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I am currently filling out an application for a lecturer position in the UK, which includes a section on employment history.

Previously I was employed at a Russian university where my official job title was an engineer. However, the work that I did correspond more to a research assistant. The problem is that in Russia you need to be a PhD and go through an official selection procedure (that means for an organisation to open position, to select a pool of candidates, etc.) to get a research assistant position. So usually if your professor gets a grant, he/she usually tries to hire you on a less "complex" position from a bureaucratic point of view (especially if you are not a PhD).

Obviously, I don't want to describe all this country-specific stuff in my application. How do you think, is it OK to put a job title "research assistant" in the application? Are the universities likely to verify this information?

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Do not lie.

You never know who is going to read your application. What if the committee includes a Russian person who is familiar with the Russian system and spots the inconsistency right away?

I would write the actual job title and then describe the tasks you had there, emphasizing that they were research tasks.

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On my resume, I put the official job title in the language of the country where the job was located, and a loose translation into English to summarize how I perceive the mapping. This ensures that all information is in your CV in a truthful way, while also providing the context to enable correct interpretation. So my resume says something like:

  • 20xx-20xx: Postdoctoraal Bursaal (~postdoctoral researcher) in Belgium
  • 20xx-20xx: Research Associate (~postdoctoral researcher) in the UK
  • 20xx-20xx: Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter (~postdoctoral researcher) in Germany
  • 20xx-20xx: Assistent in Opleiding (~PhD student) in the Netherlands

Wimi's suggestion to describe your responsibilities in the job is a good one, if the application form allocates enough space for you to do so. My personal opinion on that is that it can't hurt, but it's your resume so it should match your style.

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