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I'm job searching right now, with a bunch of previous experience, but not all in the same position. So it's not as though I've had one job description Y for many years - in which case I would now feel natural applying for a "senior Y" position.

Seeing some positions (especially within a single company) described as "X" and other positions as "Senior X" - what criteria can I use to understand whether I better fit the former or the latter?

Note: In my case, X can be "research scientist", "software engineer", "systems architect", "researcher" and a few more; but if you can answer more generally, please do.

  • Titles are meaningless; IT titles doubly so. – NotMe May 30 '17 at 20:27
  • On LinkedIn everyone is a senior software engineer (or whatever) who was solely responsible for single handedly fixing or bringing in broken critical projects on time and under budget while simultaneously excelling as a team member and mentor. At my old company, a senior software engineer was someone who had been at the company long enough to figure out how to update their job title on the system. – Vince O'Sullivan Mar 3 at 13:57
11

Job titles can vary wildly from company to company so "X" at one company would have the title of "Junior X" at another and possibly even "Senior X" at a third.

To make matters worse, some companies dispense with descriptives altogether and have "X 1", "X 2", "X 3". To add to the confusion, some may rank by number ascending, so "X 3" could be the highest rank, while others may rank by number descending, making "X 1" the highest rank.

So, essentially, job titles can at times be useless for purposes of a job search.

The best way to find out if it's at your level is to ignore the title, and look at the job description and duties. If a phone number is listed, call and ask about it.

Calling will serve two purposes:

  1. You will get the information you need.
  2. You will establish a contact with a person at the company.

If you call, ask the person if you can have their email to send them a thank you note. Then do so regardless of whether you apply or not.

This will not only eliminate the confusion you are experiencing, but give you a leg up for positions you wish to pursue.

3

If you meet all the requirements in the description for a "Senior X" job, then you should consider yourself a "Senior X" for that particular job. Job titles really don't mean that much, but if a job descriptions says "looking for a Senior X with 7 years of experience and knowledge of X, X, and X" and you meet that criteria then you can consider yourself a "Senior X" for the purpose of applying for that job because that is what they consider a "Senior X" to be. Another job may consider "Senior" to have 5 years and so-and-so education... it all depends on the job.

  • The question is about when the requirements are not listed... if there were different requirements I wouldn't really have that problem. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica May 30 '17 at 19:46
  • @einpoklum, if the requirements and job descriptions are identical, apply for the senior one. If your skills/experience are close to the senior one, apply to the senior one (you have 6 years experience and they're looking for 7) – Chris G May 30 '17 at 20:31
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    @einpoklum If the requirements aren't listed, you need to find out what they are - either by calling or emailing the person who would know what they are. Who applies for a job without knowing what they'll need to be doing? – Barry Franklin May 30 '17 at 22:28
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    @BarryFranklin: I'd put that last point in the answer. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica May 31 '17 at 4:55
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It's not about time, it's about ability.

Senior denotes someone who can not only do their own job, but can also guide a junior and check the work of a regular.

For example, a senior software developer would probably have a junior assigned, to whom they would be passing on their skills, and sit on a team with 3 other devs. These devs would work to the framework defined by the senior, would ask the senior for support and defer to the senior when they cannot anser.

If you feel like you can do that, along with the day-to-day requirements of the standard level, then go for it. Otherwise, build up more experience.

  • Even though I completely agree it should be about ability and not time, I have seen that especially (larger) companies working with recruiters will have a tunnel-vision view for time. In such cases I would add the advice of Richard, personal contact! – Summer May 30 '17 at 13:12
  • I guess using my own judgement is one way to distinguish the cases, but how do I know my judgement is how the company sees things? Also, some people can guide juniors and check their work better than they can do the work of a junior themselves... – einpoklum - reinstate Monica May 30 '17 at 15:00

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