This piece originally posted in April, 2012.
I've written before about how I hate inflated and obscure job titles. But, my personal preference aside, there are ways that an obscure job title can actually hurt you. (And I'm not talking about all those Directors of Inspiration, and other such rot, who may have been clubbed over the head.)
First of all, let's say I'm a hiring manager looking for a helpdesk worker. I'm working my way through resumes like they're a stack of Pringles and I come across "Investment development and research analyst" as a job description. Not only is that not going to trigger recognition but I'm not going to take the time to research it.
Of course, you can't help what title you are given in a corporation. I recommend just putting in parentheses what the weird title actually translates to. As much as it galls people to hear me say it, your job with a resume is to illustrate a picture of your talents and experience in a manner that is easiest to digest by the hiring manager.
(My title here at TechRepublic is not exactly ideal: Head Blogs Editor. Frankly, to me it sounds like an occupation that requires a hat. But I guess it's descriptive, on a basic level.)
The other way inflated job titles can hurt is that it can backfire on the company who assigns them. As stated on http://hr.blr.com, any mismatch between the job title and job functions "invites auditors from the state or federal level into your workplace to investigate. The auditors will ask you to hand over all your job descriptions, and they may go through them line by line. If you've updated them to match job titles, the auditors will find the holes-the functions that some jobholders can't perform. And if you change someone's job title but not his or her job description, you may be sunk."
The site also warns against title weirdness affecting exempt and non-exempt status: "Give someone a fancy title and you may be tempted to pronounce him or her exempt. Not only do you deprive the person of overtime but you could invite an investigation by the Department of Labor's Wage & Hour Division. Class action suits for misclassification of workers are at an all-time high and can be very expensive."
So keep a rein on the fancy schmancy job titles!
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.