What’s in a job title? Would a director-level position with a manager job title still look sweet to a prospective job candidate? In contrast, how much do job titles on a resume impact recruiters and employers? Information technology job titles are one of those parts of a job description that shouldn’t seem to matter as much as they might. In many cases, they’re simply the internal index that’s used to set salary ranges and job roles. In that way, they might not mean much on their own.
At the same, IT job titles are usually one of the first things people see. That’s true for job seekers scanning job postings and screeners checking resumes. That’s why it’s important to understand the impression that titles can leave on both job seekers and employers. This information might change the way that you understand job titles and of course, how you use them in your overall job descriptions.
How Much Do IT Job Titles Matter for Job Postings
Do people care about their job titles that much? SHRM, an HR certification and association organization, found that prospects probably don’t scan for the title first when they review job listings. For example:
Monica Lewis, the LinkedIn Jobs product head, said that their testing found 70 percent of prospects wanted to learn about the salary and benefits first when deciding if an offer was worth considering. A Glassdoor survey backed up this LinkedIn assessment by finding that 67 percent of job seekers said money was their primary motivation to apply for a new job. After that, people wanted to know about their potential job duties.
This data might appear to imply that asking a director from one company to switch to a manager title in another company shouldn’t matter. People shouldn’t care about the title so long as other parts of the job satisfy them. At the same time, the SHRM article said that after salary and benefits, candidates wanted to know about the job duties and expectations.
People might expect titles to reflect all of that. Still, many companies use job titles that simply provide an index back to their internal compensation levels. Very often, those titles don’t actually tell candidates much about the role. If salary and benefits aren’t listed, the posting won’t give prospects those vital pieces of data either.
Perhaps worst of all, the titles may appear lower than the job seeker’s current or past titles. Since candidates may see the title first in a job posting, email, or other communication, it could discourage them from bothering to learn more. For instance, Programmer-Analyst III is a fairly common job title. In one company, that could be a fairly low-level designation for software developers with a couple of years of experience. In another, it might indicate team leadership or even management opportunities. The title only really has meaning within the context of a particular company.
As an important side note, the LinkedIn study found that candidates wanted to see a list of job responsibilities. Even more than that, they reported that having metrics that could define success in the new role was particularly impressive. The survey takers said that these numbers helped them understand more about the sort of performance the company valued and also, showed that the potential employer had taken the time to define the role well. Obviously, job titles can’t contain every detail about the position. On the other hand, this finding points to the fact that today’s job candidates favor solid facts and transparency when they consider an employer. It can certainly help if titles contribute to the quality of the job posting.
Should Recruiters and Employees Care About Job Titles?
Though it’s not specifically relevant to information technology job titles, one Austin tech firm has a position for a Manager of First Impressions. This is the formal title for their receptionists. Apparently this switch in title from receptionist to manager helped improve employee morale and did a better job of helping employees understand one of the most significant aspects of their job. Instead of feeling as if they performed basic, low-level work, the receptionists understood they could play a vital role in courting new partners, employees, and customers.
This example might appear trivial for companies that need to compete for high-level tech talent. On the other hand, this creative title does reflect expectations better than just calling the visible person at the front desk a receptionist. In addition, recruiters and candidate screeners will look at job titles, says a public relations specialist from Glassdoor, Sarah Stoddard. Still, experienced recruiters should be aware of inconsistent or meaningless titles and take the time to study the description of duties.
Ms. Stoddard said that job candidates shouldn’t let a job title discourage them about a potential position that may otherwise appear attractive. She added that negotiating for a job can also include negotiating a job title. For example, a candidate may presently hold a technical director title at a relatively small company. A much larger company may offer a manager title that comes with better benefits, 25-percent more pay, and more teams or departments reporting to them. The title alone should not necessarily stop a candidate from considering the new job. On the other hand, if it’s a big obstacle, it’s something that the candidate might discuss when they’re discussing employment terms. Like many other things, companies may negotiate titles for the right candidates.
What Should Job Titles Mean?
Some employment experts may believe experienced recruiters and job seekers will always glance at titles and then take the time to dig deeper into the actual duties. Rick Devine, the CEO of a talent experience company, disagrees. He believes that in a perfect world, job titles would conform to standards, so it was obvious that people with one title would be on a certain rung of the ladder. He said that sometimes titles can impact visibility in the current systems. If some managers are doing jobs that might be considered director-level roles in another company, the lack of the right title could offer some limitations on future opportunities. In this case, it’s particularly important for job seekers to clarify their role on their resume and other communication.
There’s no official governing body over most job titles. Because of this, candidates and recruiters should only truly expect job title consistency within an organization. Sometimes, they might even see variations between departments within one company. Again, a company may tie salary ranges and expectations to particular titles. These expectations may vary wildly from those in another organization. Even within the organization, some titles may seem arbitrary and not a perfect description of the actual role. In one company, for example, that programmer-analyst III might be called a senior software engineer or technical leader. Obviously, some titles for one company might not even exist in a similar organization located across the street.
Since job titles may be ambiguous, all stakeholders in job recruitment and search need to take care to define them. When neither potential employers nor recruits can be certain what another organization’s job titles mean, it’s important for descriptions to clearly define duties. The more detail job postings include about expectations for the position, the better. Job seekers should take the same advice by transparently describing the duties that they performed in their role.
How to Treat Job Titles as Employers and Job Seekers
As much as possible, employers should strive to create job titles that reflect the position’s duties and expectations in a way that’s consistent with industry standards. There’s room for some creativity, so long as the title still describes the position. When possible, it doesn’t hurt to ensure the title also reflects well upon the position.
When screening resumes for open positions, employers should also look past the titles to gain information about what past jobs truly entailed. Lots of companies require employees to perform at a level above their titles before they will promote them. Sometimes, employees even need to wait for vacancies before a promotion. Of course, a manager at a large enterprise may easily have the duties of a director in a smaller business. Conversely, employers of small businesses may have experience wearing multiple hats that can make their experience particularly valuable.
Job seekers should look past job titles to understand the role and the compensation of the new position. At first glance, the title might suggest that the position is lower than the one that the candidate currently has. On closer examination, that may not always be true. If the title becomes a stumbling block for a job offer, it’s also possible that the candidate can bring their issue to the table for negotiation.