Career Coach is a column that gives IT professionals a chance to pose questions about training, certification, salaries or any other career-related issues to eWEEKs panel of IT managers, hiring and training experts.
Dear Career Coach: I am an application development manager who has been doing 95 percent of my bosss (the CTOs) job since Ive been hired over a year now. While the company replaced my first incompetent boss with a second, neither my title nor pay has improved. How can I prove what responsibility I actually had and hence how much success I am responsible for? I am tempted to inflate my formal title on my resume to the role I actually did and then explain myself at the interview, but that may seem dishonest. --Anonymous
Career Coach: BRIAN D. JAFFE
Youre not the first person to feel that theyre doing their own job as well as their bosss – just dont phrase it that way on your resume. You should certainly use your resume to put the best possible light on your accomplishments. But theres a fine line between "spinning" and "lying." Some hiring companies can be very strict and will verify your background. Those companies may consider something like misrepresenting your title as grounds for dismissal.
You are certainly entitled to put down on your resume everything you did while working for your employer, whether or not it was in your job description or a formal responsibility of yours. For example, you may not have been formally responsible for managing the companys data center operations, but if you did indeed manage the operations (regardless of whether your CTO was incompetent, lazy or in absentia), you have every right to crow about it. Eliminating the use of the words "responsible for," in this case, should clear your conscience of misrepresentation.
A greater concern might be your title. Some hiring managers may wonder why an applications manager was doing activities normally associated with a CTO. You could simply eliminate the title from your resume, or shorten it to just "Manager." If queried further, you could say that you took on these functions while your boss focused on other priorities. (You may not agree that being shiftless is a priority worthy of a CTOs time, but rank has its privilege, and he or she is the one who gets to set priorities.)
You should also take comfort in the fact that most hiring managers know it isnt uncommon for someone to have a title that doesnt accurately reflect their actual job. If asked, a nonchalant comment that your former company didnt really use titles, but thats the one thats in your personnel file, could be explanation enough. Or, that your company had a very formal policy for job titles and that a new one for you had not yet been approved.
Lastly, its a good idea to refrain from referring to you ex-bosses as incompetent, or words to that effect. It is considered a major interview faux pas to bad-mouth a previous employer.
Brian D. Jaffe is a contributing editor for eWEEK and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Career Coach: RANDY DUGGER
Your common sense comes through at the end of your question when you question inflating your title. As a hiring manager, I would definitely rule out any candidate who inflated their title. That is also easily verified during reference/background checks.
I would recommend accurately describing what you did and how you did it. During the interview, it will come out as to what you actually did and what you can do for the prospective employer. In the long run, while titles are nice and impressive, people are hired for what they did and more importantly what they can do in the future.
If you feel you are qualified to go after CTO positions, you should orient your job objective that way and submit resumes to companies seeking candidates for those types of positions. During the interviews, I wouldnt lament how you didnt get the title/pay that you think you should have. Instead point out that your potential isnt being utilized in your current position and that you are looking for the next logical challenge and position.
Randy Dugger is the former director of IS for SEQUUS Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (now part of Alza Corp.) in Menlo Park, Calif. Currently hes the CEO of Dugger & Associates LLC, a San Jose, Calif., consulting firm specializing in Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange and in assisting small-to-medium-sized businesses with IT services and training. Randy also is a member of the eWEEK Corporate Partners. He can be contacted at email@example.com.