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I joined a relatively high caliber group of engnineers, who were all senior engineers from well known or top companies. However, our titles were only "software engineer", except a few that were "principal engineers" (they were staff level at Google, etc.).

I wanted to highlight this fact somehow on my resume. I was wondering if it this is a good idea, and how to go about it. If it is, I was wondering if the following placed in title section above that experience, would be appropriate:

Software Engineer (senior equivalent)

I could also mention this in the HR interview, but I realize sometimes there may not be a convenient opportunity depending on the flow of the conversation.

I suppose I could also do something like:

Software Engineer (flat org)

...as this would raise the chance it would be asked about, and give me a chance to highlight the caliber of engineers or explain the titles.

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    On your resume you use whatever job title you want!
    – mxyzplk
    Feb 21 at 2:00
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    @mxyzplk is correct. You use whatever job title you want on your resume. It's on the job application that's used for the background check that you need to be more exact. It's not on the resume. Is your company listed on this site by the way? levels.fyi Feb 21 at 7:02
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    If you want to talk about software engineering please don't omit the software in front. If you just write engineer people will assume this is about bridge building or designing heavy machinery or something like that, very different skillset than a software engineer.
    – quarague
    Feb 21 at 9:28
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    Just be aware that "software engineer" is a protected title in some jurisdictions: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/47400/… Feb 21 at 11:50
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    @quarague It depends on context. People know that there are software engineers, electrical and electronics engineers, computer engineers etc. that have nothing to do with bridge building. More likely than not if you tell someone you're an engineer at a tech company they will assume it's one of those.
    – Aubreal
    Feb 21 at 14:33

5 Answers 5

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You needn't give your precise title in your resume. People reading it will not pay much attention to exactly how you title yourself, unless you bill yourself ridiculously, i.e. Amazing Genius Senior Engineer!. (In which case you may well be eliminated immediately.) They will look at your background and experience in considering you for hire, not at how you title yourself.

If you are indeed a senior engineer , bill yourself as such in your resume. Don't say (senior equivalent) or (flat org) - sounds apologetic or desperate, if not dishonest.

Be concerned about presenting your background, your skills and your experience accurately in your resume. Those are the important things - not the title - which can be rather meaningless, as your own experience shows.

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    I was 'Software Guru' at one place many years ago. I think one of the other guys was officially 'Head Honcho'. They didn't really care for titles.
    – Neil
    Feb 21 at 10:48
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    "Sooooper Genius" is right out. Feb 21 at 13:13
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    @HappyIdiot Wasn't that Wile E. Coyote's official title?
    – Barmar
    Feb 21 at 14:48
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    +1: At least in software development (I don't know other fields as well), it's well known that titles don't translate across companies. A senior engineer at Foo Inc. might be a principal engineer at Bar LLC or just a "normal" engineer at Fizz Ltd.
    – yshavit
    Feb 21 at 17:27
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    +1 - not sure if I'm unusual in this, but I've reviewed quite a lot of Software Engineering CVs and I generally just scan past all the flowery language to the practical experience.
    – komodosp
    Feb 22 at 10:25
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Title matters a great deal less than what your actual responsibilities/actions were.

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    This. "Senior" title implies junior training duties. The Junior/Senior/Staff/Principal model that a lot of companies use does not accurately describe what people do in a startup that is not yet set up to last longer than the individual careers of its founders. Feb 21 at 6:48
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Things like “Software Engineer (flat org)” or “Software Engineer (senior equivalent)” are hard to parse and sound a little desperate. Instead, I would do either of these:

  • Simply write “software engineer” when describing this job. Hopefully the nature of your contributions and the rest of your career will make it obvious that you really are a senior engineer. Conversely, being a “senior” after holding two jobs for six months each (you see that in tech these days) really doesn't mean much. I have never worked for an employer that would automatically filter applications based on the current job title so there is no reason to overthink this.
  • Write “Senior software engineer”. This one is a little trickier and perhaps controversial. Personally, I have worked in several countries, I often have to translate and explain my previous job titles (and diplomas) and I also had a few job titles that would sound really weird if you translated them into English literally. I would have no qualms about writing something like “Senior XYZ” if it really reflects the nature of my position, even if that is not exactly what my contract states.

I don't think either of these would put you at a disadvantage in a recruitment process. The only issue I can imagine (with the second option) is facing an especially rigorous background check where you have to present formal references and even a tiny discrepancy would become an issue but that's not something I have encountered in my locale.

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I joined a relatively high caliber group of engnineers, who were all senior engineers from well known or top companies. However, our titles were only "software engineer", except a few that were "principal engineers" (they were staff level at Google, etc.).

So they were "seniors" during previous employment but present employment doesn't denote that.

Were you a senior before joining this high caliber group? What makes you feel entitled to their prior senior ranking?

On your resume, no one would fault you for using whatever you use in your email signature.

Let your experience do the talking. Albeit, if you think your experience merits writing "Senior" then do so. Don't write "Senior" out of a feeling of entitlement.

Writing "Software Engineer (senior equivalent)" screams the same energy as "Software Engineer (almost Chief Information Officer)"

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For me the base title for a job is a "software engineer".

The role of an interviewer is to figure out on which spectrum of company's internal job hierarchy they could position you. OFC each company has different structure and evaluations.

I experienced that titles such Professional, Senior, Expert, Principal, Architect don't always match for each person. They might be over-exaggerated or assigned to justify pay raise, to keep employees satisfied without actually changing much in accountability perspective.

In case you are confident in your skills and you know the position is open for a "Senior Software Engineer" apply as such, if a potential new position doesn't explicitly require you to be senior it won't matter.

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    Careful with the "Professional" bit (and local equivalents), which is regulated by law in some countries. Calling yourself a "Professional Engineer" when you formally aren't one could get you into quite some trouble.
    – TooTea
    Feb 22 at 23:21

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