Job titles are bogus. There, we’ve said it. What is a “Senior Software Engineer” anyway? It tells you nothing. If you’re a candidate, you can’t tell anything from that job title. As a recruiter, you can’t count on the title to tell you anything.
If job descriptions were “real,” it might be better. But they aren’t. Job descriptions are usually collected from stock job posts from HR or government manuals. They do very little to tell candidates and recruiters about the real requirements and daily function of a particular open position.
The job of any good recruiter is to go way “beyond” job titles in their understanding of any position. Recruiters have to determine everything from the personality composition of the team to the realistic technical aptitudes required on a daily basis. Recruiting has very little to do with job titles; you can also see the confusion for job seekers.
Reconciling Job Titles
In recruiting, you may see many different job titles for the same position, depending on the industry and company. While this may initially lead to confusion among candidates, you have to position yourself as the industry expert and reassure your candidates that they are applying for the right position. Here are some of the top reasons why titles can be confusing and ways to solve the problems they can cause.
Some jobs are simply called different things in different places. An executive assistant may be called a personal assistant in a different area. People in some areas might call the medical professionals who respond to an emergency paramedics, but they might be called emergency medical technicians in other areas. In some areas, you need specific training to be an EMT but not a paramedic or vice versa. When you are first building a relationship with a client and learning about the position, take the time to research the job title so that you are confident you can find a qualified candidate. Make sure and ask the client if the job goes by any other titles.
Changes over Time
Just like the business world, titles for different jobs will evolve over time. For example, office managers used to be simply secretaries. Some positions will be eliminated, tweaked or replaced by other positions. Sometimes a job title can disappear when the responsibilities associated with it are absorbed into another position. When working with older candidates or candidates with wide experience, make sure to ask questions about the job they performed so you can make sure their experience matches up with the position.
Many people know that a publisher is someone who makes books or magazines, and a publicist is someone who manages publicity. Still, many of these titles can get switched around if someone isn’t paying attention as they type or read. As a recruiter, it’s your job to find these mistakes and make sure they don’t lead to an embarrassing conflict.
What a Job Title Won’t Tell You
Often job titles don’t give the full story about the responsibilities, challenges and successes someone had in a particular job. When reviewing candidates’ resumes, always look at the responsibilities and the job title together to get a complete picture of their employment experience. Often, the actual responsibilities are more important than the job title.
Inflated Job Titles
Both hiring managers and candidates tend to inflate their jobs. Candidates inflate their job titles for obvious reasons, but even hiring managers tend to exaggerate the seniority of their needs to recruiters. They often describe the high-level functions of an open position without detailing the routine day-to-day activities. They also ask for senior management skills, team leadership, and project delegation when the actual job doesn’t require it. Inflated job titles are the source of a lot of recruitment problems – wasting everyone’s time. It’s the job of every recruiting professional to cut to the core of job and convey the true position to the candidate.
Titles of jobs mean very little and are fraught with problems. So if you’re just starting out in recruiting or if you are a candidate, know that you should not place much emphasis on them. Instead, look to build a working understanding of the job function before recruiting for an open job. If you’re a candidate, try to develop an inside connection to the company to understand if a job title and description are “real” before applying.