Can I Negotiate a Job Title?
July 9, 2012 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible or recommended to try to negotiate job titles?

Hello everyone,

In two weeks I am interviewing in person for a new position at a bigger company than my current one. I have direct experience with all of the requirements that they have listed, and already completed a phone interview with them. Everything sounds like a good fit except for one detail: the job title.

My current position is as a "Regulatory Affairs Coordinator," the position I will be interviewing for is a "Quality Technician." In my current organization, Technicians only complete basic routine tasks by following a detailed set of instructions. From the job description and discussion in the phone interview, the new position would be a decision making role with responsibility for designing new processes, coordinating new product launches, ensuring regulatory compliance...basically a lot of independent functions.

To me the job that they are looking to fill is much more along the lines of a "Quality Systems Specialist," and I do not want to have my future resume be affected by what appears to be a step down in responsibility when in fact I would be doing the same work I do now if not more. Am I overthinking things, or is my concern justified? Assuming the in-person interview goes well and salary expectations are in line, could I try to negotiate for a better job title? If so, when would be best to bring such a thing up?

Thanks in advance for your help!
posted by cccp47 to Work & Money (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When you do your new resume, you put the title you like on there.

Who cares what they call you as long as they don't call you late to dinner?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:58 PM on July 9, 2012

When you do your new resume, you put the title you like on there.

Sorry. NO.

Potential employer to previous employer: "We're considering hiring cccp47 and wanted to confirm that he/she was a Quality Systems Specialist."

Previous employer to potential employer: "No. Cccp 47 was a Quality Technician."

Potential employer to you: "Can you explain why you falsified this information on your resume? And while you're at it, explain why we should believe anything else you're telling us?"


Employers have all kinds of reasons for assigning the job titles that they do. It's unlikely that they'll change their system to accommodate your ego. You might attempt an off-handed approach of asking how the title came to be assigned to this combination of functions. If you sense no opening for discussion, however, drop it.
posted by John Borrowman at 2:08 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

No, no, it goes like this:

Quality Technician-Quality Systems Analyst

Then you list, in bullet points, the relevant experience. You don't falsify, you translate.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:14 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, this is very doable, at least in some industries. Basically, you're saying something to the effect of, "I got your offer -- I like the job, I like the company, but I really would just like to have a slightly different title."
posted by brool at 2:22 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

It really depends on the company. In a larger company, the job titles and ladders are usually pretty well-defined, and they don't necessarily have the freedom to arbitrarily change someone's title without also changing the job they're in. For smaller companies, it's not as likely to be a problem. I don't think it hurts to ask about this, but if it's a big company, don't expect to have much luck IMHO.
posted by primethyme at 2:30 PM on July 9, 2012

In your current organization, it may be this other title, but in the organization you are interviewing for, it is the title they assign. Titles mean squat, it's the bulletpoints explaining what you did under that matter.
posted by deezil at 2:31 PM on July 9, 2012

On your resume it just goes "Quality Technician" and you open your list of accomplishments with "Despite the title, this was more of a Quality Systems Specialist role"
posted by kindall at 2:35 PM on July 9, 2012

If you don't ask, you don't get. (this is true about pretty much everything)

So bring it up and ask. As someone who's often interviewing/hiring people I'd never regard such a question/conversation as indicating anything but your deep interest in the position and attended details (and sounds like your role requires lots of attention to details).
posted by donovan at 2:38 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I hire people often, but am in a small-ish company. Actually, this is often something that I am thrilled to discuss. It means very little to me what the title I give someone is, but on the other hand, if it makes them happy to have a different title, then they get it. There is a limit on the changing, where going from "senior whatchamacallit" to "Vice President of the universe" is not going to happen, but certainly there is flexibility, as long as it is well understood that the expectations are what we discussed, not changed to go along with the title.

