As your company grows and you start to take on employees, you’re probably thinking about job titles. Perhaps you haven’t previously given it much thought, but there are some general best practices to follow. In this article, we reveal our 5 tips for creating effective job titles for staff members. Let’s get started.
Are job titles important?
Firstly, let’s address the importance of job titles. They may seem a minor detail, but job titles play a key role in the way your business is represented to others. They give people a look into your company structure, financial health, and how professional you are as a business.
In recent years, specialists have been warning employers about ‘job title inflation’, the concept of exaggerated and largely meaningless job titles. Associate Director and staffing specialist at Walters People, Marie-Astrid Carlier, explains: “Job inflation is the tendency companies have had for several years to offer their employees lofty, imposing titles without any real impact on tasks, career development, or even salary.”
Carlier explains that since 2019, recruiters have tripled their use of the term “Lead” in entry-level jobs, while “Junior” has halved. Job title inflation allows companies to upscale their image and credibility, which is excellent on the surface, but it can be misleading. It can also hurt your chances of finding suitable applicants and lead to a skills gap, which can be difficult to bridge later on.
With this in mind, job titles are incredibly important. To maximise your chances of attracting top talent and maintaining credibility, job titles should be accurate and meaningful. Next, let’s take a look at our top 5 tips for creating job titles for your employees.
1. Use the right hierarchy labels
The key detail to include in an effective job title is the hierarchy. In other words, what is the employee’s level of seniority and where do they sit within your company structure?
For example, if you’re looking for a junior staff member, you should opt for labels like ‘assistant’ or ‘trainee’. Likewise, if you’re looking for someone to manage a team and have additional responsibilities, you should use titles like ‘manager’ or ‘supervisor’.
Here are some common hierarchy labels:
- Board of Directors (C-suite) – Chief, Director, Officer
- Management – Manager, Controller, Supervisor, Head/Lead
- Team – Team member, Consultant, Associate, Contributor, Representative, Advisor
- Entry-level – Trainee, Assistant, Graduate, Intern, Apprentice
Using the right hierarchy label informs employees (and their colleagues) about their key responsibilities and highlights a development path. It also shows outsiders (like customers and clients) where different staff members sit within your company structure, and how they contribute to its success.
In contrast, mislabelling job titles can attract the wrong candidates and cause confusion when the salary doesn’t match the job title. It can also complicate the onboarding process and halt their progress, if your new employee has misunderstood the role. To avoid this, job titles should reflect the level of experience you are looking for.
2. Be specific
Another important part of effective job titles is using specific keywords. These terms should capture the job’s primary function.
Let’s say you operate in the financial industry and you’re looking for a content writer. The job title ‘Financial Content Writer’ might be more effective than simply ‘Content Writer’. Or rather than broadly looking for a ‘Marketing Manager’, you may want someone to focus on social media, making ‘Social Media Manager’ more appropriate.
These specific terms focus on the key responsibilities applicants can expect from the positions, and the background required to perform them well. This makes the roles easy to understand and leaves little room for confusion, ensuring that you find the right person for the job.
For smaller companies, this may not be quite as straightforward. In the start-up phase, your employees are likely to take on a wider range of duties that benefit the business, and roles may not be as focused as they are in larger companies.
If in doubt, try to keep job titles as close to the role’s main expectations as possible. Perhaps your Social Media Manager also handles some customer queries, or perhaps they organise staff events. While these additional responsibilities span customer service and office management, their primary role remains to manage your social media activity.
3. Avoid jargon
On the back of the above, you should avoid industry jargon that potential employees may not understand. This includes internal buzzwords and unusual acronyms.
Not only does jargon approach job title inflation territory, but when people come across your vacancy, complicated and uncommon words may discourage them from applying (especially younger candidates).
The career website Milkround found that over 70% of graduates felt discouraged from applying for certain jobs due to jargon. Furthermore, 63% said they find industry jargon frustrating, and 64% said they feel they can’t apply for a role if they don’t understand every part of it.
The language you use in your job titles significantly impacts your potential to find suitable employees. Common abbreviations like HR (Human Resources) or PA (Personal Assistant) are acceptable, as they are well known.
However, job titles like ‘RAD Specialist’ or ‘Social Media Guru’ are ambiguous, and fail to explain what the role entails. To create effective job titles, you should say what you mean and use clear language and common terms that everyone can understand.
4. Avoid lengthy job titles
You should also avoid job titles that are too long. Try to cut out any purposeless information. A good example of this is ‘Digital Content Coordinator’. It narrows down the individual area of marketing that the employee is responsible for, and specifies their level of seniority.
In contrast, ‘Full-time Digital & Content Marketing Coordinator/Assistant’ is a bad example. It’s long, vague, fails to express exactly what this employee does, and includes details (‘full-time’) that should be included in the job description instead.
Lengthy job titles are unfocused and confusing. Instead, they should be short and sweet, meaningful, and easy to communicate.
5. Be consistent
One challenge that some businesses face as they expand is keeping their naming conventions consistent. As your company grows and team structures and opportunities evolve, you may tweak some job titles to suit these natural changes.
This is common; however, they should generally remain consistent, avoiding any radical changes. For example, if you’ve always had ‘Sales Associates’, they shouldn’t suddenly become ‘Client Success Executives’.
Consistent job titles allow existing employees to easily understand who does what and how roles differ from one another. They also help clients and customers identify the correct point of contact, if they want to get in touch with your company.
Furthermore, consistent job titles streamline your recruitment process. If you work with an agency, for instance, they help recruiters understand the roles you’re looking for and their requirements, making it easier and quicker to find suitable candidates.
Lastly, consistency helps reinforce a strong brand image. As mentioned, the way you communicate job titles represents your company – in the same way that your logo or tone of voice does. If you were to suddenly change one of these elements, your brand identity would change.
Overall, consistency is key. Where possible, your job titles should remain the same to ensure clear communication, simplify your hiring process, and maintain your brand identity.
Thanks for reading
So, there you have our top 5 ways to construct effective job titles for your employees. Remember to ensure that they reflect the correct level of seniority, use specific keywords that clearly explain the main purpose of the role, and avoid complicated jargon and long job titles. Finally, once you have a system in place, be as consistent as possible.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or useful insights to share on job titles, let us know in the comments below.