What do I do about industry jargon on my CV?

I worked for ten years for the same technology company, and following redundancy I put my CV together and sent it to recruiters. They haven’t seemed very impressed and I haven’t had much interest. One recruiter says that she can’t work out what I’ve done in my career, and that some of the job titles I’ve had are so technical it’s impossible to see my level of responsibility. I don’t want to tell lies on my CV. What should I do?

Industries such as technology, education and engineering often develop their own jargon, and big companies are famous for creating projects and internal departments with titles that only mean something if you work there. So, when you leave that environment you may have to ‘translate’ your work experience into terminology other people will understand. There is nothing dishonest about doing this, provided you don’t exaggerate what you did.

Two notes of warning before we go any further:

  1. If you are looking in the same industry, make sure you are using an industry-specific recruiter. Not all recruiters recruit for all jobs, and there is a high degree of specialism. You can either use Google to search for recruiters who specialise, or try a subscription service such as the eGold service from askgrapevine.com to do this.

  2. There is a case for saying that some industry jargon (for instance, names of systems or processes) is useful to make it clear that you have particular industry knowledge. Take your recruiter’s advice on what to keep in, and what needs rephrasing for clarity.

But, especially if you are changing industry, CVs may be more effective if they have industry jargon removed or reduced.

The object is to have a CV that clearly says what you did, and at what level. So, if your job was to lead a team, say you were a team leader. If you developed strategy, devised campaigns, built budgets, developed products or trained colleagues, say so. Give yourself job titles that say exactly what your job was; describe the purpose and work of the teams and organisations you belonged to and say, in plain English, what you did and achieved.

The same applies to courses (though not to qualifications) where the title of the course bears little relation to what you actually learned. It is perfectly honest to list the courses by what they were about instead. For instance, you can say ‘day course in beginners HTML’ instead of ‘Page Stage I’.

If your qualifications are likely to be unfamiliar to an employer – for instance, if you did qualifications in another country – you may wish to put in brackets: ‘equivalent to…’ and put the closest UK qualification. If you are coming to the UK from overseas, check your qualifications with NARIC, which is the national agency set up to provide information and expert opinion on vocational, academic and professional skills and qualifications gained overseas. Don’t forget that Scottish qualifications can prove confusing to employers in other parts of the UK.

If you are changing your most recent job title so that it makes sense to external employers, make it clear in your description of what you did that your job title has been changed to make it clearer (’internally, this job was known as Head of Red Team’) and also let anyone who is likely to be asked for a reference for this job know that you’ve used a plain English title, so that it doesn’t take them by surprise.

November 10th, 2009 | Category: CV, courses, job title, qualifications | 1 Comment »

One comment

  1. Finding a good job can be pretty troublesome. Especially when you have high expectations.

    Here are some tips that helped me land the job of my dreams:

    * You need to have a professional written resume. If you are not an expert, you could consider hiring one.
    * Take into consideration what skills do you have. You may have more choices if you consider additional job titles.
    * Don’t neglect any source of jobs : internet, newspaper, radio and other media. Ask your friends that have similar jobs if there may be an opening in their company.
    * You need to be proactive about this. Don’t just email them, make sure to call the HR department to have them confirm your resume.

    Finding a job is pretty much a job in itself and it’s all about how well can you market your abilities.

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