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Unleashing the Power of Job Titles: How Ditching Traditional Labels Can Boost Your Recruiting Efforts

The job title of a job posting is crucial to its success in attracting potential candidates. Just like how copywriters put a lot of thought into crafting headlines for advertisements, recruiters should also put in the effort to make sure their job titles are attention-grabbing and compelling.

Unfortunately, many job titles are lackluster and uninteresting. A search for “java jobs” within a certain radius of your location will likely yield a plethora of results with generic titles like “Java Developer” or “Senior Java Developer”, which are not only unoriginal but also fail to utilize the available character space. No one stands out in a forest of generic titles.

The job titles of a job post don’t have to be limited to just the actual job title the person will be known as within the company. The importance of an effective job title on posts cannot be overstated. Job titles are the first point of contact between a job opening and a potential candidate. A well-written job title can pique a candidate’s interest and make them want to learn more about the job. However, a generic or uninteresting job title can turn off potential candidates and cause them to overlook the job entirely.

In “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples, he emphasizes the importance of four elements in a good headline: self-interest, news, curiosity, and a quick, easy way. While not all headlines can have all four elements, recruiters should at least try to incorporate self-interest in their job titles. According to Caples, this is the most fundamental element of a headline and yet it is often overlooked by writers.

Self-interest is the key to capturing a candidate’s attention. A job title that speaks directly to the candidate’s needs and interests is more likely to generate a response than one that is generic or impersonal. For example, “Java Developer — 100% Remote” would immediately resonate with those whose self-interest is to work from home. Those looking for fully remote find it sometimes difficult to tell if a role is fully remote or not and you can call this vital detail out immediately within the job title section of a job post. Another example, “Java Developer — new role due to growth” may immediately resonate with those who are looking for opportunities in growing companies (especially with the layoffs these days).

Another important element of a job title of a posting is highlighting unique aspects of the job, company culture, or job environment. For example, if a company is dog-friendly, they could include that information in the job title to attract dog-loving candidates. A job title like “Java Developer — bring your dog to work too” or “Java Developer — dog-friendly office” would be more powerful than just “Java Developer” as it speaks to a specific group of candidates and makes them want to learn more about the job.

Furthermore, it helps the wrong candidates self-select out. For example, a candidate with pet allergies or a candidate who does not like dogs would find a job titled “Java Developer — bring your dog to work too” disinteresting and elect not to apply.

In addition to self-interest and unique aspects, job titles should also be clear and concise. Job titles that are too long or use jargon or technical terms that may not be familiar to all candidates can be confusing and off-putting. Job titles should be easy to understand and accurately reflect the job duties and responsibilities. I try to keep the job titles under 60 characters. This includes the spaces between words. It is unwise to make the job title too long. The titles may get truncated to fit smaller fields on various websites and job seekers won’t read really long titles. Be as clear and concise as possible while making job titles that deliver an incentive. Remember, we are trying to affect a potential candidate’s desire to read more and to apply. Do not assume just posting the title as “Java Developer” is sufficient enough incentive to read more or to apply to the job.

Another important aspect to consider when crafting job titles is search engine optimization (SEO). Job titles are often used as keywords in search engines, so it’s important to make sure that the title is written in a way that will make it easy for potential candidates to find the job. This means using relevant keywords, such as the job’s location and skills required may potentially be added to the title. This can help the job to show up in search results when candidates are looking for jobs in that specific field or location. SEO is also another reason to keep the job titles to 60 characters or less.

Another way to make job titles stand out is to use action-oriented language. This can make the title more compelling and make it clear what the job involves. For example, instead of “Java Developer”, a job title like “Java Developer for building high-performance software” gives a clear indication of what the job entails and what the candidate will be working on. Ideally, you could be even more specific about the project or main task like building out a new [insert] system. This can help attract candidates who are specifically looking for that type of work and make the job title stand out among others with similar titles.

A couple more items of caution: do not use abbreviations and do not use weird job titles like rockstar, guru, and ninja. Use standard job titles that are widely understood in the industry as the basis. This will help with SEO too. For example, I was once recruiting for a “Cost Analyst” role that was called a “Financial Analyst” internally. Actually, I inherited the job from a recruiter on maternity leave and it was posted as a “Financial Analyst”. The problem was that all the wrong candidates applied. We got financial analysts with little to no manufacturing or cost experience. When I reposted it as a “Cost Analyst”, we got plenty of applicants with a much closer skillset to what was needed.

In conclusion, crafting compelling job titles is crucial for recruiters to attract the right candidates for their job openings. By using action-oriented language, incorporating self-interest, highlighting unique aspects of the job or company, and using SEO, recruiters can make their job titles stand out among the sea of mundane job titles on job boards and search engines. This can ultimately save time and resources in the hiring process and help find the right candidate for the job.