Recruitment by professionals, for professionals

How much does title matter to you?

Posted : 29-08-2017

How much does title matter to you?

By Ryan Cotton, Senior Consultant

How much does title matter to you? I’m not talking Sirs, Lords, Duchess, Dukes and Dames here, I’m referring to your role and being titled as Senior, Trainee, Assistant, Associate, Managing Director, Wizard, Guru, Genius, Ninja or whatever title and level your experience usually earns you. Cutting straight to the chase I have seen a number of situations recently whereby job roles have not been accepted on the basis that the prospective candidates have been unhappy with the title of their new role –despite all other terms being agreeable (salary, locations, firm ethics, quality of work etc.). So, am I missing something? Is title really that important? If so what are the reasons?

Before delving into this question, it is important to consider one’s motives for seeking a new role. As previously mentioned it usually revolves around either one of or a combination of the following; salary, location, firm ethic or progression (promotion/quality of work etc.). You may feel differently but I would suggest that for the most part, these (or slight variants) are the main reasons that you would seek a new position.

Back to my question, does (or should) title matter to the extent that it becomes a reason for turning down a job role – especially when all other desires have been met? Apparently so.

An example of this is moving from a firm where one is titled as a Senior Associate, to a new role, being given the title of Associate is a step back. But does this signal a demotion? Does it look like a step back on a CV? Or is it an insult to be looked at and offered a role (supposedly) beneath your current station?

I suppose it would boil down to your view on what equates to a promotion/demotion. Is it a change in title i.e. supervisor to manger? Is it an increase in pay? Probably both for most people and this is fine when moving roles vertically whilst remaining in the same organisation. But when one firm’s Senior Associate is another’s Assistant or when an NQ salary for a firm is higher than a Senior Associate at another, how can it be considered a demotion? The same can be said for level or quality of work. Every firm will have access to varying sources of which aren’t tied to title. Surely, the only way it would be viewed as such would be all firms had the same titles being offered against the same criteria (experience, salary etc.)? It has been argued that the ‘demotion’ would be something that would have to be explained on a CV when discussing with future employers – which I don’t believe is the case. After all, I haven’t seen evidence to suggest that candidates are overlooked for roles on the basis of current title. If it were the case how would anyone move up the perceived ladder of titles/roles? – we would all remain in entry level positions!

Another factor for refusing a role based on being given a less senior title was the impact it may have on the ability to attract or generate work. It is argued that you are more likely to be able to win or attract work with a ‘Senior Associate’ title than with just an ‘Associate’ title. This is one point that I do acknowledge to some extent. Although, as much as ‘senior’ suggests experience, knowledge and competency, you could also be identified as expensive or rigid/inflexible in approach. So yes, I can understand that there is some mileage in this argument, however by no means should it be considered a defining factor.

A final thing to consider is that every firm has different recruitment policies in regard to on-boarding candidates at a certain level to maintain fairness to current staff etc. So, if you are initially offered a role as an Associate with the view to being moved to Senior Associate it is not a question of slighting your value, but, more of procedural/policy. Furthermore, if you are looking to the long term what difference would it make being taken on with a ‘lesser’ title with the view to the more ‘senior’ title being awarded after an initial period?