Scenario: My company has suggested that I officially take on a new role that mostly I have already been doing, but previously under a generic "other duties" header with a more junior title and pay grade. I've been given free reign to think about an appropriate descriptive title.

What strategy / methodologies can I use to research an appropriate job title that represents what I do?

Quick note: I'm not really asking "What should my Job title be?", instead I'm looking for advice on how to choose a suitable title - something hopefully relevant to any job field and any person, rather than the specifics of my job role.

  • Will answers to this question get you what you need? Specifically this one - the first part is nearly exactly what you are looking for. – enderland Apr 4 '14 at 20:36
  • Partly; it answers the bit about how long or short the title should be... I'll remove that section from this question to avoid duplication. – yochannah Apr 4 '14 at 20:41

My criteria for a good title (and my experience has been making a new track for a department...) is:

Widely understood with some level of Accuracy

Inside the company or outside the company, a listener should be able to understand what it is you do (mostly). There's always ambiguity, but for example: - a manager has a staff - an engineer has some responsibility in the creation of an engineering solution and a technical background, - a computer engineer, software engineer, electrical engineer - have defined specialities and degree programs - analysts are largely responsible for analyzing, interpreting and/or recommending - auditors check stuff

Don't use common terms to mean uncommon things. Google for the terms and for any standard modifiers - Senior Quality Analyst, Principle Software Engineer - and get a sense of what the common definitions of the role are. Job hunting and salary comparison sites are great for this, as they give you a sense of common backrounds for a role, as well.

A good test is, introduce yourself and your title to a friend in the industry and a friend in the company - if you get utter confusion, change the title and try again. If you get an assumption that is totally wrong, try again.

Not overloaded within the company

It happens, but try to avoid being the "Analyst for Security Systems" when there is already a "Security Analyst". Or a "Member of the Technical Staff" when there is already a "Staff Member, Technical". It doesn't matter if the HR paperwork will let you, this is bound to cause confusion. Either figure out that you are the same role as the other description and join the names, or find a very different way of describing yourself.

To a search in HR to find company titles to get a sense of what's out there. Search the Intranet for your target title and see if it comes up.

Tells the relative experience/seniority in a consistent way

The relative nature of seniority is NOT consistent in the industry. Junior/nothing/Senior/Principal are a pretty common arrangement, but there can be other modifiers (Level I, II, III) within a range to accommodate the need for stratification in a company. And when a "engineer" becomes a "senior engineer" is highly variable. There may be a standard in your company or industry that is worth following. Politically and for clarity, it's good to stick with company norms, unless there is a reason not to. For example, if all engineers at senior level have 5+ years of experience, don't set your title at 3+ or 8+ years, unless there's a prevailing reason to.


My original inclination to handle this is to browse relevant job sites, and make a list of job titles and words that seem to be appropriate. Take into consideration the following things:

  • job description - does the job description typically associated with that title match (at least roughly) what you will be doing?
  • seniority - does the title reflect the level of responsibility you are being given?
  • pay grade - you'll probably want to choose a job title that goes with what you're earning (or think you should be)
  • colleagues' titles - try not to step on anyone else's feet by choosing a title too similar to them, or that makes you seem senior to someone when you won't be.

That gives me a decent starting place, but still leaves some details open, like how I might handle a not clearly defined job.

  • 2
    Try to pick a title that would make sense to someone in your industry but not in your company. I've seen some pretty strange titles that made perfect sense if you knew the company culture, but didn't translate to the real world very well. – Dan Pichelman Apr 4 '14 at 21:25

I am not sure I can help you al that much, given that the description of your duties adds up to zero. It's like asking me to help you come up with the title for a book without having me having ever read the book. Having said that, here is my best effort:

  1. Make a list of the key tasks you are executing;

  2. Google for each task - you are looking for some kind of job description/title that fits the task;

  3. make list of the job titles that you have found that appeals to you - if your list is empty, you'll have to come up with the job title on your own;

  4. choose the job title that you like best, customizing for your situation.

In listing your key tasks in your resume, I'll recommend that you take care not to mix the critical with the trivial. If you mix the two, the contrast will be jarring to those who read your resume and they'll be less apt to take seriously your role in performing the key tasks. For example: "sous-chef" doesn't mix well with "washed dishes", and you can probably see for yourself how "washed dishes" instantly detracts from your credibility as "sous-chef" :)

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