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September 4, 2014 / Molly Moseley

The top 5 job titles that can mean anything or nothing at all


A few concise words that describe what a person does – a job title is seemingly straight forward, right? Wrong. Between keyword stuffing and wordsmiths blending terms to make positions sound as attractive as possible, there are a lot of cluttered phrases being used to create fanciful-sounding job listings. These job titles can have so many different meanings that sometimes they end up having no value at all, which is a disservice to the job hunter and the company seeking new talent.

Here are our top 5 job titles and phrases that are so generic and open to interpretation, they get completely lost in translation:

1. Consultant
What is a consultant? According to Merriam-Webster dictionary: a person who gives professional advice or services to companies for a fee. It’s not a building maintenance consultant (AKA janitor), an administration consultant (AKA administrative assistant), or a grammar consultant (AKA copywriter). All jobs carry a level of importance, but let’s keep consultancy aligned with the actual consultants.

2. Analyst
If you look at any job, there’s an aspect of it that is analytical, which is likely why analyst is one of the most abused job title terms out there today. Professional analysts apply their expertise to study and make recommendations about complex problems. While receptionists, chefs or data-entry personnel may analyze throughout their day in some manner, doing so doesn’t make them an analyst. Lesson: skip the vague job titles and use analyst only when applicable.

3. Engineer
Another job title term frequently overused is engineer. There are many different types of engineers – mechanical, civil, computer, etc. This should always be defined in the job title. Furthermore, education, experience and licensure are a big part of what makes an engineer a professional with highly valued and specialized skills. Sometimes employers use the term in conjunction with other words to make the position sound more impressive, like “customer engineer” when the position is really just customer support.

4. Manager
One of the most common words you’ll find in a job title is Manager, but what is the position really managing? Is it managing other people or work and process? Each could require vastly different experience and skill. For jobs managing people, what is the span of control for the position. If managing only two other people, using Manager in the title may be misleading to someone who is used to managing upwards of 20 people. On the other hand if it is managing work or process, reflect upon if candidates would be likely to use the term “manager” in their job search.

5. Director
Similarly to manager, director is overused in job titles and can have a plethora of meanings. It can represent a high-level manager who directs a segment of a company. It can also be paired with other job titles to inflate the importance of the job (or the size of the company). There really shouldn’t be a director of fun or director of creativity in any type of organization. Furthermore, a three-person company shouldn’t need a managing director.

Best practices for job titles include concise and accurate words that reflect the actual responsibilities the position entails. Also important, is ensuring the title is logical so job seekers will find it in a search. If candidates aren’t finding your openings, you’re not going to fill them. Consider searching your competitor job titles on LinkUp.com to gage what is common for your industry. Bottom line: catch their attention with the title and secure their interest with the job description.