Job titles: What's in a name?

I remember when Prince Harry was reportedly appointed Chief Impact Officer of mental health services startup, Better Up. To me, it was not instantly obvious from the title what the role would entail. But should that matter? Here are three reasons why yes, it absolutely does matter:


Candidates and employees need clarity on what they're accountable for.  Ambiguity leaves room for confusion, goals can get missed and that can reflect badly on their performance and on the business.  Having the right job title will encourage people to want to accept their accountability, to want to take ownership and be successful. If they can't clearly articulate what they are expected to deliver, then how can they deliver it?  And if they can't deliver it, they can't be measured against it. How will anyone ever know if they have done a good job?

Colleague Sentiment

If new teammates scoff at the job title, it could generate ill-feeling.  All new starters want to be instantly recognised as being able to make a difference, and not be viewed as getting an easy ride because of something other than their skillset and experience.  Remember when Tourism Queensland advertised for a $150,000 Island Caretaker?  I bet there were plenty of colleagues avoiding the lucky candidate at the Christmas party.

Attracting the right people

As you know, recruiters scan hundreds of CVs for every vacancy. If it's not clear what someone has been doing, you risk jeopardising their next steps.  Their CV will not be read word for word, their previous job titles and company names should jump off the page and scream ‘relevant'.  Candidates will know this. If the job title isn't right, you will find yourself at the negotiating table for sure or you may even lose out on potentially good people who won't take you seriously.

The power of a clear job title hierarchy

While it's important that the job title is clear, many candidates do get too hung up on perception rather than a function of their role.  Tech firms in the US in particular have set a very consistent tone, with a standard set of job titles that are mirrored across the industry.  That puts everyone on an equal footing and sets a level of understanding, with little room for confusion. Even within a company, having a very clear job title structure is well worth considering.