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My previous job title was 'Senior development engineer'. I was basically a sole developer in a midsized manufacturing firm and the go to guy for programming / supporting any software project undertaken by the company. The firm titled it 'Senior' due to my 8 years experience in programming and to reflect my pay grade. Compared to a programmer in a large corporate, software house I am probably equivalent to a mid level programmer as I am mainly self taught and haven't worked in a team programming environment.

The word 'Senior' often causes confusion with recruiters who associate this word with being in charge of a team of software developers. They also sometimes match me against position's superior to my skill level due to the word 'Senior' in my job title.

Is it acceptable to prospective employers if I alter a title on my resume to reflect the duties performed rather than the title assigned by the company? Are there risks to doing this?

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    Hey Stormy, and welcome to The Workplace -- I'm a bit confused by the question, you say "I was in charge of a team of other software developers" and then "The word 'Senior' often causes confusion with recruiters who think i was in charge of a team" -- what exactly is the problem? – jmac Dec 12 '13 at 13:51
  • @jmac you are correct, i have re-phrased the question :) – Stormy Dec 12 '13 at 14:02
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    8 years experience with a higher pay grade is senior in my books. – MrFox Dec 12 '13 at 14:09
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    "go to guy for programming / supporting any software project undertaken by the company" is CTO in my books ;) – AakashM Dec 12 '13 at 15:45
  • @AakashM Your right for a corporate firm it would :) . However in smaller firms its quite normal to be responsible for a area that would normally be covered by several staff members in a corporate. – Stormy Dec 12 '13 at 18:20
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I don't think you need to. Senior sounds nice. If you have experience as a team leader, you put that in the CV. If the agent or HR manager is careful, he'll spot it's not there and ask you about it. Plus you can always clarify during the interview.

But let's say you remove it from the title. Suddenly you have a software engineer who has worked for 8 years and never held the title Senior.

I'm not saying this will cost you a job or an interview because I'm not experienced enough myself to answer that. I'm only saying that in my book it might look suspicious.

Do you need more justification for keeping the title? You were the only programmer in a manufacturing company for 8 years. Now that's seniority.

tl;dr: You are not responsible for what a recruiter assumes your previous role entailed, only for what you say it did.

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    I was concerned as I was a big fish in a small pond (75 people company size) in a non IT focussed company. Since leaving the firm it has come to light that compared to other senior developers in corporates, software houses I am less experienced. This is mainly due to having worked as a sole developer (No one to bounce ideas off, learn from, work in a team). But on the flip side it proved I could learn the hard way and not have to rely on others to solve a problem for me. These are the reasons for my doubts. – Stormy Dec 12 '13 at 15:17
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Always put in your exact title, it is something easily checked in a reference check and can look bad if you changed it.

Discuss with the recruiters that you are looking for mid-level positions not senior ones, then you can be compared to the devs for those positions rather than the seniors with broader Enterprise experience than you have.

I see all kinds of silliness around the senior designation these days. I see devs with less than 2 years experience with the senior title. I've seen some really great senior people too who never got the designation because the organization they were in didn't use it.

I would never assume that having the title elsewhere means that you are senior as my organization defines it nor would I assume the reverse - that having the title actually makes you a senior dev. I am more concerned with actual accomplishments than titles when I hire.

  • My exact title was 'Senior Development Engineer' so a reference check would not disclose any issues here. Most recruiters unfortunately take everything at face value, they often cant differentiate between senior at a small start-up versus senior at a corporate company. As you say it's the accomplishments, skills that are important rather than the job title. – Stormy Dec 12 '13 at 18:14
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Tell the truth, use your actual title. The value and meanings of titles are company specific. Both potential employers and recruiters will know this, and it is their job to take it into account when looking to fill a position.

If you feel concern about your ability to fulfill the requirements of a position that you are applying for, then that is a topic for conversation during the interview.

If you are working with a recruiter and are afraid that he will be looking for the wrong jobs for you, then have a discussion with him about your concerns. It does him no good for you to either turn down interviews or even worse positions, because they are outside the scope of what you can/want to do.

  • Thanks. I will keep my job title then which was 'Senior Development Engineer'. Thanks for your help :). – Stormy Dec 13 '13 at 10:15
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I think you are under valuating yourself. 8 years experience, self taught, in charge of a development dept (even if it was only you). I know programmers two years out of uni who are nothing special and are Project Managers & Team Leaders.
Just make it clear at interviews that you were senior more with a bias towards project design and direction rather than people organization and I'm sure you'll be fine.

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