Job titles: why they matter more than you think
A job title is one of the first things a candidate sees when they’re searching for a role. It might seem like not much more than a functional label, but a job title can matter more than you think.

With the current high demand for candidates, it’s important to minimise the barriers for someone successfully accepting a role with you, and accurate job titles can play a role in this. 

Candidates and employees have expectations around job titles and title changes. Understanding what candidates and employees expect can help you label your roles the right way. This could benefit you during the recruitment process, and in motivating and retaining your staff.

What’s in a name?

A job title doesn’t tell the whole story – a role description adds the context of the responsibilities and duties. But a job title should still accurately represent the role as it’s what makes the first impression. 

“Job titles are generally good indicators of experience, expertise and responsibilities,” says Andrew Morris, Director of Igesia Consulting. “They are often used as a form of shorthand, categorising and simplifying work histories into an easily understood form.”

Job titles typically follow a consistent format that indicates job responsibility alongside seniority, such as ‘assistant accountant’, ‘senior accountant’ or ‘accounting manager’.

“There is a growing trend towards ‘title fluffing’, where roles are given important-sounding titles in order to make a job sound more appealing,” Morris says.

How to title a job

Being accurate when you label a role is critical, otherwise it may deter suitable candidates or drive away new employees who have just started in a position which has failed to meet their expectations. If this happens, you’ll need to begin the recruitment process all over again, wasting your time and resources.

It’s important to ensure that the title given to a role not only reflects the requirements and responsibilities of the position, but also reflects the expectations of the wider market.

Use of the word ‘senior’ or ‘manager’ for example, should reflect the actual level of responsibility that is expected, not just be a way of trying to attract more candidates.

It might also be worth doing a little research into the titles used at comparable organisations to see how your job titles stack up against these. Are you meeting the expectations of the industry in general. 

Change in job title? Candidates want a change in pay

Most employees don’t value a change in job title unless a salary shift also occurs. 

Changing an employee’s job title without a salary increase can have repercussions. “A promotion without a corresponding salary increase can significantly impact an employee’s short-term motivation, which can fuel their desire to leave the organisation,” Morris says.

If employees are promoted without the benefit of a pay rise, make sure you explain why. Morris suggests considering offering non-cash benefits to bolster employees’ overall remuneration. “Or you could provide clear guidelines on when their salary will be reviewed together with firm benchmarks that need to be attained in order for them to enjoy a salary uptick,” he says.

By making sure a job title is clear and accurately describes the role, you’ll minimise the risk of misleading candidates and help to ensure they understand the role on offer from the start. This can help with outcomes like more efficient application processes, better engagement and overall retention. 

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