What does a Job Title Mean to Your Career? From time to time, I have worked with applicants who have received an offer for a job that had a lower title than the title they had in their current position.
Their current title may have been vice president and the title of their new role may have been director or manager. More often than not, titles are set inside a company and tied to pay grades. The connection of the title to pay grade can eliminate arbitrary title assignments.
Companies are sometimes leery of hiring people with titles that are larger than the title of the job for which they are hiring. The risk in hiring a person for a lesser role is that the person could become dissatisfied and attracted to yet another company where the role and the compensation may be greater.
The networking value of titles: There are companies that assign inflated titles to their sales people as a way to open doors at large companies. I had lunch with the chairman of a marketing services company who told me that he had a new sales person who blamed his not being able to get appointments on his title. Since the chairman had other people who were successful despite their titles, he considered the title issue to be an excuse for not succeeding.
However, the sales person was persistent and completed his first sale by convincing the chairman to go along with the title change. The role of the sales person did not change, but this sales person became a vice president in title when contacting clients. He also became a very successful sales person and made a lot of money for that company.
The personal value of titles: To many people, titles hold personal value. Their title is tied to their self-esteem. On LinkedIn, I saw an interesting article in which the author said that job titles are not important. The author made a number of good points about the value of performance and contribution to the success of a company being more important than the titles employees held. Ironically, the author of the article listed his own title as a “C” level officer alongside his name in his LinkedIn profile. His points about the value of contributions to a company are well taken. However, he failed to see the importance that titles mean to a person’s identify and self-esteem, even in his own.
The marketability of titles: When I read a resume and see that a person has titles that appear to represent demotions, I will closely examine the resume to see which direction a person’s career has taken. Titles may not always reflect an accurate statement of responsibility. I find that my clients will handle resumes the same way.
Many applicants are aware of the effect that titles can have on a person’s marketability. I placed a woman who was working for a visual imaging company into a similar role at a home appliance company. Her title at the visual imaging company was director of marketing. If she took the job at the home appliance company, she would hold the title of brand manager.
The issue troubled her. The responsibilities of the jobs were the same at both companies. She dug in her heels over title before signing the offer.
The president of the hiring company offered this compromise. On her business card, she could put whatever title she wanted, but that her title if she accepted the job was brand manager. She accepted the job.
The hollow ring of meaningless titles: I know recruiters, consultants, and other people who work for themselves and put the title president on their card. Some companies give the title of vice president of sales to every sales person in the company. There is the risk of losing credibility with clients when titles do not accurately reflect the function of the position person holding that title.
I recruited for a number of years for one of the best small growth companies in the United States. This company brought in a consultant named Santo Laquatra to help them establish an effective recruiting program as well as refine titles and job descriptions for different roles in the company. The titles that this company uses align approximately one notch above the title of most contacts the sales team will have as clients. For example, directors at this company sell to people who hold the title of manager the client companies.
This approach has worked well for this start-up company in getting appointments with their clients and creates a greater impact when top-to-top meetings take place between this company and their clients.
Job titles in job descriptions: One reason for having solid job descriptions for every role in a company is that job descriptions enable managers to ensure that each a function is being performed. In choosing titles for
I placed an analytically brilliant and creative retail marketing and planning manager with a company that had posted the job opening the title of “Director.” The offer letter contained the title of “Manager.”
The applicant balked at signing the offer over the change in job title. He was a manager in his role at this current company, and the title and the responsibility were the reasons for which he had applied for the job.
The company was a small rapidly growing start-up. Job functions were being created and defined as the company grew. During the interview process with this applicant, the hiring company had begun to see the role differently and had redefined the role from the role in the job description.
One of the stated goals of this company was to hire the most skilled and accomplished people possible. Their efforts to hold to that goal were in part the reason that the current title of the applicant made them redefine functions and change the title of the position.
Now they found themselves trying to hold to the goal of hiring people who were skilled at or above pay grade and not lose an applicant who had what they were seeking for the role.
In further discussions with the applicant, the executive team saw that they had in reality stumbled upon a person with much more ability than required for a manager role and more potential than perhaps any other manager or even perhaps any other director in the company. They rewrote the offer letter to place the applicant in the role and with the title of the original job. The applicant accepted and signed the new letter.
Another interesting part of this particular process is that the applicant received an attractive counter offer from his current company. He told the hiring company about the counter offer and said that he had rejected the counter offer and given his current company a letter of resignation that stated that the last day he would be available to work for them.
By this time, the hiring company had become very committed to ensuring that this person came to work for them. They added a sign-on bonus to be paid on the first day of employment.