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Advice / Job Search / Job Offer

It's All in the Name: How to Ask for a Better Job Title

When accepting a new position, most people think to ask for a higher salary. But there’s something else you can negotiate—something that’s arguably just as important. Your job title.

Think about it: The title on your resume today can have a major impact on your employment prospects in the future. People use your job title to quickly understand how you fit into an organization, what you do, and your level of expertise or authority.

This is especially true when it comes to impressing recruiters and hiring managers, who spend “no more than a couple minutes reviewing each resume they see,” according to Mike, a recruiter for a national digital company based in Seattle. Not having the right title can undercut how you’re viewed when you’re applying for your next job, not to mention as you’re working with your colleagues and clients in the meantime.

So, as you’re preparing for negotiations, don’t just think numbers, think names. Here’s what you need to know.

Consider the Existing Structure

Before proposing a new title, you’ll want to consider the reporting and organizational structure that’s already in place. If you’re applying for a standard position within a large organization, with several other employees who have the same job, a different title may not be viable. However, it “depends on the HR philosophy of the company, and how nimble the organization is,” says Mike. “For unique roles where the job is new, the job isn’t widespread, and the candidate brings unique skills, I’ve always been open to negotiating the title.”

He recommends that applicants ask whether the position is a newly created role, or if existing employees already have the same position and responsibilities in the company. “This can be an indication as to whether title is likely to be an element of negotiation,” he explains.

Also keep in mind how your new supervisor will feel about you asking for a different title. You don’t want to put her on the defensive or have her think that you’re gunning for her job. For example, if you’ve been offered a position as a Manager and you report to a Director, don’t suggest a Director or Deputy Director title—it could very well come off like you’re trying to diminish your supervisor’s position. Instead, consider “Group Manager” or “Senior Manager.”

Check Out Industry Norms

Keep in mind that job titles and their meanings change from one organization to the next. For example, a coordinator at one company could be akin to an executive assistant, but it could be a low-level management position at another company.

That said, in consideration of your future job prospects, you should think about how the title you’re being offered stacks up to industry norms. Do some research into similar positions, analyze their job descriptions and yours, and compare them to the title you’re being offered.

As you do your research, ask: Does your new title take into account all the responsibilities outlined in the job description? What about any future responsibilities you’ll be taking on? Or, is there another title that would be a better representation?

Make Your Case

Once you’ve settled on the title you want, be sure that you can articulate why you deserve it. This can’t be an emotionally based argument, but rather should be a factual, data-driven negotiation.

In addition to the industry research you’ve already done, pull together a list of your achievements, specialized education, and relevant experience that will benefit the organization hiring you. Anything you can show that is above and beyond what’s required for the job will help you in your case for a higher title.

Use this information to position your ask. For example, “Based on my extensive project management experience at my last job, I believe that I have more experience than the Marketing Assistant position title suggests, and would like to propose a title of Marketing Analyst or Marketing Coordinator.”

Present it as a Benefit

Finally, beyond outlining your qualifications, you should also present your proposed new title as a benefit for the employer. Your job title can and will have a major impact with how you interact with customers and clients, which is directly related to how those customers will view the organization as a whole. For example, if you’ll be working with high-profile clients, a “Client Relations Manager” title might make them view you more favorably than would a “Customer Service Associate.” Think about ways that a different title might be a good thing, beyond just your resume.

Don’t Give Up

Fortunately, in many organizations, job titles are negotiable—especially in smaller companies or non-profits, where budgets are notoriously tight.

But, you should also be prepared for what you will do if your request is not accepted. Most importantly, remember that “no” doesn’t necessarily mean “no” forever. As part of the negotiation process, find out what you need to accomplish to get the job title you’re after. Ask for some measurable outcomes and a timeline to work with. Then, “be patient,” says Lisa Yaeger, PHR, Director of Human Resources at the Community College of Vermont. “Prove that you are capable of doing the work that would be appropriate for the title.”

Photo of man negotiating courtesy of Shutterstock.