it would at least look pretty on my CV.
My short answer is don't take a job, or push for a title just to prettify your C.V. In the long run it probably won't make you happy (judging from the nature of your question, there are some people that might prefer a title hoping path)
Long answer. This is more then a double edged sword. With multiple parties to consider:
- Prospective Interviewers
(When I say "recruiters" I am referring to "external/3rd party" agencies and when I say "HR" I am referring to internal HR people that are responsible for passing on details to the guys looking to filling a position.
The first 2 are using your C.V as a filter, deciding who will go into interview.
I personally find recruiters lazier then HR and will put you forward for any job that has the right buzzwords, of which senior might be one of them. (this is a generalization, there are recruiters that are much closer to companies H.R teams and less "lazy", these are the guys I stay on the phone to)
why they call it "senior"
Its always a good idea to ask questions like this, in the end of the day you are working out what is expected of you in interview and perhaps the job
If the C.V has gone to someone internal (e.g. HR) they will apply a secondary filter, this is usually more aligned to the actual job spec and will most likely not take into account your current or previous titles. Now its slightly less "buzz words" and more "key features": years of experience, examples of responsibilities undertook, self management etc
Then comes interview, the guys there are using your C.V as a springboard and comparing the "person on the paper" to the real thing. If they see the "senior" title but don't see the "senior" key features. They will either directly or indirectly ask you whether you think you are a "senior". IMHO if you came across as someone who thought they were senior when they felt you weren't, they probably wouldn't hire you, but if you came across as someone who knew "what comes with senior" and didn't care what title they gave you, then they probably would. So I would say you win points for noticing:
there is no added responsibility coming with the senior title
Finally there are your peers, this is even trickier then interview in some respects and varies on a lot of factors. This is actually the foremost reason I would consider:
ask them to omit the "senior" from the title
I'll expand on that in a second. But basically you have to ask yourself, if you get the job, what do you want others to think your skill level is? And this depends a lot on company culture. For example, would a senior engineer ask another senior engineer for help? Would a Senior Engineer with +20 years experience be dis-respective of a senior engineer with +5? What does the company consider senior etc. (I once worked somewhere, where "senior" was given to a graduate after working 2 years, Seniors did look down on "non-seniors" but I highly, highly doubt they were able to use that "senior" title to get them a senior title anywhere else and frankly I am glad I wasn't there for 2+ years)
As Pepone mentions below, your company/culture/company culture might take Hierarchy more/less seriously. And as above, this is how a "title" may affect you day to day. (It might also make a difference in word-of-mouth job opportunities but again ask yourself, if you don't care about titles, do you want to be recommended by someone who does)
Basically adding senior to your C.V will get you more emails from recruiters. But frankly if your not looking for a job, do you care? and if you were looking do you really need more emails from recruiters for jobs that might not be suitable for you? (Or at least jobs that you wouldn't get past the second filter for?)
Adding senior to your email signature creates more expectation on you from your peers to know what you are doing but also a touch more scrutiny. Again in my opinion I imagine most people have more respect for a "software engineer" operating close to a "senior level" then a "senior engineer" operating below senior level. But frankly if someone doesn't want to give me more of their time/respect because I don't have "senior" in my title then I don't want it.
For the record, titles are completely unimportant to me
Good. Then chances are you will not stay in a place where titles have empty meaning but are important,
On one hand, that gives me one more "advancement" in that company, which may itself come with a bump in salary.
I used to think this, but my manager recently pointed something out when I asked if there was any point in getting a title bump without a pay bump.
When it comes to Pay Review time (most companies have them at least yearly), they will do a number of things including measuring your pay against others in the same "grade". So if you are a "senior" getting paid a lot less then other "seniors" there is a high chance they will bring that up be more aligned. If you are not senior, your getting paid more then other "Juniors" but they are thinking of increasing your pay, they might take that as a sign to promote you. You could argue all day which scenario leads to more pay. But I would say the first one is probably more likely to at least happen.
This of course again depends on company culture but its worth considering. If you say they are offering a senior position at a low pay grade there is a high chance that's roughly average what they are paying their senior engineers (or what they think they can get away with paying with this years budget). I would look up the company on a salary checking website like Glass Door
Last year I applied for a "Senior" role, that was above my pay grade because a recruiter had come across me on linked in and felt I might get it. When I went for the interview, I was honest and said (ok hinted) that although I was near-senior in my current role, I would accept a lower "title" and lower pay because I wanted the job (the work sounded very interesting). I am now in that job, I am not senior but there is now a development plan in place to get me there, I got paid 5k more then my old job, its a really nice place to work and most importantly: I am happy.
I would much rather be in the position I am in, then if I had stuck around to add "senior" to my title. It may have opened more doors, but they are doors I wouldn't have wanted to walk through.
In the end of the day, if the company wants to keep you, they want to make you "happy" and so you have to make it clear to them what will make you happy and listen to what they want from you in return. There are compromises of course, there is budgets and other staff to consider but this is why its important to talk about this stuff. Thats why I said above, if you "think" your senior and they dont, they won't hire you, because they will know right away it will be difficult to make you happy, and no one wants to hire someone who is going to leave.
Disclaimer: A lot of this is opinion based on the fact you sound a bit like me and are having "title" woes, which I had recently and I learned a lot from being honest and asking questions with the guys doing the hiring, my current manager and seeing it from there point of view.