You’re applying for a new job. You have the skills. You have the experience. What you don’t have is the exact job title.
This problem is more common than you might think. There’s no list of official standardized job titles out there, even among the same industry. So, what do you do if the names of your previous positions don’t match the title of the job you’re applying for? One avenue to consider is changing your job title — but you need to be careful how you do it.
Is it okay to change your job title on your resume?
The answer is … sometimes! Like a lot of job hunting dilemmas, this one heavily depends on nuance. There are some situations when it’s perfectly fine to change the job title from your official job on your resume, and some when that wouldn’t fly at all — and you need to be able to tell the difference.
Why your job title matters on your resume
The average recruiter only spends a few seconds skimming over your resume before deciding whether you’re a potential fit. In that time, they aren’t deep diving into your accomplishments, but rather skimming easily read sections (like your previous job titles) to see if you have the kind of experience they’re looking for.
The same principle applies to employers who use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These automated resume screeners scan for keywords including hard skills, experience — and, yes, job titles. Which means that having the right job title on your resume could make the difference between being automatically rejected and your resume landing on the hiring manager’s desk.
A good way to check if your resume is ATS friendly is to upload it to the tool below — It’ll scan your resume for keywords, power verbs, quantifiable accomplishments, job titles and other key criteria recruiters look at in a resume.
Changing your job title on your resume: When is it okay?
Not sure where the line is between reasonable changes and lying on a resume? Here's the best advice straight from hiring managers.
It's okay to change a job title on your resume if ...
The job titles generally mean the same thing
A lot of job titles are used interchangeably but still mean the same thing. Nobody is likely to care if you label yourself a Social Media Manager instead of a Social Media Marketing Manager or Social Media Engagement Manager, as long as both titles are relatively similar and accurately reflect the nature of the work you were doing.
Your job title doesn't accurately reflect what you do
Not all job titles are created equal. Some are more descriptive than others, and some — like "Business Ninja" or "Programming Wizard" — don't really mean anything at all. If your job title falls into this category, feel free to use a more standard job title on your resume.
Use your best judgment about changing your job title if ...
Your role has changed but your official title hasn't
If your role has substantially changed but your job title hasn’t, that can be tricker to navigate. Maybe you’ve taken on additional responsibilities within the same team, or you’ve been promoted but the system hasn’t been officially updated to reflect your new title. If this is the case, here are the steps you should take:
- Ask your manager for your official job title, ideally in writing. If you’re listing the job title on your resume, you want to be 100% sure it’s your actual title. Tip: If you’re concerned about giving away the fact that you’re job searching, you can frame this as wanting the information for your company profile or LinkedIn.
- Check in with HR about adjusting your title in the system. Obviously give it some time if it’s a recent change, but if it’s been a while and your title still hasn’t been updated, it’s a good idea to ensure you haven’t just fallen through the cracks.
- Frame the new job title as a promotion on your resume, whether your title has technically changed or not. If you can’t officially list the new job title, you can still make sure your accomplishments reflect your new responsibilities.
Don't change the job title on your resume if ...
The positions are completely different
If you held a completely different position — say, you’re currently a Data Entry Clerk but are applying for a job as a Financial Analyst — you can’t just change your job title.
That’s still true even if you were unofficially doing the same kind of job you’re now applying for. If you’ve taken on additional responsibilities, you can talk about that in your resume summary and accomplishments, but you can’t list those other responsibilities as if they were your official job title.
If a hiring manager checks your references and finds out you’ve listed the wrong job title, it’ll raise some major red flags about your integrity and may make them wonder what else you’ve lied about.
The bottom line
The most important principle to keep in mind is this: It's okay to change a job title on your resume if it helps recruiters understand what you actually did. On the other hand, if you're just trying to make your job sound relevant or impressive than it actually was, don't do it.
How to change the job title on your resume: Specific examples
Here's what we'll go through. There are a few different situations you need to be aware of when changing the job titles on your resume.
