When I was 18, and still studying for my A Levels, I took great pride in the fact that a major multinational business was willing to employ me on a part time basis as a professional artist. I felt that, in terms of job title, there could not be a better fit for my talents and ambitions. This appreciation certainly buoyed my spirits when I was feeling low, and helped me to trudge into work on the cold winter evenings when my friends were out elsewhere. Whilst to some I was ‘just making sandwiches’, I knew that the business I worked for saw through this superficial exterior, and was able to recognise my flair and talents, even if it was just a job title. This was a sense of great pride and satisfaction.
Since those long, heady days of foot longs, mayonnaise and BMTs, I’ve entered the world of recruitment, and I now spend a lot of time speaking to candidates about their next career move, and ultimately what position they would like to hold next. In a world of gurus, ninjas and the aforementioned artists, I’m always interested to see how much importance candidates place on job title, and I usually ask about it very early on in a conversation.
Fundamentally, candidates want their job title to reflect them and their experience, but a problem can arise when the structure of a new company differs from a previous employers’. We can often come across Sales Directors who manage a couple of Business Development Managers in one business and then Business Development Managers who manage a $100M + territory with a team of 5 underneath them in another. Job titles tend to be very subjective (hence my artistic credentials) and for the most part, the candidates we speak to appreciate that.
Sometimes, the fluctuating responsibilities of seemingly closely matched job titles have more of a practical purpose. For example, on the more functional end of the scale, in the UK, all companies must have at least one director in order to be allowed to trade as a Private Limited company. So even if I started my own sandwich empire from my house, I’d be a Director, Artistic or otherwise.
Sometimes an equally functional, although less obligatory, reason for an ‘inflated’ job title once again comes from start-ups. When it comes to selling your new product or service, it can be a lot easier to secure a meeting with a VP at a potential customer’s organisation if you are a VP yourself, regardless of the baggage it comes with. Presidents tend to meet with Presidents more than they meet with reps or managers, so sometimes the title can help to get a foot in the door.
On the flipside of this though, where a senior job title may help you out in one role, it can be prohibitive when you come to find your next. If you are conducting a job search on your own, without the assistance of a good recruiter who can outline your situation correctly, then a senior looking title can sometimes be a turn off for a hiring manager. If said hiring manager is recruiting for a Sales Manager role, and you were a VP in your last role, small company or not, hiring managers can and do knock back CVs on this basis. It’s always worth taking this into account when putting together your resume.
That same good recruiter should also be adept at seeing through job titles, and recognising where and when a candidate’s value is (or isn’t) reflected on their CV, identifying the points I’ve already mentioned. This is a major benefit that hiring managers stand to gain from using experienced and thorough search partners who see thousands of these documents every year – they can see through the jargon, bluster and positioning to the quality candidates that are there behind the document.
On the whole, I think that the importance of job title is on the decline, but LinkedIn is a great place to find out . It’s a fantastic cross section of businesses, from established corporations with set company structures that are decades old to lauded innovative start up which bring with them ‘innovative’ job titles and company structures.
Does anyone care about job title anymore? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org !