Job Titles In Tech: How Do You Choose The Right One?

I cringe a little when I hear people say, “I just want a Director level role” or some other job title. I understand the aspiration and admire the motivation, but why are you chasing something that’s made up? That’s like saying, “I want to get a ghost.” 

No, really.

See, all job titles are completely made up. There’s no book or standard hierarchy. Every company had a conversation where they said, “I guess we’ll call this role ____,” either based on their experience in other businesses or googling. 

I realized that was true when I created my business cards. It was the first time I had to make up a job title, and there I was, staring at a blank line for the job title. 

I could have written Dog Lover if I wanted to. In the world of entrepreneurship, you really can call yourself whatever you want. It frees us of that title-chasing life (at least until we hire employees and they’re still in that corporate mindset.)

However, for corporate Americans, job titles mean a lot. So this great reshuffle, resignation, whatever you want to call it, has created a lot of movement at once for new titles. But, unfortunately, this also means many recruiters are guessing when they create job titles, especially in tech. 

Confusing Results: Titles In Tech Drive Varying Results 

Imagine this. You post a job title in tech for a product manager. Each applicant could not be more different. “Well, I was a product manager at my last company where that meant….” 

It happens every single day. See, every role is a little different, even if you’re calling it the same thing. Job titles don’t have a universal meaning, and there’s a significant mismatch between candidate expectations and recruiters writing job titles. 

The consequence? A lot of people applying who aren’t qualified, and even worse? No one is finding your job in the first place. 

What Would You Google? Selecting An Accurate Tech Job Title

Ask your team what they would search to find the tech job at the end of the hiring manager intake. 

Really, it’s that simple. 

Ok, it’s not THAT simple. The first step is the standardization of job titles across experience levels. 

The most simple breakdown? Senior: creates the plan. Mid-level: follows the program. Junior: needs to be taught to follow the plan. Every role falls into one of those levels. But they aren’t determined just by years of experience. You know, years of experience only quantifies experience.

Instead of years of experience because that’s useless and ageist: 

  • How much autonomy: can they do a project alone? How many people have to help? 
  • How much time people-ing – It’s not easy for every engineer to people but the higher up you get, the more you have to present and get buy-in. 
  • Experience managing people – more people management is a more senior job. 

The more they fall into these 3, the more It’s not about how long you’ve done anything. It’s about scale and ability. Write about the experience in each category. 

Better Tech Job Postings 

Once you’ve determined the level, google the job title and the word resume. Then, review the image search results. Here’s a video breakdown for more details.

It is a very simplified approach to tech job titles but can help you set a baseline. Once you’ve created this standardization, be sure to develop paths for individual contributors and other dimensions of expertise. Even better, explain to applicants how you determine engineering levels for each role in your job postings to encourage candidates at every level to apply, even if this isn’t at their exact level. Use this to create a pipeline. 

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Katrina Kibben View All →

Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.

Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.

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