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Choosing the Correct Job Title

Adapted from content excerpted from the American Express® OPEN Small Business Network


Selecting a job title that matches the job's responsibilities is important for recruiting. It can be used to narrow the field of candidates and help you find the right people to fill a position. Different titles connote different levels of responsibility and experience. People looking for jobs will scan classified ads by title trying to find the right fit. Recruiters, headhunters and employment agencies will use standard titles to screen candidates they send to you.

Many small business owners eschew job titles as too corporate. If you're one of those people, then you don't need to use titles in the day-to-day operations of your company. But when you're recruiting and hiring, you should consider creating titles as a way to make the best hires. Use the tips below to help you out.

Make the title descriptive

Consider adding a word or two to create a more compelling title that describes both the job and the type of company. For example, a company that specializes in selling online media services might be better off looking for a "Web Advertising Sales Rep" than just a plain old sales person.

Consider the standards of your industry

Every industry has its own set of job title criteria which connote the hierarchy of an organization. You will need to comply with the titles that are common for your type of business so that job candidates understand whether they would be moving upward or laterally. For example, a public relations company will have (in ascending order of importance):

  • assistant account executive
  • account executive
  • senior account executive
  • account supervisor
  • account vice president

To find out the titles used by other firms in your line of work, contact your trade association; consult a headhunter or recruiter who works in your industry; or look at the help-wanted pages of your newspaper or industry journal.

Think of your company hierarchy

Consider where this person will fit in your company and how others in the organization will react. Someone who has been with your company for five years and has worked hard to move up the ranks might be put off if a new hire with less experience gets the exact same job title. Terms like "junior," "associate," or "senior" can be used to differentiate levels of proficiency and experience.

Stay away from company jargon

You might call customer service reps "relationship facilitators," but that won't necessarily work as a recruitment tool. Whenever possible, use standard titles that others can relate to, that will make candidates excited about the position, and that can be used for recruiting.

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