Job titles: why they matter more than you think
A job title is one of the first things a candidate sees when they’re searching for a role. It might seem like not much more than a functional label, but a job title can matter more than you think.

Candidates and employees have expectations around job titles and title changes, SEEK research uncovers.

As it turns out, understanding what job titles mean to candidates and employees can help you label your roles the right way – which could benefit you during the recruitment process, and in motivating and retaining your staff.

Job titles are generally good indicators of experience, expertise and responsibilities,” says Andrew Morris, Director of Robert Half. “They are often used as a form of shorthand, categorising and simplifying work histories into an easily understood form.”

Job titles typically follow a consistent format that indicates job responsibility alongside seniority, such as ‘assistant accountant’, ‘senior accountant’ or ‘accounting manager’.

Change in job title? Candidates want a change in pay

Most employees don’t value a change in job title unless a salary shift also occurs. SEEK research uncovered that two in three employees (66%) agree a job title change without a salary/wage increase is “pointless”.

Changing an employee’s job title without a salary increase can have repercussions.  “A promotion without a corresponding salary increase can significantly impact an employee’s short-term motivation, which can fuel their desire to leave the organisation,” Morris says.

If employees are promoted without the benefit of a pay rise, make sure you explain why. Morris suggests considering offering non-cash benefits to bolster employees’ overall remuneration. “Or you could provide clear guidelines on when their salary will be reviewed together with firm benchmarks that need to be attained in order for them to enjoy a salary uptick,” he says.

What’s in a name?

A job title doesn’t tell the whole story – a role description adds the context of the responsibilities and duties. But a job title should still accurately represent the role.

Around one quarter of candidates (27%) have interviewed for a role that wasn’t what they expected based on the job title. “There is a growing trend towards ‘title fluffing’, where roles are given important-sounding titles in order to make a job sound more appealing,” Morris says.

Being accurate when you label a role is critical, otherwise it may deter suitable candidates or drive away new employees who have just started in the position. If this happens, you’ll need to begin the recruitment process all over again, wasting your time and resources.

By making sure a job title is clear and accurately describes the role, you’ll minimise the risk of misleading candidates and help to ensure they understand the role on offer from the start.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature on behalf of SEEK. Interviewing 4800 Australians annually