Why Job Titles Must Be Searchable, Clear

Job titles for recruiting are different than ones for human resources. It’s vital that the titles you use in recruiting-based job descriptions are searchable and unambiguous.
Digital rendering of a job description document.

Job descriptions and job titles serve a different role in recruiting than they do in human resources. In recruiting, it’s more about marketing than employee management. 

The job post title includes the most important words in your job descriptions because they’re how candidates find your jobs and assess whether they’re qualified to apply. Simply put, a title can make or break your ad, which can make or break your recruiting effort. 

Always consider the candidate

Digital rendering of job description content guidance in Datapeople.

Candidates use job titles to assess how well they qualify for a position. It’s the first (and maybe the last) thing they look at.

If a position seems above a candidate’s pay grade, it could intimidate them. Even if they check off every requirement you list, they may not apply because of the word ‘Senior’ in the title (known as ‘title creep’). The reverse can be true as well, if the requirements seem senior but the title feels more junior. Similarly, if the requirements include a lot of soft skills or are just plain confusing, they may not apply.

Candidates also interpret job titles in subtly different ways, depending on which industry they’re in, what experiences they’ve had and how they self-identify. For example, ‘Associate’ might convey ‘Junior’ at a law firm, but it could mean anything at a marketing agency. 

1. Use searchable job titles

Digital rendering of approved job titles with green arrows beside them.

Candidates search for job listings the same way people search for anything on the internet: using keywords. And while Google Search is getting slightly more sophisticated, no job search engine is yet good enough to connect qualified candidates with a poorly titled job.

Job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn still rely heavily on keywords. They work by matching the job titles that candidates use in searches to those in ads. This means your job titles have to match what candidates use for search. (At least in recruiting-based job descriptions. You can use whatever you want for HR-based job descriptions.)

Digital rendering of a search function in a job board.

Unique job titles in recruiting-based job descriptions are a no-no because they don’t show up in candidate searches.

Candidates use generic job titles in their searches. It’s tempting to use a unique title to add some ‘flair’ to your company image, but flair gets you nowhere if candidates don’t see your ad. While ‘Engagement Ninja’ sounds pretty good, ‘Social Media Manager’ is a whole lot more searchable.

2. Use specific, concise job titles

Long titles can confuse candidates and deter them from applying. Also, candidates search for positions that match their specific areas of expertise, and the distinction can be crucial.

There are over 40 types of engineering degrees and even more types of engineering jobs (e.g., Software Engineer versus Python Software Engineer). Be specific. And keep your job titles to between four and six words for clarity.

Also, be careful about using job titles for internal leveling. For example, ‘HR Assoc II’ is not clear or searchable. And add words to titles for more clarity and searchability (e.g., ‘Sales Account Manager’ rather than just ‘Account Manager’).

3. Why avoid title creep?

Adding ‘Senior’ to a job title can create a confidence gap among candidates. Regardless of how junior or senior the requirements appear, candidates may not apply because they don’t see themselves as ‘senior.’

Digital rendering of a job description with approved job title.

Titles that seem inflated or don’t match the requirements you list may intimidate or confuse candidates.

Keep it simple when it comes to seniority. A description with ‘Senior’ that also lists one to three years of experience is unnecessarily confusing. Also, you can help clarify by including a sentence telling candidates which person they’ll report to.

4. Always include a location or ‘remote’ in your job ad

Job boards use location to show your job to candidates looking in your area just like Google Search uses our location to show us gas stations or restaurants near us.

If you don’t include a location in your job listing, job boards may not be able to discern where your job is and may not show your job in search results. Always include the city and state in the location field of your job. And remember, North America has 20 cities named ‘Portland’ so get specific. 

Also never use vague or internal locations like ‘headquarters’ or ‘warehouse.’ Include only one location per job, and add ‘remote’ to the location for remote jobs (e.g., “Portland, Oregon or Remote”).

Searchable, clear job titles

Job titles for recruiting are different than ones for human resources because recruiting-based job descriptions serve a unique, external role. They’re more marketing than human resources.

In the end, content and language don’t matter if candidates can’t find or understand your job. It’s vital that the titles you use in recruiting-based job descriptions are searchable and unambiguous. (Job description software can help.)

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