Job titles, and why they are important

As part of my role, I am involved in recruitment within my team. This involves reading through a lot of CVs and application forms and trying to work out some sort of correlation between a person’s job title and what they actually do. And it’s not as easy as you would think.

Take for example the humble Sandwich Artists (sometimes known as Sandwich Architects) at Subway. This role has nothing to do with art or architecture, and everything to do with making sandwiches to order, and could easily be misinterpreted when skim reading a CV. Similarly, it might be possible to misunderstand what a Nail Technician actually does, as well as misunderstanding what type of nails their skills relate to.

We have this problem in IT as well.

In IT we are blessed with legions of IT Managers, Network Specialists and Computer Officers who may have had the same job title for 15 years, even though what they do now bears no relation to either what they did 15 years ago or what other people with the same job title do now. This is particularly noticeable at conferences, where the same rough skills set might be described in 20 different ways on people’s name badges, but it also makes recruitment a bit of a minefield.

We also have a few more esoteric job titles, including a few Data Architects and Infrastructure Architects (who again are nothing to do with architecture). It’s often difficult to make a stab at what some of them do, and sometimes even the (proud?) bearers of these job titles are a little hazy about what they actually mean.

There is also the issue of job titles that only refer to a small part of what someone actually does. I’ve fallen foul of this one myself a few times, and think that is is very important that managers review the job titles, job descriptions and duties of all of their staff on a regular basis to ensure they are still fit for purpose.

It makes me think we need some sort of unity, or at least a naming convention. Should managers have to manage people, or is it fine for them just to manage a service? What makes someone a specialist, an analyst or an advisor? And shouldn’t we make job titles easier for people to understand, both internally and externally?

Maybe then we might have a chance of working out what someone does without having to read their whole job description.