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Why a Job Title Is the Single Most Important Element of Your Job Listing

Grab candidates’ interest—and get plenty of quality applications—by giving your open job the right name

The job title is the very first thing a candidate sees when your job listing pops up, and it’s so much more than a title. It’s a headline, a billboard and a vital marketing tool that goes a long way in attracting qualified candidates.

With a solid title, job seekers on the job board stop in their tracks. They click. They read more. They apply.

Without a solid title, your job posting might as well be invisible.

Here are six things you can do today to put your job title to work for you.

1. Be clear rather than clever

This is one of the few times in life you should suppress your sense of humor. Funny, weird or overly creative titles are a big no-no.


Because candidates already have a title or two in mind when they start searching.

If they’re an editor, they’re searching for a senior editor position. If they’re a junior copywriter, they’re looking to become a copywriter. Absolutely no one is searching for jargon like “editing ninja,” “copywriting rock star,” or “supervisor of wordiness.”

A funny title might make candidates more confused than amused. There’s nothing worse than making a potential applicant work hard to figure out what, exactly, you’re talking about. They’ll simply move on to another position that more clearly matches their experience and needs.

2. Get to know the industry landscape

Do a bit of competitive research to see what similar companies are doing, and follow the industry standard. It’s so much easier for a candidate to move from another company to yours if your naming conventions are in line with each other.

Another thing to look out for: the amount of experience required for a particular position. If you include “senior” on every job title that requires 10 years of experience, and your competitors only use “senior” on roles with 5 years of experience, adjust accordingly.

3. Watch out for overloaded “legacy titles”

At every company, there’s someone doing two jobs at the same time. Their title usually has the word “and” in it: “food AND science editor” or “email marketing strategist AND social media manager.”

Candidates see “and” as a red flag that they’re going to be overworked. So when you’re looking to fill two slots with one body, avoid perpetuating their title just because that’s how it’s been done in the past.

Take a good, hard look the role and simplify it if you can. For example, adjust “food and science editor” to “food editor” or simply “editor,” or fold “email marketing strategist and social media manager” into an umbrella title like “senior digital strategist.”

4. Get with the times

The landscape changes frequently, and roles that were in vogue a few years ago can be completely obsolete today. No matter what you’re hiring for, make sure the title is current.

Back in the day, when social media roles were first becoming popular, nobody knew what to call them. Every company created their own unique title:

  • social media expert
  • Facebook liaison
  • new media editor
  • community manager
  • digital content producer
  • Twitter specialist
  • engagement coordinator
  • social media monitor

Job titles are still widely varied in this space, but a few are seeing widespread popularity: “social media manager” and “social media strategist.” These are safe bets when posting for a social role.

5. Be honest about seniority level

It’s tempting to puff up a title to sound more impressive and get more applications. Don’t do it!

You want someone to click and apply only if they’re actually right for the role, or else their time and yours will be wasted. You don’t want to wade through dozens of overqualified candidates with high salary requirements for a low-level position.

A few guidelines: Only put “senior” in front of actual senior level positions. Don’t be afraid to use “junior” when necessary. Watch out for words like “director,” “manager,” and “supervisor,” only using them if the position actually directs, manages or supervises.

6. Test your titles

If you’re unsure about a particular title, test the same listing worded two ways.

For example, let’s say you’re a publication that needs someone to create sponsored stories for your website. You can try two different directions, one that speaks to candidates with more journalistic experience (“branded content editor”) and one that speaks to candidates with more advertising experience (“branded content copywriter”).

Just make sure you’re following the guidelines of your job listing site, and that you don’t look like a spammer.

Remember: Think like a marketer

A job title means one thing in your office environment, but it means something entirely different on a job posting website. Think like a marketer, and you’ll attract more candidates who are better qualified to meet your needs.

Ready to try out your new and improved job title? Click over to the Mediabistro employers page and post a listing today.

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