I just started the interview process with a large corporation and after spending 20 minutes on the phone with the HR recruiter we both thought I was a good fit for the position and I have a phone interview scheduled with the hiring manager tomorrow.

One issue that just occurred to me after reading the job description carefully is that the position is for Software engineer III and not senior software engineer. I am currently at a principal level . (not software). I would be whiling to step back one level but not 2 levels.

Do I bring up this issue now or work with them through the point that I get an offer (if I am a good fit for the position) and then negotiate the title with them?

  • 1
    How large is your current company? A "principal engineer" at a 10-person startup may well map to a Software Engineer III at Google, and it would be rare (but not unheard of) for external hires to come in at Senior or higher. Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 12:06
  • @jpatokal My current company is a large corporation as well. To my large surprise the salary range is in the ballpark that is why I am moving forward with the process. I may try to get a feeling how negotiable the title may be. I would be ok stepping back to a senior level role but not III
    – Sophman
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 12:11
  • I would expect a senior software engineer to be a lower title than software engineer III
    – Eric
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 1:22

4 Answers 4


The corporation offering the job are probably best placed to judge the job title.

A job title will normally bear a direct relation to the level of responsibility. Have you looked at the job description? Do the tasks and responsibilities look congruent with what a 'Principal' or 'Senior' engineer would do?

If the job title seems a 'step back' then the salary probably will be as well. Two other possibilities are that your previous title was inflated, or that your previous salary was too low.


What is Software Engineer III for this company? Do you know?

Job titles are not some universal standard from some sanctioning body. They are an HR construct to manage the organization and each organization does its own thing.

Maybe they only have three levels that equate to junior, senior and principal, but they use numbers instead of different names to make things simpler for them. If you don't know their full organizational structure, you may be reading too much into this.

If the money meets your needs/desires and the job description is appealing to you, why would you get hung up on a title?

I'll speak for myself, but I've never cared much about titles while I was recruiting new staff. I care infinitely more about your skills and what you can do for my company than I do about some label some other company has attached to your job.


In my experience a recruiter will nail down the price as early as they possibly can: thus they lockdown their margin and avoid exhaustive give-and-take haggling. So did you agree to a price already?

If so, then only raise the question of Job Title if you are so unhappy with the agreed price—to the point of being ready to walk away—only use it if you need another go at negotiating the price. Be prepared to settle both issues in the one conversation.

If the price is not set yet, then raise the question of Job Title straight away. The title itself means nothing to the recruiter but the fact that you are defending your title suggests you are a confident candidate and so are perhaps more likely of success. The title does mean something to the employer so it can be worth fighting for.


If you want to negotiate salary now, then when what are you negotiating about - a job offer that you don't have? You haven't even convinced them yet to hire you and they sure as hell haven't decided yet to hire you.

Until the interview process is over, what's uppermost in their minds is the decision whom to make an offer to, if anyone. Once they have decided on the candidate, the other aspects such as the background check, the salary figure and the start date come to the forefront.

  • @Vietni Phuvan you did not read the question correctly. I know it is too early to negotiate a salary with them. The recruiter and I have already agreed on a range. So the salary should not be a problem in this case. Anyway will see what happens after the in person interview next week.
    – Sophman
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 2:13

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