Job Titles – should we use them or lose them?!

Untitled design (37)

Well, we guess this would come down to how important a job title is to you!If asked the question, many of us would probably say they’re important and have their uses. Internally they tell people what you do and give a sense of where you sit in the business.  Externally they can do a number of things; they give others a quick idea of what you do and a sense of the level you’re operating at. Wearing our recruiter hats, we’d also say that they say something about where you’ve got to in your career and can arguably set you up for being proactively approached for roles of a similar/higher level. From a personal perspective if you value your job title, you’ve earned it and you’re proud of it, it can give you a good sense of worth. However, what if you feel you’ve outgrown it, maybe you don’t believe it’s a true reflection of your role or it’s just an empty title without the responsibility you would expect it to have – can it become a hindrance and hold you back? Maybe then, when you compare it to other considerations such as salary, job happiness, culture and flexibility, most of us would probably say a job title is less important!

Taking the HR Profession specifically, job titles have evolved so much over the years. Some of us may remember the “Personnel” days, where the perception was all about tea and sympathy… fortunately this feels like a very long time ago! Even HR has fast become People or Talent and it’s rare these days not to see culture, engagement or performance added into the title somewhere! It wasn’t that long ago we saw the ‘Chief Happiness Officer’ title pop up…the new HR Director, the person to make everyone happy! But what are we seeing now? You’ll have seen adverts for People and Culture Manager, Head of Culture and Engagement, Talent Director – let’s face it, they sound way more interesting than the standard HR Manager or HR Director. If the title is a true reflection of the actual role, then it can often give a nice insight into the business, it’s values and how they perceive HR.  

Let’s focus for a second on the “Business Partner” title – a title that many HR Advisors / Officers aspire to achieve. A title that we’ve seen used to advertise roles at £35k through and into the six-figures bracket, obviously these tend to have a global or international remit too.  To some an HRBP means you’re working closely with the business in a generalist capacity where you could be responsible for payroll, full lifecycle admin and ER, quite an operational role. To others it’s a bigger strategic role working closely with the business leaders and driving the people strategy, pulling on the expertise of the CoEs. How many “HR / People Business Partner” roles get titled up as such to attract more interest when advertising them but in reality, are HR generalists?

Job titles form a big part of our day-to-day conversations. We’re often asked for advice from our clients as to what title their new hire should have to fairly represent the role but also make it attractive to a passive job seeker – after all there is a lot of power in the right title and well crafted, thoughtful job ad. Candidates will ask about job titles in terms of what it means for their CV, future career and external market perception. For some the title is incredibly important but for others, perhaps those who have already achieved the job that came with the right title for them, it’s more about role content, culture and fit. When we put the put the question out to our network on LinkedIn – here’s what you said:

Nearly half felt it was an important representation of their career progression but perhaps not unsurprisingly 32% felt the actual content of the role outweighed the title. We will quite often hear from a candidate perhaps earlier into their career, or someone that is still climbing the ladder that achieving that perceived next step up and the title that accompanies it is so important to them. Whereas when someone reaches the level they’ve always wanted, other factors such as culture, values and flexibility far outweigh what label is on the role!

That said, let’s not gloss over the fact that in some businesses to have the seat at the table requires a certain title. We recently took the brief for an HR Manager role, but it wasn’t until final interview stage when they met their peers, the Head of Finance and Head of Legal that it became apparent that they too needed to be given the Head of HR title to put them on an equal footing from day one.

We’ve also heard the stories though of the job title being just that … a title! A title that comes without the influence and voice that you would expect to accompany it. So, it’s fair to say that you do need to look beyond the title, check out the content of the role and really get a feel for the people you’d be working with and the culture of the business. 

 So, How Important Are Job Titles Again?

We guess it’s a balancing act! 

A job title is still for many the encapsulation of where you are in your career and holds a lot of weight. Yet it also feels very important not to let a job title dictate too much, after all isn’t it really about so much more?

Share this article