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What’s in a Title?

9/7/2006 6:32:08 PM

By Peter Weddle -- A couple of years ago, I put on my job seeker hat and visited one of the more popular recruitment sites on the Web. As any good employment candidate will do, I searched the site’s job database to see what kind of opportunities it had available. The database search engine was easy to use, with clear directions that were written in English, not techno-babble. Basically, all I had to do was identify the search criteria or keywords that were important to me and then designate my industry, desired location and salary objective.

I entered the term “Manager” in the keyword area and selected the Telecommunications industry, a salary objective of $50-75,000 and any location in the United States. I hit the search button, and ten seconds later, I had 26 pages of search results, listing 648 jobs. Unlike with a print publication, however, I could not actually see the descriptions of the jobs. Instead, each was summarized with a posting title that typically included its internal or organizational name, location, employer, and date posted. And that’s the problem. There was insufficient information about the jobs for me (or any other job seeker) to determine which of the 648 postings were best aligned with my skills and goals.

Among the first 15 titles listed from my search, there were openings for:

  • 2 Product Managers,
  • 2 Area Managers,
  • 3 Account Managers,
  • 3 Marketing Managers, and
  • 4 Sales Managers.

    Although the employers and locations varied, the position names had obviously been drawn from internal job descriptions or HR Department designations. They were standard institutional references, offering no context or sizzle that would help to differentiate them in the eyes of job seekers. As a result, all of the postings looked alike, leaving me with one option when trying to determine which ones to open and read: I flipped a coin.

    Such is the nature of online recruitment advertising. Unlike with print ads, where you can quickly scan the text beneath the title to see what an opening is all about, the search engine in most online job databases forces job seekers to select jobs based solely on their titles. And while a rose by any other name may still be a rose, a job title in a list of 647 other titles needs some color and fragrance to help it stand out. Indeed, creating an original, entertaining, enticing title for each of your job postings is a key factor in maximizing your return on investment in online advertising.

    What sets a title apart? First, remember that these titles are not going to determine a position’s size or level of accountability. They will not appear on an organization chart or be used to assign salary levels. Instead, their purpose is to sell your opportunity to prospective candidates. Second, these titles are not simply the electronic version of copy developed for a print ad. They are not immediately followed by nor do they lead seamlessly to a text description of a job. Rather, they act as one-line billboards that must quickly capture the interest or pique the curiosity of readers as they scan through a (sometimes very long) list of similar (and competitive) openings. Said another way, good titles tempt talent.

    What makes for a tempting tile? I think it has three elements:

  • Location. Most candidates would prefer not to uproot their family to take a new position so indicating the location of your opening is a critical first step. Start the title of your posting with the city and state of the opening’s location or, if you’re posting on a site with limited space for titles, simply the postal code for the state.

    For example: Stamford, CT

  • Skill. Most candidates search a job database with keywords that describe their professional skill or workplace capabilities. They do not use organizational position titles such as Sales Associate III or Program Manager – Level 1. To reach the greatest number of candidates for a particular opening, therefore, incorporate the phrase or term you would use to indicate the key skill required for effective job performance and they would use to indicate the kind of work they are capable of doing in the workplace. If you need help identifying that descriptor, ask several of the best performers who are already working for your employer in a position similar to the one you are trying to fill.

    For example: Stamford, CT—Pharmaceutical Area Sales Manager

  • Sizzle. Most candidates, but especially top performers, want to be sold on the opening they are considering. They respond best to the employer that differentiates an offer by highlighting its unique and/or most attractive aspects. That could be the compensation level of the position, the opportunity it offers to do something special, the culture of the organization or the quality and/or significance of its products and services. Once again, if you have any doubts about what aspect would be most compelling to your target demographic, ask their peers who have already been sold on employment with your organization.

    For example: Stamford, CT—Pharmaceutical Area Sales Manager—Eager team with hot product

    A job posting is neither an employment announcement nor a job description. It’s an electronic sales brochure. And, the hook that gets the best talent interested enough to open and read the brochure is its title. Write a powerful and compelling title, and you’ll increase not only the quantity but the quality of your yield.

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