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5 Rules for Effective Job Titles

by Oct 29, 2013, 6:45 am ET

As the first thing candidates see, in bold colored lettering, the job title greatest impact on whether candidates will click on a listing. Here’s how to write good ones.

  • Be specific. An effective title contains information regarding the industry, function, and level of the role. For example, instead of using “Analyst” as a job title, use more descriptive titles like “Senior Financial Analyst” and “Entry Level Business Analyst.”
  • Avoid abbreviations and acronyms. Terms like “Mgr,” “Mgmt,” and “Sr” are not consistently used and can be confusing to candidates. Spell out words fully to ensure that the title is comprehensive and distributed to the correct audience. The exception to this rule is use of common industry specific abbreviations or acronyms. For example, it is preferable to use “CRM” in place of “customer relationship management.” Industry accepted acronyms are also acceptable, such as “RN” for “registered nurse.”
  • Make it easy to understand for candidates outside of your company. Your company may use fun and eccentric job titles like “Customer Happiness Advocate,” or perhaps your company uses internal job IDs like “Team Lead II (028959).” Remember that external job candidates are likely to be unfamiliar with the unique naming and hierarchy of your company’s positions. Well-qualified candidates may not make the connection between the job title and their own qualifications and therefore not click on the ad. Keep your job title basic but descriptive.
  • Avoid superlatives or idiomatic phrases. Some companies like to use idiomatic phrases to describe employees, like “rock star,” “ninja,” and “guru.” Spoken informally, such phrases imply expertise and high performance. However, colloquial phrases are easily misclassified by search engines and can negatively impact the relevancy of your job description. Your job listing might appear on the wrong queries or to fail to show for the right ones.
  • Leave out extraneous information. Since the job title is the most important factor in determining relevancy, keep it clean and uncluttered. Do not include salary or location information, job codes, non-alphabet symbols or any other information not relevant to the title itself. Place these details within the job description.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • http://www.janzz.com John Donaldson

    I suppose if you only have one field to enter criteria that identifies your current career then the advice here is excellent – especially regarding entering the ad hoc company terms that are invented and do not resemble industry Standard clasifications.
    But why can’t job seekers enter Occupation/Specialisation and Function separately….then we would know exactly what kind of Project Manager or Consultant we are offering or seeking.

  • http://Masslive.com JJ Wassmuth

    John
    On many job boards you can put in the title as well as other keywords so that the job seekers can narrow the search and be more specific if desired. The same goes with search engines. I agree with the above in regards to job titles and would say that in regards to the job description that an employer should not get too narrow nor too broad. If there are keyword search reports, those may be helpful in gaining the best return.
    And sell job seekers on your company. Tell them why they should work for your company.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Leonard. I’ve worked at a place where we had different job titles for what:
    1) we recruiters unofficially called it to be clear to ourselves and each other
    2) the position was called officially within Staffing
    3) the position was called internally company-wide
    4) the position was called externally

    That was a mess…

    -kh

  • http://www.vandycke-partners.com Christiaan Lebbink

    It is finally as in Marketing, you have only so much time to attrack your potential customer. It should as much hold the promise what someone can achieve as he or she is required to do. Overpromise in the title will fire back and underpromise will attract the people who will not achieve, which is bad for both parties.

  • Keith Halperin

    Christiaan: I believe it is better to directly reach out to candidates than to try and attract them to come to you.

    -kh

  • http://www.minnesotatechjobs.com Eric Putkonen

    In addition to the above, especially #1 – Be Specific, make the job title unique or at least different.

    Check out java programmer jobs on a major job board and you will see many with job titles that usually just say “Programmer” or “Programmer Analyst” or “Software Engineer”. Why isn’t the keyword Java in the title? The more specific you can get the better…what would interest your targat audience and what keywords would they search?

    Now for unique…I know a company that has dogs in the office (dog friendly)…so how about “Java Programmer and Dog Lover”. Of course mention the dog-friendly environment in the job description. Anyone who loves dogs (or their dog) will love the idea of this and it will appeal to them. Cat-people or those who are allergic will opt-out and not apply – a good thing as they would not be a fit anyway.

    Imagine how such a job title will stick out in a forest of “Java Programmer” and “Programmer Analyst” job titles. Have something relevant and of value to the specific job seekers you are trying to reach…and make the job more specific and unique.

  • Keith Halperin

    How about: “Java Programmer – 95th Percentile Salary”?

    Keith

  • http://www.janzz.com John Donaldson

    @JJ The problem is that job title fields plus one keyword is not enough….it’s better, sure, especially following the “Be Specific” and “make it easy” tips but still doesn’t really hone down the search to a scalpel incision.

    @Eric Considering that all Job boards are still using string matching, if you put in “Programmer and Dog Lover” you will get all programmers PLUS all references to “dog” PLUS “lover”. Unless of course the Job Board has an advanced search and you know what you’re doing in terms of filtering.
    Leonard is right in being specific: Programmer is the Occupation, what you trained for, and Java is your Specialisation. But I also suggest adding Function which is one of the most confusing elements of job titles. For example, Senior, Lead, Head, Project Manager, CEO would be functions.
    I’ve tested most of the sites including the professional networks and get some crazy suggestions for jobs….seriously….NOTHING to do with what I do.
    It is written somewhere that companies who aren’t semantic within 5 years will not survive and considering too the speed with which this technology is developing that is probably too long a period.
    Finally, if you want more insight into official and standardised Occupations refer to ONet the US taxonomy (http://www.onetonline.org/) or ESCO, the EU version (https://ec.europa.eu/esco/download). We should all use these classifications so that Job matching can be done efficiently.
    Ps I work for neither by the way..;)