You’ve probably read about the trend to eliminate job titles. If not, you can catch up on the idea here and here. But before jumping on the band wagon, it’s important to understand why job titles exist. That’s what today’s reader question is about.
First, I want to say I really enjoy reading your blog! I’ve been with my company for almost a year now. We are a small IT consulting company. The company structure consists of the managing partners, HR manager, software engineers and hiring manager/business development specialist (me!).
I started as a ‘technical recruiter’ and thought my title didn’t reflect what I actually do within the company. I handle all of the recruiting, hiring, negotiating, onboarding, etc. Later, it was changed to ‘hiring manager’. Since then, I’ve also started business development and added ‘business development specialist’ to my title.
Over the last few months, my responsibilities have increased to marketing (SEO, blogging, ad page, social media, etc.) and overall operations of the company. I don’t believe my title is a direct reflection of what I actually do on a day-to-day basis. Titles are not really important within the company, but if I were to switch careers/jobs, it may be. What title would you give to someone in my position? I have a performance evaluation coming up and would appreciate any feedback you can provide. Thanks for your help.
To help shed some light on the value of job titles, I asked a couple of experts to share their knowledge. Dawn Bugni is a Certified Master Resume Writer and owner of The Write Solution. She has shared her experience with us before. And I’m delighted to introduce you to Janine Truitt, a human resources and talent acquisition professional. She’s the founder of Talent Think Innovations.
Let’s start with the basics. Why do companies have job titles?
[Dawn] Simply put, job titles speed business communications. Authority, expertise, and scope can all be conveyed through titles, internally and externally. As organizations grow larger, it’s important to know who to call, with what issue. Job titles help facilitate that communication and determine points of escalation and empowerment. There are all sorts of operational, administrative, and regulatory reasons for job titles, too.
[Janine] In my experience, job titles are traditionally a compensation piece. Companies will tie titles to roles within the company to properly classify the people who serve the various functions in the organization.
In this scenario, the reader says titles aren’t important within the company. Why are they important outside the company?
[Dawn] In smaller organizations, the scope of responsibility is usually broader than in larger organizations. Jobs in smaller organizations tend to evolve; expand, contract, morph in response to business needs. Smaller staffs usually mean many hats; as the reader is experiencing.
Titles become important outside the company for the same reasons they exist at all. They quickly establish tone and tenor of business transactions and convey level of authority. That said titles can be arbitrary, and often do not adequately convey scope. A vice president in one industry may equate to mid-level management in another; but they provide a starting point for business conversation.
This reader seems to have a variety of responsibilities. Any suggestions on how to create a job title that accurately reflects the breadth of their role within the company?
[Janine] I would begin by sitting down with your entire job description. Assign a percentage of the time you spend completing each duty. Sometimes we think something is worthy of adding to our job description when, in actuality, it is more of an intermittent role. Start with identifying the tasks you do for more than 30% of the work day. Whichever tasks amount to more than 30% should be outlined and adequately defined in the role you create.
Anything 20% or below can receive an honorable mention in terms of outlining your tasks, but I wouldn’t base your title on them. You will need to give thought to what your new title translates to outside of the organization so you can properly explain it should you move on someday.
The reader didn’t ask this but it appears that unconventional titles are in vogue (i.e. ninjas, jedis, etc.) Does having one of those types of titles help or hurt a candidate during a job search?
[Dawn] Unconventional titles can help or hurt a candidate. ‘Funky’ titles may not parse properly into applicant tracking systems (ATS) or they may be quirky enough to attract positive attention at some point during the screening process. It depends on the reader, target industry, position, and application method.
Conventional or unconventional, off-the-mark or spot-on-descriptor, the job title is really only a small piece of the puzzle. I tell clients that I don’t care if your job title is ‘Person who does stuff,’ it’s your job, as a job seeker, to convey value delivered while performing that role. Overcome the vagueness with strong written and verbal value propositions.
Weave a descriptor of a more conventional job title into the resume, or interview, narrative, and paint the proper picture for the reader. Connecting, how experience derived from the position can directly or indirectly impact a potential employer’s bottom line, quickly overcomes any perceptions stemming from unconventional titles.
[Janine] At the moment, I think it does more damage than helps. I don’t think that companies across the board are ready for such titles. If you are going to work for a startup or progressive corporation, you may be in good company. Otherwise, companies tend to view these sorts of monikers as bragging and perhaps ridiculous.
As I mentioned in the beginning, job titles are traditionally a compensation task whereby a job analysis is done to define duties first and a name is attached to a role so that there is an operational definition and classification for what individuals do within the company. This is usually calibrated with what is going on in the market. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough ‘ninjas’ or ‘jedis’ to substantiate changing roles to mimic this trend.
If a person thinks their title doesn’t reflect what they do, should they try to get it changed? And if so, what’s a good way to bring up the conversation?
[Janine] My advice would be: spend time analyzing what you do and prepare a job analysis that shows the time it takes you to complete all of your tasks. Separate out the various roles and define them each separately in this way. This will allow you to have some data around what you do when you eventually call a meeting with your boss. Plainly, you express your wish to have a title that is more aligned with your duties. The first steps however, are to have all of your duties officially added to your job description first and then push for the title. It’s important to do this because your title won’t mean anything if you are “unofficially” performing tasks.
[Dawn] If someone is still employed with the organization, absolutely lobby for a title more reflective of the role performed. Approach the request like any other business meeting. Back the request with facts, figures, and solutions. Build the presentation from a company point-of-view. Saying ‘I’ve been doing this and I deserve to have my title reflect it’ will not get anyone very far. Present the change from a position of what’s best for the organization.
“Lately I’ve been more involved in business development. I’m negotiating new partnerships and making decisions worth tens-of-thousands-of-dollars. Potential clients are confused by the many titles on my business cards. My titles are all over the map: Hiring Manager/Business Development Specialist/Marketing Administrator. I enjoy performing all these roles and the challenges that wearing many hats bring, but customer confusion could potentially diminish our negotiating power. I have ideas for a title more aligned with the image we want to project in our expanding market place … “
Bring a solution, not a problem. (And, since the organization is small, the reader could go one step further, and create a suggested organizational chart formalizing titles company-wide.) If they say no, continue to do the job, and build the value proposition needed to overcome any title inadequacies in the future.
If someone is no longer with a company, then the title they had when the left is the title they should use on resumes and applications. Information that would be uncovered in a third-party background check, carried out between two complete strangers, who do not know, or know of, the job seeker, should match what the job seeker shares. If company records indicate Hiring Manager, but the resume and application read Business Development Specialist, it can raise a red flag, and stop hiring consideration. Overcome job title perceptions and inadequacies through effective narratives; not changing titles to what they ‘should have been.’
Job titles serve a marketing purpose. They tell someone a snippet of your role in the organization. Individuals could care what their job title says about them.
Image courtesy of HR Bartender