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Ask The Expert: “How Important Is a Job Title? Does Experience Matter More Than a Title?” 

Each month, we will tackle one of those burning questions that keeps you awake at night or causes heartburn during the day. Our team of experts will help you stay in the know. We'll cover topics like recruiting trends, legislation, workplace issues and more. You'll get information and answers to help you hire and retain top performers. 


What a great question! “How Important Is a Job Title? Does Experience Matter More Than a Title?” Job titles are the cornerstone of an organizations’ structure. They help make sense of the hierarchy, career paths, and organizational functions. But, as this question alludes to, are they the right thing to focus on when recruiting?  While job titles have their place, they shouldn't be the only factor when evaluating candidates. Skills, experience, and cultural fit often play a more significant role in determining whether a candidate will be successful. 

Let’s explore when experience in a job title might be necessary and when knowledge and experience without the job title can work to your advantage. 


When a job title might be required: 


  1. Specialized Knowledge 

Work experience within a specific job title leads to a deep understanding of the industry. This knowledge includes industry trends, best practices, regulations, and insights that are crucial for success in the role. 


  1. Industry Networks  

Experience within a job title allows individuals to build relationships and networks with their industry peers. These connections can be invaluable for career advancement, learning opportunities, and professional support. 


  1. Unique Responsibilities  

Job titles have their own set of responsibilities, tasks, and expectations. Experience allows individuals to understand these requirements and successfully perform the job.  


When experience might be a great substitute: 


  1. Transferrable Skills 

Rather than emphasize a job title, dig into your candidate’s transferable skills. Look for keywords and phrases that show the level of seniority or responsibility associated with the role. Terms like "senior," "lead," or "executive" provide valuable clues. What experiences and accomplishments show their ability to excel in various roles, regardless of title differences? 


  1. Industry Adjacent Experience 

Be open to other industries, particularly those considered adjacent to yours. An adjacent industry is related to your core business in some way. Many skills are transferable across different sectors. Considering candidates from adjacent industries opens your candidate pool. A bonus is these candidates often bring new ideas and a fresh perspective. 


  1. Focus on Results 

Job titles imply a hierarchy or structure. They can be a way to identify seniority. They make it easier to visualize career paths. However, there are times when results are more important. These could be anything from a cultural shift, pivoting to a new product or service, going through a major change initiative, or getting a start-up going. We’re also seeing “title inflation” happening more frequently. This is when a job title is used as a bargaining chip to get someone to stay in a role. Or title inflation may help an organization with below pay ranges attract candidates.   


Remember, words mean different things to different people. A job title used in your organization may be the same role and responsibilities under a different job title in another company. Do your homework. Understand your candidate's experience, skills, and accomplishments. Make sure they align with your requirements and organizational goals. 


Does your organization place more weight on past job titles or experience? Let us know in the comments. 


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