Is My Job Title Screwing Me Over?

Dear J.T. & Dale: I’ve had two jobs during the past years with titles of “construction manager” and “general manager.” However, in both cases the work was mainly administrative, and that’s what I want to do. I’m now applying for administrative assistant jobs but not getting any response. I think it’s my previous job titles and that a computer program is tossing my resume before a human can even read it. Am I correct? — P.L.

Dale: If you watch a veteran HR person go through resumes, you’d conclude that it’s so machinelike that it doesn’t matter if the screener is human or a computer. But, in either case, you’re right in thinking that those two titles are NOT what they are looking to see.

J.T.: You need to break down your experience. At the top of your resume, put a little “Experience Summary” section and a list of major skill sets related to administrative functions, along with the number of years of experience for each. That way, the first thing they see is your administrative skills.

Dale: Still, they’re going to be skeptical when they get to those impressive job titles, assuming you’ll bolt as soon as the job market improves. So I’d leave off the titles — just list dates and company names, followed by job functions and accomplishments. In interviews, if you’re ever asked what your title was — I doubt you will be — you can then explain that they gave you a grand title for the sake of customers, but that you were then what you want to remain: someone who enjoys administrative work.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of the consulting firm Dale Dauten’s latest book is “(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success” (John Wiley & Sons). Please visit them at, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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