Looking Beyond Job Titles

Posting date:05 Dec 2019

We have all heard the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ but when are we going to apply the same rule to recruitment?

I am not talking about judging a candidate by their appearance, culture, religion, age or anything that could possibly discriminate against them; in fact, I am not talking about how we perceive candidates at all but rather how today’s top talent judge potential opportunities far too quickly. 

Holding job titles in such high-regard, they are missing out on their perfect opportunity by failing to read job descriptions and organisations are partly to blame.

We are all admirers of great job titles, take Sandwich Artists at Subway and the countless ‘gurus’ we have on LinkedIn as examples of that but looking closer to home in the Finance World, we are having the same conversations and its debilitating our top talent.

Candidates are getting so caught up in job titles that they aren’t even entertaining a job description and be it a result of keeping up appearances or working as a coping mechanism to filter extensive search results, its hindering their and your success. 

Take a Financial Controller for instance. They are no longer purely transactional but commercial and strategic in the same way Finance Directors are now expected to be engaging and approachable leaders. Roles change but job titles haven’t and while I would encourage every candidate to be open-minded in their search, organisations need to be mindful of the role they are advertising or rather, how they are advertising the role.

Hiring managers are fantastic at looking at a professional’s CV and looking beyond the buzzwords – identifying key achievements over titles and seeing adaptability and competencies first and foremost. Unfortunately, candidates aren’t following the same thought-process and looking straight to a job title that may not carry the term ‘senior’ and it’s an instant no. 

It’s a problem elevated by the start-up culture we find ourselves in which offers huge job titles for smaller responsibility. A CFO in a start-up for instance may be a Head of Finance within a larger firm and on the reverse, a Financial Controller within a corporate may find themselves as a Senior Business Partner in a smaller organisation, contributing to one of the many reasons professionals move to the disruptive world of work. For instant growth. 

With this in mind, a professional heading back into the corporate world would no longer appreciate a smaller title as despite being a side-step to their current role, the job title doesn’t match their progression.

I met with a FTSE 50 organisation recently which is a microcosm to the organisational issue we find ourselves facing. A hugely attractive business that entices great talent across the board but attracting and retaining financial talent is an issue for them and it’s clear to see why. The Financial Controllers manage the Senior Business Partners who in another company would be a Head of Finance and then on the reverse, the Finance Business Partners who sit underneath them would otherwise be known as Analysts. The organisational structure almost has it that you come in on a fantastic title and digress as you grow which matters more to the professionals filling the role than they realise.

Ultimately my advice is simple. If you are a candidate embarking on a new search, be open-minded, look beyond the job titles and present your CV around your key achievements and not former titles. For organisations, its fairly simple too: consider how your future talent pool may react to a role and what flexibility might need to be on the table for it to work.

I’d like to hear from you – have you turned down your dream role due to a title or, do you think titles are depriving you of your best talent? 

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