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I was hired by a technology company as a software engineer. That is what the offer letter stated and that is what I was told. After 2 years, I got to know that I was actually hired as an associate software engineer. Which is a position lower than what I was told I was hired for. Not only I am over qualified for associate software engineer position, but I am just really shocked that I am hired for a different position. Again, as indicated, my offer letter says otherwise.

Unfortunately, salaries in my company are tied to title and I'm at the top of the "associate engineer" bracket so this is now directly affecting my salary. What should be the next step?

[EDIT]

I am not able to merge my two accounts and I cant comment with this account because I dont have enough reputation. I completely disagree that title is not important, and as DLS3141 pointed out, it happened with me as well.. On business cards and everywhere, I was listed as software engineer, it is during review process and hike determination that I found out that I am an associate. Being an associate not only curbs the hike you get, but also your next promotion would put you in a position that you were originally hired for.

My question is, doesnt this breach of trust? Because internally if you have these positions well defined, why won't you make it clear during the hiring process?

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    Please note that you can always comment on your own question; you're having problems because you've created two separate accounts. See here for how to merge them. – Philip Kendall Feb 17 '16 at 12:39
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    That said, we strongly prefer for the question to be updated rather than having the responses in comments; comments are transitory, while the question remains. – Philip Kendall Feb 17 '16 at 12:43
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Feb 21 '16 at 19:56
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Companies are supposed to use the exact job title, but software engineers--particularly in high-demand categories--are difficult to find.

If the hiring team was having a hard time sourcing enough good candidates for the position, they could have reframed the title in the ad to attract more candidates; it's usually more difficult to rewrite a job req and so it's sometimes left alone. In addition, the recruiting software can constrain the choice of title (although it shouldn't).

Or sometimes companies will advertise a single generic ad for software developers as a kind of fishing expedition, then redefine the actual position to fit the actual hire.

And, finally, in larger companies tech employee titles go with particular pay grades, and their performance evaluations are based on meeting all the criteria of that grade level. Sometimes a hiring manager finds a more junior candidate that s/he really likes and wants to hire, but doesn't think they have the experience to meet all the evaluation criteria. So the manager will scale down the position to give the employee some growing room and prevent them from getting a bad performance review in their first couple of years.

Not saying that your situation is any of the above, but it's worth clarifying with your manager and/or HR. I'm not sure I agree that titles are meaningless; words like "senior" and "lead" and "associate" can make a big difference on a resume, especially when you work for big corporations. (If we were talking about titles like "Supreme God of Cloud Elasticity" I'd say yeah, who cares...but we're not.)

If your offer letter does indeed say "Software Engineer" and not "Associate Software Engineer," then check the contract/employment agreements that you signed. They should have the same title. If they do, go straight to HR. Either there's been a mistake, or HR has rebuilt its job classifications. Happened to me once, and for a very brief time I was a Purchasing Manager (something I know diddly squat about).

If both titles don't match, check with your manager AND HR to find out what happened. You need to discover if there was an error that should be corrected (and if that error comes with back pay but I'll bet it doesn't).

If HR says that "software engineer" was simply the generic term, not the specific job classification, while the one on the employment agreement is the "real" title, shift tactics. (One of which is that you should always check such things before you sign an employment agreement; they're a lot harder to fix once you're an employee.)

First, what is the title of the position above yours? It might not be Software Engineer, so check. Then ask if the two years of excellent work you've done since your hire now qualify you for that level (in other words, promotion). If your manager tells you that it doesn't, ask what else you need to do to reach that level. Then decide what to do with whatever you hear.

Unless there's a specific grade-level issue, most managers I've known are pretty good about working to give you the title you want. Hopefully that's the case here.

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Are you being paid the amount you agreed to (and in line with being a full software engineer)? If so, then the job title isn't all that important.

If you think you should be retitled (and maybe even paid more), then you need have all agreements or paperwork from when you started that has your job title on it. You also need to be able to show that you actually deserve the full title, and not the associate status (by the work that you have done the last couple of years).

I would possibly take this up with your boss - you might get retitled. You even might get more money. But if you want backpay, then you're getting into legal territory.

Your first discussion with your boss should not be confrontational. Just say "Hey, I was under the impression I was hired as a full software engineer, but it seems I'm actually only an associate - is that right? How do I get full status?". Once you got him listening, talk about the work you have done. Then, show him your offer letter and any other paperwork you have to support your claim.

  • If anything, beung an Advidory may mean your next promotion and raise will come sooner. – keshlam Feb 17 '16 at 1:04
  • "Unfortunately, salaries in my company are tied to title and I'm at the top of the "associate engineer" bracket so this is now directly affecting my salary." - He directly says in the question that the title is important. – Ethan The Brave Feb 22 '16 at 15:28
  • @EthanTheBrave - I missed that edit (which was probably in response to my asking the question). In any event, it doesn't really affect the overall answer. – HorusKol Feb 22 '16 at 21:05
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You're probably overthinking this. Assume it's a clerical error and proceed accordingly, Write to HR with something like the following:

Hi X,

I recently learned that I'm registered in our system as an [Associate Software Engineer] while I was actually hired as a [Software Engineer]. That's the title I've been using for the past [N] years also what my offer letter said (see attached). Could you rectify this error?

If there is some sort of historical record of this, make sure that they change your title retroactively. If you detect reluctance or laziness, push back hard and point out again that you were hired with a different title. "We can't change that" is a popular reply by lazy HR staff whenever errors are pointed out to them but it's complete bullshit so don't believe them. If necessary, get your manager involved.

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Nobody really cares about job titles. If you have a unusual job title, I'd even expect you to replace it with a more standardized title on your CV, or list what you did in your roles at that company - if you send me your CV, I need to be able to understand what's written there.

There is an exception if job titles at your company are tied to salary brackets, but the question asked about a different job title, not a different salary.

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    Titles don't matter where titles don't matter. Titles do matter where titles do matter. In other words, sometimes they matter and sometimes they don't. In this case, the OP has topped out the salary for the title that HR says he has, so it matters. Furthermore, if you were on the board of directors of a company, would you hire some whose current title is "Accountant" vs. "Vice President", even if the "Accountant" can honestly say he is running the company he works for? – GreenMatt Feb 17 '16 at 19:18
  • The question I answered contained no information about the salary bracket. This was added as an edit, and although I agree that this reduces the value of my answer, this was already addressed in the second paragraph of my answer. – Peter Feb 17 '16 at 21:09
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    Okay. Is there a reason you're not revising you're not revising your answer to make it a better match for the question as it is now asked? – GreenMatt Feb 19 '16 at 11:46

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