. Have a listen to Hanselminutes #427 –  alroc Jul 21 at 18:07
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Nothing wrong with a "Junior" applying for the next rung - particularly if you have a couple of years experience and can show that you have become more independent in your junior role. –  HorusKol Jul 22 at 0:55
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I think this is a very good question. Unfortunately I think the answers are largely conjectural and based on ethics they made up on the spot. You really need an answer from someone in HR who has made this kind of employer-side decision before. Me? as a hiring manager at a startup? I wouldn't care provided you accurately represented yourself in conversation and interview. –  AAA Jul 22 at 0:59
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Are you looking for another junior job, or not? –  starsplusplus Jul 22 at 2:41

7 Answers 7

Titles can be important for both you and a potential employer. It benefits you to have a title that realistically shows your current position because it relays what a potential employer can expect from you.

If you CV has your last position as a Junior level and you held that position for a year, a prospective employer will make the assumption that you are still Junior and will put you in a position where you can grown into a more experienced developer. However, if your skillset is still Junior, but you change your title by dropping the "Junior" your prospective employer will have an expectation of your ability and will task you accordingly.

I've seen this play out a couple of ways. When a Junior applies and gets a position that is beyond thier experience to handle, they usually get fired and don't get a good recommendation. The employer will normally attribute this to lying on a CV. This is really the big problem with your approach. If you "reword" or otherwise alter your CV entry to make yourself appear to be more qualified than you actually are, you have committed fraud. This happens more than you'd expect with credentials like CPA, PMP or BS/BA. When someone applies for a job and lies about thier degree or credential they are fired. Nobody wants to have an employee that will lie to them.

The fact is, "Juniors" are in pretty high demand and a "Junior" with some experience can command up to a 10% increase when they switch to a new employer. And, you get the raise without creating a false expectation of your ability or committing fraud. Both really good things!

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The answer depends on two factors:

1) If you effectively performed as a software engineer, then you should write something like this:

XYZ Company

Junior sofware engineer (14 Jul 2013-Present) xxx xxxx bla bla bla ... Last sentence: effectively performed the duties of a software engineer within six months of being hired. Salary raised twice. Promoted twice. And you pretty much answered the question ":You had the job title. What did you do with it?" The preferred answer is, of course: "A lot"

There is a downside to telling the truth. On the other hand, there is an upside to saying that you worked your way up from knowing very little, you worked your way up fast and did not let the grass grow under your feet, and you gained the professional trust and respect and respect from the staff and management on the way up. And yeah, you're looking for the money, too.

2) If you did not perform your duties beyond junior level, then you crossed an ethical line and you have a clear resume accuracy problem.

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If I get offered a role I applied for with that CV, and reference checking comes back with the Junior title, is that likely to lose me the role?

The outcomes can vary, from no reaction to immediate termination / withdrawal of an offer, but likely it'll be closer to the latter.

It's possible you'll find a company that doesn't care, but I would wager more companies would consider this to be a fabrication of your qualifications and would not consider you for a role. With a large enough number of candidates, it's hard to justify keeping someone in the "in" pile when there are other qualified candidates who didn't embellish their resumes.

Additionally - If you saw Junior Software Engineer vs Software Engineer on a CV, would it change the type of work, experience, and competence you expected from the applicant?

Typically with a junior person in a role, I would expect they'd require more constant supervision, I'd need to review their work more frequently, and I'd need to assign them easier tasks. As time goes on, the amount of each would lessen as I gained more confidence in the employee, until eventually they reach "mid-level" status where I didn't need to give them any special treatment.

So yes, seeing "junior" on a resume would make me wonder whether or not you were ready for a more hands-off role, or whether I'd need to make sure I had enough time to watch more closely.

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Whether you remove the word or add it, you're still presenting false information on your resume. –  alroc Jul 21 at 18:06

If I get offered a role I applied for with that CV, and reference checking comes back with the Junior title, is that likely to lose me the role?

