Dear Sam: My current title—Accounting Coordinator—is considered to be a junior accounting role. I perform much more than data entry; I am the sole accountant and perform every function in accounting including preparing financial reports and performing variance analysis. I work for a very small company where each person manages his/her own department but has the title “coordinator”. When interviewing, the interviewer always seems to get stuck on my title, often questioning why I carry that title yet do much more. I try to explain—in a positive manner—that the manager has labeled all staff as “coordinators”, but it doesn’t seem to help them get past it. I am trying to break into a larger company and advance my career. I am so much more than a Junior Accountant. I almost feel as if I played “down” myself by taking this position if titles are really that important. Should I avoid using that title at all? — Stuck
Dear Stuck: I understand your dilemma; it is not that uncommon for me to work with clients who possess titles not well aligned with what they do every day! Not to worry; there are lots of ways we can paint the right picture through content development, formatting, and positioning.
First, be sure everything in your qualifications summary is speaking to the breadth of accounting functions you have performed, never mentioning the title you carried. Open your qualifications summary with a professional title such as “Staff Accountant” or “Accounting Manager” depending on the level of position you are seeking. In the professional experience section, downplay the appearance of your title by avoiding formatting that draws attention to it. Often, when a title does not reinforce your candidacy, I will list noun phrases where the title would be expected, in order to immediately convey the level of responsibility held. Follow this with the description of your role, putting your actual title somewhere within the first sentence. Let me give you an example.
Accounting Management | Financial Reporting | Variance Analysis
Serve as the sole accounting professional for a business with 20 employees, 2 locations, and $2M in annual revenue, managing all accounting functions under the title of junior accountant. Create and maintain solid internal controls…
Do you see how that works? Attention is first drawn to the functional areas in which you work—you can list more than three noun phrases; perhaps just extend from the left to the right side of your page—and bury your title in the opening sentence. Then, when the hiring manager is screening your resume and sees this section, he/she is not first hit with a title that is tainting his/her vision. I have seen this strategy work time and time again, and am confident it will work well. Be sure you are not getting stuck in a negative mindset either and not “undoing” your strategy by adding the title anywhere else or trying to “explain away” the reason for the title.
Dear Sam: After 10 years my employer just went out of business. Unfortunately, my recent roles have been short-term as I jumped at the first thing I could find. I now know this was not the wisest decision and it makes me look like a “job hopper.” I have more than 20 years of sales experience, and have won many awards, but apparently all the “attaboys” don’t mean very much as I am not getting any callbacks for interviews. — Brian
Dear Brian: Your awards, sales contributions, and track record of surpassing performance targets position you as a top sales recruit. Do you know however that your resume contains almost 950 words but only about 10% of those words relate to ways you contributed value and earned those “attaboys!” You may think you are focusing on your accomplishments but you are really doing anything but. This is what you need to address in order to “show” your value to potential employers and overcome the potential disqualifier of being seen as a job hopper. Really focus on the highlights of each position versus the mundane day-to-day duties and you will better show the top performer you really are. Best of luck to you.