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I recently interviewed with a company who offered me a role with a title of "Java Developer", when all previous correspondence titled the role as "Full Stack Developer".

The careers page titled the role as Full Stack Developer—along with a list of responsibilities you'd expect to see. Interview invites via email were titled as Full Stack Developer.

When I got my offer, the title had suddenly changed to Java Developer. I asked them why:

The role is titled Java Developer, the other members of the team are Java Developers.

The role was advertised as a Full Stack to attract the right candidates.

The change and response didn't sit right with me, the title change implies significantly less responsibility, and a much more limited position.

I declined the offer for other reasons, but is this common practice? Would others consider this a bad sign?

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    Are you sure you're talking about a title? In the old days when we had business cards would it have read "sBaildon, Full Stack Developer" and not "sBaildon, Software Engineer II"? I'm used to "titles" being things like "Sr Software Engineer" or "Software Developer I" - that's what you use to indicate level & responsibility & pay. "Java Dev" or "Full Stack Dev" seems more descriptive than a rank. – davidbak Jan 17 '18 at 7:35
  • Plus I'm not sure you're correct that Java Developer is less responsibility than Full Stack. Responsibilty (and pay) - has less to do with a language technology and more to do with scope. Where I'm currently working, for example, "full stack" would be seen as more of a "web dev" role for smaller less critical applications rather than the totally hardcore Java backend service developers... yet in both "titles" there are seniors and juniors ... – davidbak Jan 17 '18 at 7:40
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I’m going a bit against the grain of other answers to suggest, it doesn’t mean turn and run, indeed it may not mean anything, but that it is a reason to pause for a moment of caution.

It’s true that in the future, employers may not even see that title and even if they did, most wouldn’t give it weight relative to your actual skills and accomplishments.

What I would take a second look at, is making sure that since you were surprised by the title, you won’t be surprised by anything about the job. Making sure your expectations of the job are an accurate match with the company’s expectations is critical. It would seem hard to get out of sync on such a basic thing but it’s not uncommon.

During any interview process, especially with any potential for confusion, do everything you can to understand what real day to day life will be like. Probably the best opportunity to ask questions is when you get to talk to peers. They know the job, and often don’t care to sugarcoat any details as can happen occasionally with hiring managers.

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    I agree. That email makes it seem like they needed to hire people to do (presumably boring) Java work but advertised it as something cooler and hipper to attract candidates. If they're willing to be disingenuous like that it's not a stretch to say it is probably a bad place to work. OP I would enquire if your responsibilities will be full stack or just Java. – Philip Jan 16 '18 at 4:56
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    @Philip, that is a stretch, actually. Unless you're trying to work in their hiring department, which you know doesn't care much about truth in advertising. ;) – Wildcard Jan 16 '18 at 6:46
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    @Wildcard it seems like a stretch to me to assume that disfunction in one part of the company is not indicative of a wider problem. – Justin Lardinois Jan 16 '18 at 19:47
  • @Philip On the other hand my own title is Java Developer and I do full stack, and the same goes for everyone else on my team. Maybe they're looking for full stack candidates because they plan to put them on full stack work :) – rath Jan 17 '18 at 13:57
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It's not a big deal at all. You make your resume, not your employer. There's nothing stopping you from putting "Full Stack Developer" on your resume. Nobody's ever going to go "wait a minute...his resume said this, but they're telling me it was a Java Developer." And even if they did, you could just say, "That's a more accurate description of what I did and the job I interviewed for. They could have called me whatever they wanted, but I was still a full stack developer because..."

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Use the "Answer" button for alternative answers and the up (or down) vote buttons for disagreement. – enderland Jan 17 '18 at 20:15
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As a hiring manager, I've gotta say titles are a bit of an afterthought. Personally, I talk to candidates sometimes about their desired title so their official title matches what they were expecting. Sometimes this isn't feasible when we have a standard title for everybody in a certain position (which sounds like your situation).

You are free to reword your title in your resume to be more descriptive of your actual role. I don't see any issue unless it is misleading or wrong (i.e. you put "manager" or "lead" on your resume when you weren't).

There is a juggle of tasks and information between a hiring manager, HR, and upper management that takes place to finalize the hiring process and sometimes things like this happen. The person filling in the box for title on the new hire approval form might have been a completely different person than the one who wrote the job description or handled the hiring process with you.