As always - it depends.

If I were doing your reference check, and I learned that the title you reported wasn't the title you held, I might categorize that as a "lie".

I don't hire people who lie, so that would lose you the role.

In other scenarios (perhaps other hiring managers or other companies), they might not consider this important, and that wouldn't cause you to lost the role.

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First of all... and this is covered elsewhere, omitting part of your title to make it appear better will not fly, and I would recommend against it.

However, on your resume you have a chance to list things you have accomplished at that job and roles you have undertaken. Use that to your advantage! People are more likely going to look at what you have don than what you were called when you were doing it. For example in a previous job I was listed as an "analyst" but was in fact a software developer, all of my bullets reflected this and I had no trouble being hired as a developer.

The fact that you are "junior" might make your employer expect to train you and direct you a bit more, however it is possible that if you prove to your prospective employer that you have matured enough in that role you might be hired into a more senior role.

Lastly, if you are at a small company and your boss has a lot of control over your title you may want to work out with them what you can and cannot call yourself when applying for jobs. You may not get permission to move up a level, but if instead of a junior developer you actually did the work of a junior engineer you may want to work something out so that your title and role match better.

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+1 - if you write "Junior" but list the dates and achievements/responsibilities, a potential employer will be more considerate than if you omit the "Junior" with the same dates and achievements, and they call for references and find out that you were not entirely truthful about your title. The next question in the recruiter/interviewer's mind is "what else were they not truthful about" –  HorusKol Jul 22 at 0:53

Job titles vary wildly from company to company. There is absolutely no guarantee that a "junior" in one place is the same as a "junior" in another. Same thing goes for "senior", "staff", "lead", "1,2,3", "3,2,1", or even "VP" (a title which means virtually nothing in this era of fleeting technology start-ups)

If you're talking about certifications and degrees, those are relatively fixed credentials.

I have never heard of anyone getting an offer withdrawn because they failed to very exactly indicate the company-specific title on their resume. No one cares about the difference between a "Associate level 2" and a "Level 1 staff engineer".

On the other hand "junior" usually implies a vague sort of rank, it suggests more than just a meaningless level number. Some people really get hung up on silly inconsequential details, and as you can see, it can cost you the chance.

However, as you noticed, you got more response without the "junior" keyword-- so you might have lost a chance because of that too.

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As a hiring manager at a startup I personally wouldn't care one lick. I would, honestly, probably think, "this person is aware this resume gets read more" and think nothing of it. Obviously it's important you accurately represent your skills, in particular number of years experience, and accurately represent yourself in the interview.

Honestly I have to diss the rest of the answers here. I think employees generally share this conception that somewhere in HR offices is a big "lie detection box" that will shred your resume if it finds one and ban you from their good will for eternity (and view HR as some complex apparatus in general). This is silly and I wouldn't trust any conjectures of such unless they are drawn from explicit HR experience.

There's a good chance the difference in response rate is because of automated screening. The word "junior" showing up after successful interviews is not going to change a hiring manager's impression of you.

Anyway I'm basically arguing that you should trust "common sense," i.e. logic based on how people actually think and behave (well-approximated in startup environments since there's little process yet), until you know a rule otherwise. Any experienced employee is great for the "common sense" kind of advice; only HR professionals are good for the "protocol" kind of advice.

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Many HR departments will "shred your resume if it finds [a lie]", and several will also "ban you from their goodwill for eternity". I linked several stories as a comment to my answer, and a cursory search for "do-not-hire list" found several other stories stating that applicants caught lying on their resume could find themselves on a given company's list. True, it may not always happen, but the prevailing opinion is "don't lie about your job title", and advice to the contrary is unwise. –  Adam V Jul 22 at 5:04
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"Common sense" is you don't intentionally misrepresent yourself by lying on a resume. I don't care how good you are at your job, if you can't be trusted in your first interaction with me it doesn't set a good precedent. –  enderland Jul 22 at 12:11

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