Title Inflation and Considerations for Creating Accurate Job Titles
May 23, 2023
With today’s tight labor market, employers are looking to strengthen their attraction and retention efforts as much as possible. One way to aid this is by creating accurate job titles. However, some employers focus excessively on making the titles unnecessarily attractive for potential candidates with a practice called title inflation. This article explores what job title inflation is, explains standard job titles, and offers considerations for creating effective titles.
Job Title Inflation
Job title inflation is where the title of an employee’s job does not match their duties. Many start-ups popularized the use of inflated or less accurate titles, such as referring to a website manager as a “digital overlord” or calling a receptionist a “director of first impressions.” Likewise, some businesses have added designations such as “vice president” for roles that don’t have implied executive responsibilities.
Internally, inaccurate or inflated titles can cause more senior employees to be upset by less experienced workers having more advanced titles. Further, employers could be at risk of having employees quit if their titles are adjusted to ones that more accurately reflect their roles.
Externally, these inflated titles have caused less experienced workers to avoid applying because they feel they are underqualified for a senior role. It has also led to more experienced workers being discouraged from accepting these positions because they would not be compensated equally to other actual senior roles. Title inflation can also cause new hires to be disappointed when they learn their job responsibilities are not what they expected when they first applied.
The solution is to accurately title jobs from the start so that the necessary candidates apply for the job, accept it, and stay with the organization with a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
Types of Job Titles
Companies generally have an organizational chart showing the positions within the organization listed by job title and reporting structure. Usually, these titles have a clear progression. The following are common titles that correspond with different experience and education levels. It’s important to remember that while this list provides examples of what certain titles are commonly intended to mean, thousands of accurate job titles are possible.
- Entry-level—“Staff member,” “representative” and “associate” are common entry-level titles. These positions often have responsibilities such as completing routine tasks, providing customer service and supporting higher-level employees.
- Intermediate or experienced—“Coordinator,” “analyst” and “specialist” are common titles for intermediate or experienced roles. These positions usually require more expertise and may involve more problem-solving, decision-making, and management of projects or teams.
- First-level management—“Manager,” “supervisor,” “project manager,” “team leader” and “office manager” are frequently used for first-level management. These roles are usually responsible for overseeing the work of others, setting goals, ensuring work is completed efficiently and communicating with higher-level management.
- Middle management—“Senior manager,” “director,” “associate director,” “regional manager” and “adviser” are common titles for middle management. These roles are often responsible for developing strategies, making important decisions, managing budgets, leading departments and ensuring the success of the company or a specific department.
- Vice president—“Vice president,” “assistant vice president,” “senior vice president” and “director” are common titles for executive professionals at the vice president level. These roles are usually responsible for managing staff, supervising departmental operations and reporting to executives or senior management.
- Executive or senior management—“Chief officers,” “president,” “vice president,” “senior executive” and “executive” are popular titles for executive or senior management. These roles are usually responsible for making major decisions about the direction and overall strategy of the company, managing the performance of other leaders and employees, and representing the organization to external stakeholders.
Considerations When Selecting Job Titles
Many factors go into selecting the best job title for any given position. Employers should consider the following tips when creating job titles:
- Match the title to salary expectations. Common titles should match the amount of compensation the position will receive. For example, if an employer is searching for an entry-level applicant, making the title something like “vice president” would not be a good idea because senior-level workers will apply and likely end up rejecting the role once they realize the salary is for an entry-level position. Employers should also be aware of pay transparency laws that may require employers to disclose pay ranges in job postings. Even when it’s not legally required, disclosing pay ranges in job postings can be beneficial because employers who provide pay transparency information tend to receive more applicants and save time and money in recruitment efforts.
- Appeal to the right candidates. Titles should be created to reflect the amount of experience the position requires. Using senior titles for entry-level roles can deter suitable workers from applying because they feel underqualified. On the other hand, using titles that reflect the experience of the employees an organization desires is a more effective titling strategy.
- Create short titles. The job title should be kept short. According to research from recruitment service Appcast, the most-clicked job titles have between 50 to 60 characters, while job titles with 1 to 3 words receive the highest application rates. Keep the title short and use the description to provide other key details about the role.
- Use keywords. The title should include keywords. Depending on the position, an employer may use keywords related to the job’s function, level of seniority, or both. Doing this helps job seekers find the organization’s job listing more readily when they narrow their search based on key terms.
The current job market remains tight, making attraction even more important to employers. However, they should be cautious with their titling conventions for open positions. By thinking more deeply about the job titles they choose and focusing on accuracy, employers can mitigate job title inflation and likely increase attraction and retention outcomes.