Why your job title matters

Job titles may have far-reaching consequences when it comes to future employment opportunities and salary
by Will Monroe

The CISI 2018 Membership Survey reveals some interesting results with regards to job titles. Just 5.75% (145 out of 2,520) of members define their role as ‘Other’, compared to almost 22% (421 out of 1,920) in 2017. 

This is most likely due to the increased number of categories offered in the survey for respondents to choose from – 42, compared to 25 in 2017 – but it does suggest that job titles in the sector are becoming more specialist. 

New sales-related roles added in the 2018 survey include ‘relationship manager’ and ‘business development’, while in the paraplanning area, 'technical adviser assistant' was added. 
Get yourself noticedWriting for Forbes, Liz Ryan, the founder and CEO of career advice service Human Workplace, says that a precise title should be a starting point when applying for a job on recruitment websites such as LinkedIn. She recommends branding “yourself for the jobs you really want – not every job you’re qualified for". Your title is important “because it tells the world how you see yourself”. In other words, your title is your first line of attack when jobhunting – get it right and a job is more likely to follow.

Career coach and motivational speaker Ashley Stahl, also writing for Forbes, concurs. She cites an example of one of her clients who referred to his current position as ‘sales rockstar’ on his CV. By doing this, Stahl explains, he had set himself up to prove his claims, and had given the impression that he “would not be open to feedback”.

Hiring firms use candidates’ job titles to (often instantly) understand their level of expertise, while recruiters also place a great deal of emphasis on job titles when searching for candidates on digital recruitment sites and scanning numerous CVs. Being specific with your title – using keywords so that it appears in the right online searches – is therefore important if you want to stand out from the crowd.
Stake your place Each year Pearl Meyer & Partners, a compensation consultancy based in New York, releases an annual Job titling practices survey report, compiled from an analysis of job titling practices at 219 companies across six major sectors. The 2018 report reveals that more than 40% of organisations find job titles to be important and expect them to convey authority and responsibility, while 77% also agree that job titles accurately convey organisational hierarchy.

“People use your job title to quickly understand how you fit into an organisation, what you do, and your level of expertise or authority,” explains career coach and HR leader Angela Smith in an article for recruitment website The Muse. Firms and recruiters view job titles as essential to the recruitment process, and the right title is essential for employees to further their employment prospects in terms of internal promotions or future opportunities with other companies.
Negotiate your own job titleMany companies will allow current and prospective employees to negotiate their job title. Smith recommends that title negotiations with current or potential employers should be a “factual, data-driven negotiation,” and that “you should also present your proposed new title as a benefit for the employer”. For example, a ‘client relations manager’ trumps ‘customer service associate’ in terms of how clients view both the organisation and your role, making it a win-win scenario for both yourself and your employer. 

According to Pearl Meyer’s titling report, 19.2% of organisations believe that job titles can be used to reward current employees, while 26.8% think that they could be used to retain staff. 
Titles mean moneyTitles are of course indicators of expected salary, which is one of the key criteria that employees consider. Mark Kolakowski, author of the case-based career management handbook Career confidential: an insider’s guide to business, says that job titles are “badges of authority”. It’s logical that if your ‘badge’ is more highly regarded or sought after, your salary expectations will rise accordingly. When negotiating a salary increase, it’s important to negotiate a job title change that reflects this, or, inversely, when discussing a job title change, you can include salary in the discussions. 

Kolakowski advises that if you don’t get the job title that you’re due, then you “may be seen unfairly as someone who actually is at a lower level of achievement than the one you have attained”. He cites a scenario where an employee receives a “de facto promotion but does not get the upgrade in job title to that of the former incumbent. This may signal either a downgrade in the importance of that job, or be utilised as a not so subtle device by a company to lower the level of compensation associated with that position”.

This will have consequences not only for the employee’s standing in their current company and their salary, but also when seeking future employment at other organisations. 

What’s in a job title? A very great deal, it would seem.

Seen a blog, news story or discussion online that you think might interest CISI members? Email bethan.rees@wardour.co.uk.
Published: 19 Oct 2018
  • Career Development
  • The Review
  • Recruitment
  • job title
  • Career advice

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