Be aware though that this does use up negotiation tit for tat, so if the title is something that's important to someone, I will try to negotiate something else that is important to me: bonus instead of flat total salary, or fewer vacation days.
posted by Yavsy at 3:40 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been told by multiple people over the years that the job title on your resume should reflect what you actually did. Very few employers are even going to confirm a job title - most these days won't go farther than confirming your period of employment. And if does come up, you simply state the truth. The job title on your resume is more indicative of what you were actually doing - in keeping with industry standards, the job changed over the 3 years you were there, whatever. If they get to that point they already like you - you'll have benefit of the doubt. There is a difference between inflating your title fraudulently and making your resume an accurate reflection of your background. If somebody doesn't understand that different that is a huge red flag about working there.

Hell, the job title on my offer letter doesn't match the job title on my business cards right now - and I haven't been promoted. Which one do I use on my resume? I use the one most indicative of what I'm actually doing.
posted by COD at 4:05 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it really depends on how they use their titles and what they mean - so basically size and culture of the company. I think it might be more fruitful to familiarize yourself with their internal organizational structure - is this title attainable and does it match what you're doing?

This is something that I'd ask about in the in-person interview. I've seen someone get their offer pulled [because they insisted upon a title that made them sound more senior (what would have been the next level up at their current position, but was a couple levels above where he'd been offered)] and I think along with the titles not matching up between organizations as he wanted, the HM was going "now you have a problem with the title?"
posted by sm1tten at 4:05 PM on July 9, 2012

Yes, for one reason only...

Three years from now, your company will pretend to do a salary survey. It will come back and confirm that they have paid everyone either juuuuust right, or actually too much, all along. Because of your nebulous job title, you'll have no way to disagree despite clearly knowing that you have 20 years more experience than a mere "Widget Waxer II".

At that point, when you point to your specific, industry-standard title of "Widget Waxing Architect", you will get the satisfaction of watching them squirm and trying to explain away an inconvenient fact. Of course, they'll still pay you the same, but as someone recently in exactly that situation, it will give you about as much satisfaction as you can hope for while still just getting the same paltry cost-of-living increase.

Obviously, don't "negotiate" this in the sense of giving anything tangible up for it. But do press the issue at least to the point they bluntly tell you "no" or give in.

Finally, as an aside to the idea that "Employers have all kinds of reasons for assigning the job titles that they do" - I have yet to have a job where my employer had any sort of systematic way of assigning job titles. At my last job, it changed literally quarterly depending on the whim of the owner, without the least impact in either my duties or pay. Employers generally have no freakin' clue about what the standard job titles in your field mean, and HR (y'know, the last department to suffer in bad times?) basically just makes them up as they go.
posted by pla at 4:35 PM on July 9, 2012

You could broach the subject in the context of trying to clarify/define your job responsibilities. Like: "Hey, so this position is advertised as a 'Quality Technician', but based on responsibility X, Y and Z, this looks like more of a 'Quality Systems Specialist' role. Is there something I am not understanding about this position and your expectations?"
posted by misterbrandt at 4:43 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could always say something like "Given that I would be doing [this], [that], and [the other thing], it seems like this is more of a Quality Systems Specialist type role than simply Quality Technician. Is Quality Technician just a generic term used in the job ad or would that actually be my title?"

I think people tend to over-analyze what they can bring up in an interview because they're so concerned with not seeming too uppity or concerned with less important aspects of the job. As someone who has interviewed and hired people, I've always found it refreshing when a candidate asks questions about aspects of the job beyond its basics. It shows to me they're actually thinking ahead and with a mind more geared towards the big picture.

Obviously, you can make too big an issue out of it, but simply bringing it up shouldn't be a big deal. I think as long as you don't turn the title into a make-or-break issue, it's not going to hurt.

In the end, if you don't get the title you want, you could always put the title you want below or in the description of that job on your CV. I've seen this a lot in the tech field actually, where someone will have a rather bland or ambiguous title and then clarify a more fitting title in parentheses. Like stating "Developer (Sr. PHP Engineer)" where "Developer" was the actual title and "Sr. PHP Engineer" was a better summation of the actual job.
posted by DyRE at 6:53 PM on July 9, 2012

Thanks for the help everyone - I guess the consensus is that it should not be a problem to bring up in the interview, but also is not the end of the world and if they are unwilling to be flexible on it and I like the job, not to worry about it too much.
posted by cccp47 at 6:57 AM on July 10, 2012

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