When addressing the past positions in a resume, although titles somewhat describes the role, they cannot clarify the importance of positions.

For example, listing a past position of department chair indicates administrative duties at department level, but it depends on the department. Definitely, chairing a small department with a few faculty members and annual enrollment of 30 undergraduate students is different from a well-funded department with tens of senior faculty members and several PhD programs. However, if a reader does not know that specific department, the term department chair is the same.

This is even more serious when it comes to differences in terminology. In a university, a faculty can be equal to a department, and somewhere else a faculty can be in the size of a university hosting several large departments. Even terms of mid-level administrative positions in academia do not always have the same meaning: e.g., dean, director, chair, head.

How do you fairly clarify the importance of the job you had?

It is possible to add a description, but as it is not very common, it may cause an impression of overestimation.

  • 5
    I think you are making an assumption that past experience as a dean, director, chair, head is important.
    – StrongBad
    Sep 27, 2013 at 14:55
  • @DanielE.Shub definitely when applying for an administrative position, they are crucial. Of course, the importance of any point in a CV depends on the reader (for what purpose he is reading that).
    – Googlebot
    Sep 27, 2013 at 15:03
  • @DanielE.Shub Would you say this assumption does not correspond to the real situation? Is such past experience not important?
    – gerrit
    Sep 27, 2013 at 16:43

2 Answers 2


If a title or position is unclear, or an institution is possibly not well known, just explain it in a few words:

  • Director of Supersonic Operations department (15 researchers) at Small U.
  • Time-management officer, Funny Inc. (in charge of scheduling company-wide meetings)
  • Information officer, U. of North Virginia (CTO-like position, managing computing resources for 10,000+ students and staff)

Be as concise as possible, but give the reader some idea of the scope of your activities. And if the position is clear or well-known, just don't add any details.

  • very practical approach!
    – Googlebot
    Sep 27, 2013 at 15:43
  • @All in general on the SE network +1 and thank you type comments are discouraged since you thank people with votes.
    – StrongBad
    Sep 27, 2013 at 15:52
  • @DanielE.Shub I didn't mean thank, but highlighting the type of answer, but I will follow your advice.
    – Googlebot
    Sep 27, 2013 at 16:55
  • This is exactly as it is done in industry. Leading a team is different so you should say if you lead a team of 2 or if you lead a team of 50.
    – earthling
    Sep 28, 2013 at 2:40

You can put a short (maybe four or five word) explanation in the CV item itself (or more if you think it's really important). You can also give more details in your cover letter about exactly what responsibilities you had. Another option is to ask one of your letter writers to explain; this is a common approach for things like personal reasons for wanting to leave a job, etc.

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