Explaining Job Titles To Candidates

One of the golden rules in recruiting is to not introduce new information at the last minute – especially when explaining job titles to candidates. In fact, the best recruiters put it all on the table upfront. Everyone has a deal breaker and knowing your candidate’s will make all the difference between a happy hire and someone who never wants to speak to you again. 

One of the top reasons people even decide to make a move? Simply because they believe it’s a promotion. If they make it through the entire process then realize it’s not a promotion on paper at all? They might just say no. It could be their dealbreaker. 

Now, I want to remind everyone that job titles are completely made up so that seems like a big decision to make on magic, but that’s not how it feels. It doesn’t feel made up. Job titles feel like a reward for your hard work. A trophy for your time. In reality, they’re just a taxonomy system made up by some compensation consultant. 

Internal Titles Vs. Marketing Titles

That also means that if someone is online looking for a job and your made up Associate 6 job title doesn’t align with how they see themselves? They’ll never click in the first place. Seriously, I can trash every job post writing course if that great content is never found by the candidate you want. 

But those internal job titles with random notes and promotions won’t do the trick. 

That’s why I recommend creating a marketing job title – one that is well researched and based on volume. But how do you explain to the candidate that the job title they clicked on isn’t what they’ll see on a business card or in the HRIS when they’re onboarding day 1? 

Communicating About Job Titles Is Key

It doesn’t have to be a hard conversation. 

After the first phone screen and you know you’re moving forward, tell the candidate you will send a follow up email. In that email, attach the compensation job description with the internal job title. Tell the candidate to review that document and bring any questions to their next interview. 

You also need to explicitly mention the job title. Say, “you’ll see this job title, not (the marketing job title). That’s because we use a marketing job title to get the right people to click and our internal system has a different name. Let me know if you have any questions.” 

Not only are you being upfront about something we know is a deal breaker, you’re also building trust with your candidate. By providing more information than they ask for and encouraging them to ask questions, you’re building a relationship upfront. They know they can call you to clarify, check in, or check up on their hiring status. That trust is the difference between your offer and the competitor. Maybe it could even turn a deal breaker into a hire. 

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Kat Kibben View All →

Katrina (Kat) Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive, unbiased job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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