Choosing the right job title is an incredibly important part of the recruiting and hiring process. After all, a job title is so much more than a name. A job title is the first thing applicants see when they're searching for jobs. The job title could ultimately determine whether that perfect candidate clicks on your job posting, or scrolls right on past it.
In this article, we will walk you through five vital aspects to selecting the right title for your company’s open employment opportunity.
1. Pick a Job Title That Is Industry-Relevant
Deciding on a job title that actually exists might sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how frequently well-meaning hiring professionals create new, shiny job titles when a classic, recognizable one would improve the applicant pool significantly.
For example, if your company is looking for a corporate event planner, then don’t feel like you have to put a spin on what’s already a universal job title. Almost always, we recommend companies avoid gimmicky titles. Casting a search for a “party planning wizard” won’t help you stand out from the crowd. Instead, you’ll turn off or confuse many candidates. And those who use classic search functions to find job listings may never see your post at all.
Can't decide on just one perfect title? Sprinkle in additional keywords relating to the job to increase the chances that interested candidates will find it.
2. Appeal to The Right Candidates
Determine exactly how much experience and seniority you’d like your applicants to have, and keep that in mind when choosing a job title. Research what other companies are calling entry-, mid- and executive level positions, and don’t be afraid to follow suit.
As a general rule of thumb, most organizational charts start with CEOs, then other C-level executives such as chief technology officer and chief marketing officer. After that: presidents, executive vice presidents, vice presidents, assistant vice presidents and associate vice presidents. Then come senior directors, assistant directors and managers. Finally, you’ll land on independent contributors, including freelancers and part-time employees.
While every business is different, each HR department should take the time to carve out an organizational hierarchy. Ensure your organizational hierarchy is tailored to your company’s industry. The experience level that you convey in the job title will have a big impact on what candidates expect about the level of responsibility, experienced required, and compensation.
3. Match the Job Title to Salary Expectations
To help keep your applicant pool properly qualified, avoid mismatching job titles and salary expectations. Title inflation doesn’t make people feel important for long. Instead, it creates career trajectory problems and salary confusion. Plus you’ll waste a lot of time interviewing candidates who have the wrong impression about the job and are likely to turn down an offer once you hit the negotiation stage.
For example, if you’re planning to offer a $40,000 salary for your open position in business development, don’t advertise the job as a Director of Business Development. The entry-level applicants you’re probably looking for may be too scared to click on such a lofty-sounding job title, and the more senior applicants may apply and ultimately be disappointed by the misalignment in the role.
To avoid this, do a little outside research to see what industry competitors are labeling similar positions, since pay can vary so much from sector to sector. You can even find publicly available salary data on sites like Indeed and Glassdoor, and use that to compare the salary you’re willing to offer with the average salaries for that job title. A few simple searches should give you a clear sign that you’re either on target or way off the mark.
4. Take Care to Minimize Gender Bias
Certain terms used to describe employment opportunities can really push applicants away. While obviously sexist titles like “pool boy” might be a thing of the past, other job titles more quietly discourage applicants of a certain gender.
For example, the terms “ninja” and “guru” have been shown to ward off female applicants. If your post for a “tech wiz” isn’t recruiting a diverse pool of applicants, you might have better luck renaming the position more clearly. Try “IT associate.” If silly job titles are core to your company’s identity and culture, then keep using them but keep in mind any unintended effects that could arise.
Gender bias, of course, extends to much more than just a job title. You should always scan your job listings in their entirety for words that deliver unintended messages. One Huffington Post article suggests that words like “assertive,” “competitive,” “strong,” and even “foosball” may signal to women that they aren’t what your company is looking for.
5. Remember That Even at a Startup, Some Conventions Still Apply
If you work for a modern startup in which employees wear many hats, you may be tempted (or even encouraged!) to dispose of traditional job titles even when searching for new hires. We almost always recommend redirecting that creativity elsewhere.
Why? As previously mentioned, getting too cute with job titles can lead to organization confusion, unintended sexism, and ambiguity regarding both responsibilities and compensation. While it’s ok to have a little fun, your chief financial officer probably wants to put “CFO” on her resume, not “Funny Money Guru” or “Queen of Green.”
If you must name your positions creatively, we recommend considering the following questions:
- Does this job title clearly indicate this person’s role at the company and level of industry-relevant expertise?
- Will others, including clients, vendors and investors, take this title seriously?
- Will the title make it harder for this person to grow in their career?
- Will it prevent the right candidates from applying for this job altogether?
Remember, job titles are meant to be meaningful, relevant, and clarifying. If you want to attract and retain the best talent out there, we recommend naming jobs carefully and appropriately whenever possible.