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No, it's not a bad sign. Titles are meaningless. All you'd need to do on your resume is add something in parenthesis like this.

XYZ corporation - Jave Delevoper (Full Stack dev)

Or something like that.

VERY often, the ones writing up the job order are not the ones in the department. What can happen is the dept tells HR "We want someone who is a Java Developer who can do full stack development" and that gets translated as "Full Stack Java Developer" in the job posting.

Don't overthink this. It's so common that we old hands joke about it, and titles are the least of the confusions going on.

I remember a job posting for a .net developer back in 2005 requiring 5+ years of experience with .NET ..... which had only been released since 2002.

Don't worry and don't ever use a wonky job posting as a reason to refuse a job.

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The change and response didn't sit right with me, the title change implies significantly less responsibility, and a much more limited position.

If the pay is the same or greater for less work it sounds like a win. ;)

I declined the offer for other reasons, but is this common practice? Would others consider this a bad sign?

I make a point of declining the moment that occurs and ensure that they understand the reason.

It's worse when they swap your responsibilities after they hire you with no increase in pay.

It is common practice for a small number of businesses, the "what we do is OK with you" mindset. What if the situation were reversed, do you expect you would be hired?

Any lack of direction, misdirection, or loading/unloading of responsibilities makes the advertisement fraudulent or at least poorly composed.

Whenever I've gone back to check 6-12 months later the place has either hired someone quite differently qualified than myself or has closed. Many people report similar experiences at the same places as that's how they conduct their business.

Well run legitimate businesses know what they want, who to hire, and how to attract the right people. No one who's money conscious is going to waste time or risk disgruntled interviewees or employees.

Places that engage in 'unappreciated' hiring and business practices end up with saboteurs and ghost employees.

A ghost employee is someone whom doesn't work for the company but still costs them a lot of money. They are conjured by unfair treatment of former employees or making potential hires run a gauntlet for a chance to find out what the employer has on the table (see the work arrangements and be told the wage range) or find out if they'll be considered at some future time.

Mistreatment of employees or interviewees makes no more sense than doing the same to customers. Word gets out. Check GlassDoor or with your friends and their neighbors.

Check back next year and see if you made the right decision, I've not regretted passing on anyone with shady or suspect practices. Just brush it off, don't get discouraged.

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Most of the answers suggest that Titles don't mean much when in fact in some places, corporations especially, Titles carry a ton of weight.

I currently work at a company that is owned by a corporation. Titles are important because they dictate base pay, % increase in salary each year, AKA merit, and the amount of PTO you can acquire each year. Hence a title change in my company is very important. If you were to apply for a job at my company and they "demoted" your title it would have a huge impact. Furthermore if a company is acquired, like the one I work for, and your title was different from the one on record it could affect the salary/benefits for those employees when the purchasing corporation takes over pay-roll. This happened to some senior developers at my company who got stiffed because their titles on record were incorrect and it took a great deal of time and paperwork to get it sorted out.

Titles are more important the longer you've been with a company and the longer you've been employed in the professional workforce. Since you are just starting out I don't think the title change has much, if any, affect on you and your salary.

The only hesitation I would have is if the responsibilities of the Java Developer were vastly different from the Full-Stack Developer. I wouldn't say that a Java Developer is the same as a Full Stack Developer but perhaps to this company they are one in the same.

  • Thanks for raising this point, I was going to add my own answer about it but your account has it covered. – brichins Jan 16 '18 at 19:58
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I agree with bits and pieces of other answers and comments, but I wanted to add my perspective.

Titles can be important. They can be useful to give an at-a-glance indication of what your position and responsibilities are/were. Of course, as an outsider you would take them with a grain of salt because anyone can make up a title. If you were looking at a resume or a job advertisement, then you'd go off more detail than just the title. BUT for an insider, they can be be hugely important. As B540Glenn suggests by his anecdote, they could be used by people above you to justify, well, whatever they feel they can get away with. If it's your job title, it pays to be wary.

With that in mind, if this happened to me, it would raise alarm bells for a bait and switch tactic. It would also alert me to look for other potential abnormalities. In the end though if you checked things out and the contract matches what you are expecting and you get a good impression in general, then it's certainly no reason in itself to turn down a job.

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