job title, roses,

What’s in a Name? Diminishing the Importance of the Job Title

As an executive search firm, many of our conversations are dependent on the answer to a tell-all question: “What job title are you targeting?” Titles are an important recruitment tool and can make or break some candidates’ decisions based on their initial perception of a role.

We often find that consultants transitioning into industry are just as concerned with their prospective title as they are with picking the right industry and corporate culture to move into.

As far as a job title is concerned, Human Resources professionals and business leaders alike understand that a job title is necessary to help communicate how you fit into an organization, what you do, and your level of expertise or authority. Yet despite the necessary function of a job title, the purpose is somewhat deceiving.

While there are many other components to take into account when considering a potential job opportunity, we cannot emphasize enough what is lost on the title alone.

Put perfectly by our friend Aneesh Kumar Vice President of Enterprise Product Solutions at Cigna and former Engagement Manager at Booz & Company (now Strategy&) in one of our interviews:

“My advice would be to look at the role itself more than the title, which is purely a function of the company’s size and other more general factors. You want to focus on what kind of impact the role has on senior decision making, and if it has access to senior management.”

We know how much each individual devotes to his/her career, and the last thing we want to do is see you go into a role that is too junior and where you will get bored easily. That said, the things that will really impact your day-to-day satisfaction are what you are actually doing, what opportunities you will have, and if you’re being well compensated for it (which will come with its own trade-offs).

Consider the following two scenarios:

Vice President at Company A ($2B in revenue):

  • Reports to another Vice President, who reports to a divisional General Manager, who reports to an SVP, who reports to the CEO
  • Compensation: $200k + 20% bonus target + $75k annual grant

Director at Company B ($10B in revenue):

  • Reports to the Chief Marketing Officer, who reports to the CEO
  • Compensation: $225k + 35% bonus target + $150k annual grant

Is the higher title really worth it? As with your favorite Mexican go-to, fajitas, make sure you are focusing on the substance (the meat of the position, the quality and path of the company, and the elements that matter the most in determining exit options) – not the sizzle.