Evaluating Candidates: What’s Really in a Title?  

Hiring Best Practices Qualifying Employees Titles

We know that all titles are not created equal.  The pervasive use of over-titling can make it harder for recruiters to evaluate prospects early on.   Most of corporate America uses similar terms for formally designating roles.  These terms (titles) then suggest a certain capability which may or may not be accurate.  Other factors can provide clues regarding a candidate’s real level of responsibility and probably capability.

After considering the title, here’s how to better size up a prospect:

Company size:  Knowing the approximate headcount of former employers can speak to capability.  Generally speaking, the bigger the company, the more complex a role is.  Complex work environments potentially require more in terms of multi-tasking and managing rigorous work processes.   As companies become larger, roles become narrower and more specialized.  For example, a HR Manager in a small company will wear more “hats” than a position with the same title in a Fortune 500 company.

Compensation:  Salary levels offer the next insight into capability.  Don’t rely on compensation alone however, as some industries (e.g. retail) pay much less than others (e.g. energy) for similar-sized positions.  However, large discrepancies in compensation are a pretty good sign of a title mis-match.

Reporting structures:  Knowing the organizational level of a prospect’s boss will also give info on the true scope of the prospect’s current job.   For managers, the number of reporting employees will be telling.  More employees bring added complexity.  In smaller companies, be sure to find out what the employee group represents as a percentage of the overall headcount.

Industry biases:  Some sectors like banking have a long history of using lofty titles to convey status and importance to customers.  Banks for example, also provide employees with functional (role-specific) titles in addition to the traditional officer title.  Focus on the former more than the latter.

Evaluating candidates early-stage can be tricky.  While titles are a good starting point, a closer review of other factors can provide added insight to a prospect’s true level of capability and experience.