Name Dropping: Why the Job Title Might Not Match the Job.

by Roxanne Dunn
July 19, 2022
3 Name-Dropping Mistakes That Hurt Job Seekers

As software engineer Kal began his job hunt, he started to notice some peculiarities within job titles on virtual job boards. It seems that the more he searched for his next opportunity, the more inflated the job titles became. He noticed with regularity that many more companies were giving pay and title at a Staff Engineer level what most big tech companies would give to a Senior Engineer position. This was confusing and a bit worrisome to Kal. 

And Kal was no slouch himself. He was still enjoying his first full-time role as a software engineer but was ready to start climbing the ladder and taking on more responsibility with more compensation.  

Kal’s research into the current hiring market left him confused, as many candidates are feeling as they try to navigate hiring in 2022. Can candidates trust job descriptions? Is job title inflation really a thing? Read on to learn more about what significance job titles carry and how candidates can better navigate a tricky hiring market.  


Do job titles still matter? 

Job titles are still critical because they allow a candidate to define their role while also creating a hierarchy within an industry so there is a basic normalization of what a particular job title requires of an employee. Job titles help individual employees build their identity within a company and understand the role they fulfill at work.  

Job titles also inform members of your organization to understand the type of work their co-workers perform and the level of experience an employee has. This helps with basic communication, planning, and knowing who to go to when a problem or significant challenge arises. Compensation should match the responsibilities assigned to particular job titles, so managers aren’t hearing “that’s above my pay grade” when trying to launch projects or troubleshoot. Job titles also allow people from other organizations and companies to better understand what an employee’s role involves, whether they’re talking to a recruiter, a hiring manager, or a salesperson. 

Kal was fortunate when he began looking for his first tech role. After earning the certifications, he wanted, he worked with a recruiter and was quickly placed into an entry-level role with corresponding responsibilities, compensation, and job title. But Kal was about to find out things had changed in the hiring market since he was first hired as a software engineer 6 years ago.  


How important is a title when job hunting? 

As it’s continually been established, job titles certainly do matter, both to candidates, current employees, and employers. But when candidates are faced with a situation like Kal experienced with job titles, what approach should they take?  

Hiring managers and HR professionals spend lots of time crafting catchy, yet accurate, job titles to attract as many candidates as possible. But there are occasions when a job title is out of line with the responsibilities listed in the job ad. This is where working with a recruiter can help candidates make more sense of a position when the title doesn’t relay the duties expected from a particular role. Recruiters often have the inside perspective of collaborating with their clients to know what the company is needing from that role and can communicate that effectively to the candidate.  


RELATED POST: Why do IT Staffing Agencies Keep Client Names Private?


Is job title inflation a worry?

As the hiring market in tech strongly favored candidates over the last few years, employers started doing whatever they could to recruit and retain, not just top talent, but any talent at all. Industry leaders started seeing this as a worrisome trend that would negatively affect future job roles and the ability to get work done.  

In Kal’s case, if the vast majority of positions available to him have a Senior Engineer title but aren’t taking on the responsibilities of what traditionally a Senior Engineer would be, Kal risked setting himself up for failure the next time he looked to climb the career ladder. If entry-level, fresh out of college, 23-year-olds have the same title as more distinguished Engineers, problems will eventually arise in the job structure hierarchy, and employees may find themselves stuck when they look for their next job. 

For example, interviewers can ask about an inflated title and why a candidate doesn’t have certain abilities and the skillset one would traditionally expect their current title to carry. That has the potential to hurt them overall looking for new opportunities. Some insiders theorize that inflated titles might make it harder for employees to interview elsewhere. 

“There will be awkward and uncomfortable interviews. The hiring manager or human resources person was excited to meet the candidate. They held lofty expectations about abilities, due to the candidate’s title. During the interview, it becomes clear that the candidate doesn’t possess the requisite skills to succeed in the role,” says Jack Kelly, executive recruiter, and Senior Contributor at Forbes 

As predicted, the practice of inflating job titles, both on the part of the employer and employee, has already drawn the attention and ire of industry leaders and top hiring managers. 


Candidates should carefully peruse many job ads from both large and small companies to see what the consensus is in terms of titles, responsibilities, and compensation. Doing this level of leg work will set job seekers up for longer-term success when they build a career the right way, instead of through inflated job titles which can slow career growth in the long term. 

Thankfully for Kal, he followed his instincts and again collaborated with a seasoned recruiter who helped him avoid the pitfalls of inflated job titles. He now enjoys his new role as a software engineer team lead at a tech giant and is excited for his eventual next move up the career ladder! 


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