The 1 Time It's Okay to Lie About Your Title


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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 15, 2024 at 9:41AM UTC

“Earlier this year we had a reorganization, and due to fewer departments reporting to me, I was moved from director to manager,” a Fairygodboss member recently wrote in the community feed. “I understand the reason for the change, but I am currently looking for a new job at the director level, and I really don't want to show a step backward. I've been applying to positions with my former title. I wonder what will happen with a background check if they contact my current employer and realize the discrepancy. Any advice?”

This is not an uncommon predicament when it comes to presenting yourself in a job search. If your title doesn’t really reflect your responsibilities, what do you do? Is it okay to lie?

Is it okay to alter your title?

Most professionals agree that it’s important to accurately represent yourself on an application. But too frequently, titles don’t actually do that.

In a MyPerfectResume survey of 1,707 employed individuals, including 895 of whom were involved in the hiring process, 54% of managers said that it’s acceptable to “modify” your job title, while 43% of managers agreed that lying about your job title is fine when the title doesn’t accurately reflect the candidate’s job responsibilities.

Many of Fairygodboss’ community members agree. 

How to “lie” about your title on your resume.

“I take titles with a grain of salt.”

“I tend to take titles with a grain of salt,” wrote Peggie Arvidson. “Small companies who are trying to sound big tend to give out ‘inflated’ titles to make people feel good about leaving bigger companies and large companies often give people unassuming titles like Project Manager III so that we don't automatically take a second look at their director-level candidate.”

Her advice? “Instead of worrying about the title, spend time focusing on the RESULTS you've achieved in your role and highlight that on your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Think about forward momentum—what do you want to be responsible and judged for in your next role?”

“Make sure your bullets support the position you are applying for, and don’t worry about it,” another Fairygodboss member agreed, adding, “Men certainly don’t.”

“Don’t overthink it.”

“My advice would be to do whatever gives you peace of mind and does not make you overthink this,” wrote Maryann Augusta. “Own this and no one will question you. Did your responsibilities change? Pay? Or only the title? It really comes to semantics, if you’re still doing the same work at the same pay so I’d list it as Manager/Director. I believe when verifying employment, only dates are shared so I wouldn’t worry about that. Still, you don’t want to be looking over your shoulder and feel like you’re being deceptive. Be true to yourself.”

Be forthcoming.

Others advised the OG poster to mention the change of title, while still presenting their qualifications. 

“On your resume, I would list that position as ‘Director’ and in the details under that position, I would add a line that ‘during a company-wide restructure position was re-labeled as Manager but your responsibilities did not change,” commented Barb Hansen.

Meanwhile, Lisa McCartney wrote, “I would change my title but mention the reorganization either in the cover letter (but that brings up different questions) or in the interview so they know you can handle the work of Director of __________.”

At the end of the day? Titles alone probably aren’t going to impact your candidacy too much, and unless the title you’re thinking of presenting is wildly inflated from the one you actually hold, simply ensure that it’s consistent with your responsibilities in the role.

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for altering a title on your resume? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

About the Career Expert:

 Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.

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