A few years ago, in an attempt to appear cutting-edge and unique, employers started jumping on the crazy job title bandwagon. Suddenly, there were Ninjas, Rock Stars, Gurus, Ambassadors and Mavens everywhere. Though the hype seems to have died down and 2012’s most original job titles aren’t as original today, these titles shed light on an important subject – the value of a title when looking for a job.
A job title should convey more than just an employer’s originality or a fun and creative work atmosphere. In fact, the short group of words that makes up a job title serves multiple functions, and just like the employee it represents, if it’s not chosen wisely, could lead to lost opportunities. Let’s look at some functions job titles should serve, and how failing to do so can affect a job search.
Describe Your Role
What is a job title really? Simply put, it’s a label that is assigned to employees that appears under their name in their email signature and the company directory. What it represents, however, is far more important, as it describes the role employees perform for the company – or at least it should. Most recruiters and hiring managers spend an average of only six seconds scanning each resume before determining whether to continue reading it or move on to the next. Those six seconds are focused on recognizing keywords and familiar job titles indicating prior experience that lends itself to the role they’re looking to fill. Candidates whose titles may be unique but lack recognition and fail to represent their function in the company stand to miss out on potential job opportunities.
Show Progressive Responsibility
When employees excel at their role, they’re typically given more responsibility. But simply taking on more work may not be enough to convey career growth to future employers. Progressive responsibility should come with corresponding title changes, and eventually higher salaries. If an employee’s title remains the same for several years, a prospective employer may associate this with an inability to learn and grow, or an indifference to taking on new challenges and work responsibilities. Similarly, rebutting these assumptions on a resume may prove difficult for employees if they remain with the same employer for several years with no title change. Job titles should follow career progression, and employers will look for this when hiring.
In some states and cities, new laws have made it increasingly difficult for employers to inquire about employees’ salary history. Therefore, they must find alternate ways of determining salary starting points for candidates and open positions. One common method is to request a salary survey, while another is to refer to websites such as Salary.com or Glassdoor to determine fair and competitive compensation. However, both of these methods rely on a number of factors to determine salary – among them, job duties, experience, and of course, job titles. Candidates whose current or previous job titles are too unique or don’t match their responsibilities or experience level may find it difficult to convince prospective employers of their true worth.
Determine Future Roles
Oftentimes, a particular job title is considered a prerequisite for another more senior role. For example, one would expect an accounting- or financial-related job title to precede the title of Controller. Job seekers with ambiguous or misleading titles may find them a hindrance to their career goals, as employers may be reluctant to offer senior roles to those whose past titles don’t show a clear path of career progression. Though a wise employer will dig deeper into candidates’ backgrounds to determine if their skills and experience have prepared them for the role, there could be some who never get the chance, as their title may prevent hiring managers or recruiters from ever finding their resume in a title or keyword search.
For employees working for a hip, young startup, a unique job title that sets them apart from the masses may be more important than recognition. However, problems can arise if they leave the company in search of a new job. Similarly, those who have been comfortably employed with the same company for years may not feel the need for a title change, despite taking on new roles and responsibilities.
Employees should make an effort to request a title upgrade each time their job duties change or expand in order to ensure their title reflects their growth and progress. Likewise, those with unique or original job titles may consider adding corresponding traditional titles next to theirs in parentheses on resumes and LinkedIn profiles to match employers’ keyword searches. For job seekers, those whose current and past titles are easily associated with specific job duties and skill sets will see the quickest path to employment.
John Feldmann is a Communications Specialist for Insperity Recruiting Services in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity’s brand to both business professionals and job seekers.