Is a Cool Company Better Than a Good Title?

It’s the classic job seeker’s dilemma. Should you chase less-exciting positions with name-brand companies, or instead target the smaller organizations that aren’t “industry leaders” to land a better title?

Now, of course, it’s possible to have both; but it takes a lot of time (and a splash of luck) to reach the top at larger companies. So unless you’re in the enviable situation of landing a VP role at Google, you’ll probably want to keep reading.

But be warned: Before you get too far into this article, let me tell you the bad news—there’s no clear-cut answer. You won’t X out of this and suddenly know what to do. However, what I will do is lay out both cases so you. Or, I should say, I spoke with two of The Muse’s expert career coaches to discuss each option.

The Case for Going After Big Companies

It’s a commonly known fact that many recruiters rely on resume keywords, not only to allow ATS bots to screen out candidates, but also to search for specific skills.

The best part of brand names is that they can act as keywords that let you steal a little power back in the process: Companies spend millions of dollars on advertising letting everyone know exactly what they do, and how well they do it. When those familiar names appears on your application, those dollars are working in your favor to grab the attention of the hiring manager.

The Case for Going After a Better Title

But, here’s the thing: Brand names may grab attention, but job titles could seal the deal. They let the person reading your resume know exactly what you’re capable of.

Don’t believe it? Think about the story that your job titles tell. Would you be happy if your resume showed the same title for the last five years? Of course not. When we want to illustrate growth, we think about progressing from “junior” to “senior,” perhaps even adding “manager” to the list—all to control the narrative that your resume tells.

How to Decide

When I posed this question to Bruce Eckfeldt, a coach specializing in career development and performance management, he recommended a balanced approach. For any professional, “you want to learn what engages you and what turns you off. Sometimes this can be big companies where you’re working in different departments, or smaller companies where you can take on a lot of different roles.”

He believes that the top priority is your own professional development, and collecting skills and experiences from each position will give you more options in the future. In fact, Eckfeldt says that the most important thing to focus on is expertise, and how to get it: “If a brand name will help you make an important move in a few years to a role where you can really hone your focus and skills, then yes, prioritize that and consider lower positions. If not, then it’s not as important.”