I recently received a phone call from the HR department of a company I applied to, who were interested in interviewing me. I was caught off guard however, when the job they wanted to interview me for was a lower level role than the senior one I had applied for. The HR representative explained that looking at my resume it appeared to be the appropriate role. After a brief discussion of my experience, she agreed that the senior role I applied to was in fact the correct position.

This made me realize that my resume is not representing my experience well enough. I believe it relates to job titles. My work experience on my resume reads in brief like so:

Software Developer at Company A

  • lead a small team

Software Programmer at Company B

  • lead a small team

Software Engineer II at Company C

  • lead a small team

None of my "official" job titles have contained the words "Senior" or "Lead", but I make it very clear when I describe my experience that my position was a more senior one. I am now under the impression that HR departments may skim over job titles to perform a quick screen rather than to bother reading the details.

Is it ethical for me to change my job titles on my resume to more accurately present my experience?


3 Answers 3


You have to be careful with this as when they contact the companies you worked for they may tell them a differnt title. What I did was use my offical title and then follow it in () with the real title of the work I was actually doing. I had to do this because my offical title in one company was not even in the same general profession as the actual work. I usually explained this in the cover letter or interview if anyone asked. That got the key words out there for the HR filter and was not lying.


Yes, HR departments use software to do their initial searching/sifting these days. Using the right words is definitely an overall part of your resume-writing strategy.

I would be cautious when using words like "Senior". It's my impression (which could be false, either in whole or in part) that the Senior programmer/dev/etc. is the one with the most experience on the team, and is responsible for some longer-term/larger project scoping and possibly some mentoring. If you did some of that, AND you have lots of years' experience as the leader of the team, it might fit.

If you change your title to be something like "Lead, Software Programming Team" that lets people know that you were in a leadership position, you were a main coordinator for day-to-day stuff or weekly scrums, but may or may not fit their internal idea of what a "senior programmer" is in terms of length of experience and/or project management. If you do change your job titles, be sure to include in your description that you actually did do some hands-on coding (if you did.)


Ideally (but not always) anyone reviewing your resume should be looking at the work description and not just titles. Since an HR person is looking at your resume, it would seem you got past any buzzword filter. I would guess that your description of your work over the phone gave a better picture of what you have been doing than your resume did.

Titles change from company to company and really have no correlation. Even if you had "Senior" in your title, senior means different things to different companies. FWIW, if you just looked at my 25 year job history by title only, it would approximate a sine wave of responsibility. That has never been a problem for me in looking for a job.

I would stay away from mis-representing simple verifiable facts like job title, this could really blow up on you. For my company, that is one of the few things that would actually be verified if someone in HR called for a reference.

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