Whether you are the assistant manager or assistant to the manager, does it matter more to have a great job, or a great job title? Do job titles attract better candidates? Let’s look at what’s in a name.

What’s the Right Title for the Job?

The fundamental purpose of a job title is simply to communicate. When someone describes themselves as a “cashier” or a “machine operator”, it conveys a simple overview of their work and responsibilities, regardless of their specific employer, or even their industry. However, particularly in the modern workplace, there is a trend away from these types of simple, functional job titles. When creating a title for a job, here are many of the factors to consider:

  1. External perceptions. While a job description and the scope of responsibilities determine how an employee functions within a company, a job title determines how that employee will be perceived externally. 
  2. Regulations. There are many job titles that are restricted to employees with specific credentials. For example, a “physician assistant” requires more education and has more responsibility than a “medical assistant.” It is almost universally understood that a job listing for a “commercial truck driver” or a “CPA” requires applicants with the appropriate license, and that maintaining their qualifications in good standing is an inherent aspect of the job description. 
  3. Compensation. A job title carries with it the perception of associated compensation. It is understood that someone with “manager” in their title earns more money, while a “director” earns still more. 

When naming a new position, employers need to consider these factors: how the title will be perceived externally, whether it’s consistent with expectations in their industry, whether it requires specific qualifications, and what it implies in terms of compensation. It is worth reviewing salary averages for people with that title and making sure you are consistent with equivalent functions in other companies.  

Do Job Titles Attract Better Talent?

The truth is, candidates with more experience and expertise are much more interested in the job function than the title. When considering a position, they care more about what they will be doing every day than what will be printed on their business cards. However, job titles are still incredibly important during the recruitment process, for several reasons:

  • Style. A recent trend toward creative job titles like “guru” and “maven” can be very appealing for a certain kind of candidate. Choosing creative job titles conveys volumes about your company culture in just a few words: instead of an “accountant”, you’re looking for a “number ninja.” Stylish job titles help to attract candidates who are a match for your culture, and conveys an openness and flexibility about titles. Some people love the idea of being able to choose their own title, have fun with corporate jargon, and get creative. However, these titles usually don’t convey specific information about the job function, and may quickly grow stale as trends change. 
  • Aspiration. Titles can be a great way to attract ambitious candidates looking to make the next step in their careers. Some people want to create a CV that shows continuous progression, which makes certain titles inherently more appealing to them. 
  • Search. When a potential candidate is conducting their job search, title will be one of the key fields they search. This means that certain titles will automatically rank higher in their results, and more creative job titles may never be seen. Choosing an industry standard title will help improve the visibility of your listing, especially if you are looking for a wide candidate pool. 

Job titles don’t always attract better talent, but they do strongly influence the type of candidate who responds to a job posting.

When Job Titles Go Bad

Recent decades have seen the remarkable rise of job title inflation. The “receptionist” became a “reception coordinator” and then a “visitor experience manager”. A “salesperson” becomes an “account manager” and then an “account director”. A “manager” becomes a “senior manager” with no change in job function. 

Job title inflation likely began with companies that wanted to reward longevity and boost retention without commensurate salary increases. The logic was that giving an employee a better job title is a way to recognize their contributions and show career progression. However, when an employee is given a “better” job title without a commensurate increase in job function and salary, it has a domino effect. Other employees at the same organization working in the same function want the same title, and eventually, the whole organization is using titles that are inconsistent with similar functions in other companies.

Employers should be aware of job title inflation, and use the interview process to examine a candidate’s actual function and scope of responsibilities, rather than taking the title at face value. Because of this, inflation can actually harm a candidate’s career advancement, because they lack the skills and qualifications to work at that level at any other organization. 

Job titles should reflect an actual job function, and fit into a meaningful organizational structure. When an employee wants a better job title, consider how they can actually grow within the company and create an opportunity for real career progression, instead of simply inflating their title. 

Titles matter, and should be chosen with care. They can be crucial for attracting talent, and are also important in retention and progression. If you aren’t sure what titles fit best with your organization and job functions, contact grapefrute for expert advice today.