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Every software engineer* at the company that I work at has the job title "Software Engineer". We do have numerical engineering levels, but they are private to the engineer and to managers. Sharing your level is permitted (as this is tied to compensation, I believe it's essentially legally protected in the US), but is generally not done, as ideas and code should be evaluated by their quality, not by a number associated with their creator.

I have a relatively senior role at the company. How can I represent this on my résumé and LinkedIn page? I could just not do it, but I worry that this will undersell me to recruiters, as unprefixed "Software Engineer" is typically a mid-level title, between "Junior" and "Senior". I see a few options:

  • Put my level in parentheses after "Software Engineer". This is probably okay on my résumé, as it won't be visible to coworkers, but would not be okay on LinkedIn. However, it requires people understanding what that means—smaller companies might not understand our leveling system.
  • The level is equivalent to "Staff" or "Principal" at companies with similar systems, so I could just go with one of those. This will be more understood, I think, but is sort of untrue, although I'm skeptical that it would end up being an issue at any company I'd actually want to work at.

* technically, you can set your title to anything, but this is rarely used, and when it is, it's overwhelmingly used for jokes.

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  • What are these numerical levels based on? Years of experience? Wage? – Gregory Currie Aug 22 '19 at 3:01
  • @GregoryCurrie impact. – hjie Aug 22 '19 at 12:51
  • You're overestimating LinkedIn recruiters. You could write "Sith Emperor" to your title and would make little difference, if any. If you're indeed a senior, you should have accomplishments and experiences acknowledging so, and they're enough to catch their attention. Once you get a foot in the door, you'll be able to sell yourself as you wish. – Ramon Melo Oct 9 '20 at 11:34
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Your title is not the most relevant thing in your LinkedIn / resumé as this can vary GREATLY in the market, even between big companies - and the tiles can also be very vague and generic, e.g. Operations Manager can mean VERY different things between companies.

The most important thing for the recruiters to have some idea of what you can actually do is to put a few bullet points with your key technical / business responsibilities and accomplishments under each role.

For your LinkedIn headline, my recommendation for you is to not display your title, but a short description (5-6 words) of your main strong point, a little bit like a "slogan" for yourself.

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  • 1
    +1 for listing your accomplishments, way more important than a title (devs can acquire de title "senior" because the years of experience, not their actual expertise) – MlleMei Aug 22 '19 at 9:05
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    Just to add to this, I've had senior and then lead on my CV for over a decade, and I still get recruiters contacting me about junior and mid level positions. I don't think it matters what you write on there for job title, they basically just keyword search your skill set and go off of that. Getting recruiters to contact you is never the issue in my experience, and once you are in contact it's easy to explain your level of seniority. – delinear Aug 22 '19 at 11:30
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    I upvoted this answer but would add one thought: if you do choose to include a title on LinkedIn or your resume, it's important to not make one up. If your official title, per HR at your employer, is "Software Engineer" or "Software Engineer III" then that's what you should put. Making up your own words (Staff, or Senior, or Principal) is just likely to cause confusion at best, or to give the perception that you're deliberately trying to deceive people at worst. – dwizum Aug 22 '19 at 13:21
  • @dwizum that a great point – Juliana Karasawa Souza Sep 2 '19 at 13:05
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Consider the flip-side. There are many companies that use the word "Architect" in inconsistent ways. It can mean anything from:

  • A person responsible for making all high-level design decisions, validated by prototyping, and written up as technology plans for the development teams to follow

to

  • A Senior software engineer still working under a Team lead that just needed a "new title" to be promoted into, who makes no decisions beyond how to fix the bugs in JIRA.

I would put more work into the lists of accomplishments; being very careful not to over sell or under sell what you accomplished. If the team used a technology say the team used it, but don't say you're skilled in it unless you are. If you redesigned something, say you redesigned it as part of the implementation; but, make sure you really had a design (extensible, verifiable, and documented) and not just a sensible fix.

In the end, it is your experiences and the confidence you build with the interviewer that lands the job, not the title. If you feel you need to "adapt" your resume to a Job Title, write a cover letter showing your experience matches the job description, don't put your desired job title on the resume.

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This is a fairly common problem in companies. Most recruiters know that titles are very subjective in companies. Here are your options:

  1. Reference your capability in your resume/profile descriptions - the fact that you are a senior, experienced software developer (that's independent of your official title)

  2. Answer a lot of questions on Stack Overflow and point all recruiters to your account handle to showcase the depth of your understanding of various programming languages

  3. Point recruiters to your GitHub account to showcase your capability via the code you've written

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  • This isn't a small company, it's a massive company. – hjie Aug 22 '19 at 12:51
  • Got it. @hjie - my response still applies to a larger company. – Prashanth Chandrasekar Aug 22 '19 at 23:56

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