Love your job title or hate it, it’s an important tool for employers, job seekers and professionals, offering insight into your career path, advancement, salary and more. Employers use it to facilitate an organizational structure, determine compensation and more, while job seekers and professionals can gear their job searches accordingly, using keywords appropriate for the title and job function they’re seeking.
Confused about how job titles work in the professional world? Keep reading to learn about why we use them, what they mean and how they can inform your career path.
Job titles reflect the nature of a position, the duties entailed, and/or the level of role.
• Responsibilities and type of job
A job title that indicates the responsibilities associated with the job is descriptive and often has the nature of the work spelled out. For instance, a marketer markets a brand or product, while an accountant performs accounting tasks.
• Level of job
The level refers to the rank of the position. An assistant, for instance, is often an entry-level title, while a director is generally the title of someone who has progressed substantially in her career.
If a professional works full-time for a given organization, she will usually have a title that reflects both her responsibilities and the level of her job, such as a marketing manager or vice president of sales.
Employers create job titles to denote rank and facilitate an organization and reporting structure within the business. Some companies will have an organization chart demonstrating which employees report to others. For example, an organization chart for the editorial department might indicate that the editorial assistant reports to a senior editor, who reports to the editorial director.
Depending on the size and nature of the organization, there may be a specific career path and progression for given jobs. An assistant might become a coordinator, then associate, then manager and so on. Smaller businesses and startups sometimes have less clearly defined structures, since there are fewer roles to fill and more fluidity among the positions. Often, employees who are promoted and receive higher-ranking titles also earn raises; there may also be a specific salary range for a given title.
Employers will designate a job title in job ads, indicating the level of the position. They will evaluate resumes to determine whether the candidate’s career path aligns with the organization’s needs. For example, a current assistant manager may be a good fit for a manager position, although this is not the only indicator a hiring manager will use.
Sometimes, a hiring manager may find that the candidates she finds in the hiring process are not right for the role and will adjust the title to better reflect the nature of the work.
When you’re looking for a new job, there are many factors to consider when evaluating potential roles. Ask yourself:
• Does the job title align with my goals and experience?
For example, if you’re a current sales assistant, then an assistant sales manager could be the next logical step.
• Am I considering all possible job title variations in my search?
Titles are often subjective. Make sure you’re accounting for corresponding levels and variations in your search.
• Does my current job title accurately reflect my skills and experience?
While you should never inflate or lie about your title, you can clarify it if you think it bears further explanation. It’s best to do so when outlining your responsibilities within the role, including relevant keywords. You can also put a synonymous title in parentheses next to the actual title on your resume if your job title is particularly unusual or does not accurately reflect your responsibilities.
When you list job titles on your resume or CV, you should include the title with the dates you held that role and the organizations and responsibilities or achievements underneath it. For example:
L'Oréal / June 2016–present
If you’ve had multiple roles or have been promoted at your organization, put the organization at the top of the section, with the job titles, dates and responsibilities underneath it, starting with the most recent title. For example:
September 2015–June 2016
Below is a sampling of different titles across industries. (NB: This list provides examples only and is not comprehensive.)
• Administrative assistant
• Executive assistant
• Facility manager
• Office manager
• Assistant/associate/senior/executive editor
• Editorial assistant/associate/director
• Managing editor
• Chief technology officer
• Engineer I/II/III (different specialties)
• Home health aide
• Medical resident
• Nurse practitioner
• Physical therapist
• Registered nurse
• Registered practical nurse
• Human resources manager
• Human resources generalist
• Human resources specialist
• Legal Aid
• Content manager
• Digital marketing manager
• Event manager
• Communications associate
• Marketing assistant/coordinator/manager/director
• Media and communications manager
• Public relations specialist
• Social media manager/strategist
• Sales assistant/associate/manager/director
• Account executive
• Sales representative
If you’re on the job hunt, it may be tempting to turn down a position that doesn’t have the title you want. For example, a current copywriter may balk at accepting a junior copywriter position. However, it’s important to keep in mind that job titles are subjective and may reflect different levels of responsibility at different organizations. If the role meets your needs otherwise in terms of responsibilities and compensation, don’t let the job title hold you back. Plus, some employers may be willing to negotiate titles after extending an offer.