Option 1: List the new job title only
If your actual job title is very similar to the title of the job you’re applying for — for example, Business Functional Analyst vs Business Analyst or Customer Service Manager vs Customer Care Manager— you can go ahead and list the job title as it appears in the job description.
Even the most fastidious reference checkers are unlikely to care that you’ve changed a small detail for the sake of clarity.
Option 2: List a standardized job title
If your internal job title doesn’t accurately reflect the work you were doing or is full of buzzwords, it’s generally a good idea to list a more standard job title on your resume alongside your internal title.
Company-specific terminology might be a big deal in the role you just left, but buzzwords like ‘Ninja,’ ‘Rockstar,’ and ‘Wizard’ are meaningless to most recruiters.
Option 3: Use both job titles
If your job title was similar to the job you’re applying for, but not exactly the same, it’s also fine to list both titles on your resume.
Listing both titles is an effective way to communicate that these titles could be used interchangeably, or that you did the work of both jobs if that’s true.
This lets you communicate to a hiring manager your actual responsibilities, without jeopardizing any future reference checks.
Option 4: List the team you worked on
If you find yourself in a position where your job title doesn’t accurately reflect what you did, it may be better to omit your job title altogether.
If you were officially an administrative assistant but spent most of your time doing bookkeeping work instead, you could list your job as 'Accounting Team' rather than 'Administrative Assistant.’
This isn’t perfect — it does risk looking slightly awkward to a hiring manager — but can be useful in extreme situations where your actual job was completely different than your official title suggests
Option 5: Add a resume title
If you lack relevant experience or your past job titles aren’t an obviously good match for the position you’re applying to, including a resume title is often the best way to get past ATS.
Add the title at the top of your resume header and make sure you’ve included bullet points that address what makes you a good fit for this position.
Option 6: Write a resume summary
If you have the right experience — but not the right job title — consider including a summary at the top of your resume. This allows you to list the new job title in a natural way without having to change your previous job title into something it wasn’t.
Try this example as a template:
[Previous job title] professional with 5 years of experience seeking a position as a [new job title] in consumer software. Managed launches of two large-scale projects including [1-2 most relevant accomplishments] …
Changing job titles on your resume: What not to do
Here are some common mistakes people make when changing job titles on their resumes, and what to do instead.
Don’t list a completely different job title. Even if you were unofficially doing the same job, you can’t take it upon yourself to retroactively change your job title.
Do emphasize additional responsibilities in your resume summary and bullet point accomplishments.
Don’t list a job you never held. If you don’t have any relevant experience, find other ways to add value to your resume.
Do list accomplishments that highlight transferable skills and use a resume title to bypass ATS.
Don’t use buzzwords. If your official job title doesn’t clearly describe what you did, both ATS and manual resume scans may assume you don’t have the right background.
Do list a standardized version of your job title alongside your official job title.
Don’t list positions that sound completely different from the title of the job you’re applying for and hope recruiters are able to magically intuit what makes you a good fit.
Do use an ATS resume scanner to suggest keywords you’re missing.
Don't make up a fake job title to hide a period of unemployment.
Do address any resume gaps so employers understand what happened.
Don't use a non-chronological resume format (like a functional or hybrid resume) to try to make it look like your experience is more relevant than it is.
Do stick to a standard chronological resume and focus on highlighting relevant accomplishments and transferable skills.
If you’re unsure which skills and keywords to include on your resume, use the tool below to get a list of relevant ones.
What happens if you get caught changing job titles on your resume
You may be wondering what the big deal is about changing your job title. After all, everybody lies on their resume, right?
Wrong. Never lie on your resume. If you get caught during the hiring stage — if a background check turns up a different job title than the one you listed on your resume, or if a hiring manager checks your references and uncovers a discrepancy — you'll automatically be out of the running. Even if you do land the job, background checks can happen at any point. If your initial background check is delayed, or if you're up for promotion in a few years' time, finding out that you lied on your resume is grounds for firing. So don't risk it — especially when there are so many legitimate ways to improve your resume instead.