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Optimize the Job Title in your Job Description

Optimize the Job Title in your Job Description

By: John Rossheim

What’s so hard about coming up with effective job titles that coordinate well with the job description in your online job ads?

It’s the multiple audiences you must address — seekers, hiring managers, recruitment marketers, search engines and even customers – that complicate the task.

Stakeholders may be tempted to get creative with job title wording in job postings, to indirectly inflate the importance of their own roles, to use buzzwords, or to avoid offending bureaucrats.

Just remember: You post a job on the Web to recruit top candidates, not to indulge the whims of your internal stakeholders.

Here’s what to keep in mind as you compose some of the most important prose that your company puts forward.

Address external candidates, not just your company. This is especially true in the job title. Often times people use their own terminology because they’re not aware that most external people use different terminology..

So ask incumbents in positions similar to the one you’re filling: What terms would you use to search for jobs like this?

Don’t be cryptic. Using numbers such as “Accountant Level II” or “Project Manager – Architecture S12-3622” might have a very specific meaning within your organization, but these type of job titles might actually impede your job description results in search.  

External candidates won’t know whether Level II is the highest, or near the bottom. And the extra verbiage will drag down your job ad’s ranking in search results. So leave numbers and codes out of the job title and explain those terms in the body copy, only if they add value in context.

Generic is good. Use the type-ahead feature in a job-search engine to view generic terms that could describe your open position; choose the best fit from among the suggestions.

“If a title shows up with type-ahead, that means it’s something that Monster or Google has found people look for,” Gladstein advises.

Says Christine Stack, director of senior talent acquisition at media agency MEC North America in New York: “From the recruiting perspective, communications have to be simple. Call the job what it is, what your target audience knows it to be.”

It’s not wise to be clever with the job title. Dare to be boring. “Everybody tries to reinvent, be more clever and creative, so we make up these ridiculous titles, we post them, and no one responds,” says Stack. “If you advertise for a ‘connections associate’, no one applies because they don’t know what it is.”

Keep the job title searchable. “‘Chief people officer’ might sound like a great job title in theory, but will candidates find this position when searching online for VP of HR positions? Most likely not,” says Roberta Matuson, president of consulting firm Human Resource Solutions in Northampton, Mass.

“Stick to tried-and-true job titles when looking to attract outside candidates.” Give yourself a bit more stylistic leeway in the how to write a job description, but do use conventional language as well, to prime search engines.

Do your recruitment marketing in the description. “Evangelist” is one of those hip title words that has gained currency, yet lacks precision as a search term. So save it for the job description and keep it out of the job title. That ad for an “education technical evangelist” won’t draw the way it should.

It’s a gift to be simple, but not vague. “When I’m sourcing candidates, if I type in ‘digital director,’ I get everything under the sun,” says Stack. A mortgage lender’s ad titled “File Prep” says too little about the role and describes a task rather than an occupation.

Be precise. If you seek to fill an opening for a java developer, don’t advertise for a web designer. If the job also includes web-design duties, specify so in the job requirements

Another example: “Population Management Assistant” could bring a number of diverse functions to mind, but which one is intended?

Be consistent. Search engines will reward your stylistic consistency with high rankings. “Make sure that the job title and location are consistent in the page title, URL and within the body of the description,” says Neil Costa, CEO of HireClix, a recruitment marketer in Gloucester, Mass.

Know what you’re up against. Some managers will assert their line-of-business interests over all else, even when their insistence on certain job titles may reduce the effectiveness of recruiting.

“Titles are designed to communicate to customers,” says John Milliken, a professor of management at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “They’re often intentionally vague to allow the professional to cover various situations in the client’s eyes.”