Job Titles and Descriptions: Less is More?

Job titles were originally meant to succinctly describe a person’s basic duties in a few words. When you looked at someone’s business card or shook their hand in a meeting, their job title would give a general  (but clear) idea of their role within their organization.

Some titles have stayed true to this purpose, remaining concise and unpretentious, like “Software Developer,” or “Account Manager.” But others have grown more vague and grandiose, like “Senior Vice President of Partnerships and Marketing,” or “Solutions Architect and Change Management Lead.”

Indistinct job titles and descriptions may impress some people, but they also risk giving the impression that your organization is overstaffed and that you are one of the nonessential fringe-workers. If you can’t answer the question, “What do you do?” without resorting to intentional ambiguities, you’re going to sound more like a cornered, dodgy politician than a competent worker.

The truth is, any job can sound impressive and important if you craft a little complexity into the title. You could call a window washer a “Transparency-Enhancement Facilitator,” or give the title of “Media Distribution Specialist” to a paperboy, but it doesn’t change the nature of the work.  After a short conversation, their roles will be clear – regardless of their job title.

Is a long, vague job title a sign of ordinary, mundane work being embellished? Is it a sign of “bloat” in an organization? Or is it just part of the game?

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Peter is Vice President of Digital Marketing at an investment holdings company in Washington DC and Co-Founder at True North.


  1. Andy Burdin on the 7th July

    I’d have to agree – long, embellished job titles are seem pompous and inflated to me. I understand some jobs encompass a wide range of work, but I think cramming that into a long-winded job title on a business card/e-mail signature is just wishy-washy.

    I say, just give your basic job title and be done with it – and don’t be lazy and just throw the world “specialist” after a noun like 90% of job titles out there! Good post, thanks.

  2. RJ on the 7th July

    Being a web designer, title really means nothing, it comes down to what I have produced in the past. And even though I am always learning and getting better, I like it that way. I don’t have to sell myself to much, I can just say look at my portfolio.

    Interesting read though.

  3. Colin on the 7th July

    In a corporate environment I think it’s a sign of bloat. HR didn’t want to a hire another “X Manager”. They also might be trying to justify why manager A is in a higher pay grade than manager B yet they do the same job.

    In a small business, that’s just someone trying to sound more important than they are. For example, in a company of 20 employees my wife held the title “North Western Regional Director in charge of Sales and Marketing”. I argued with the owner of the business about the ‘regional’ portion of the title. My argument always went “Why have that since this is the only site in your business!?” and he would usually answer with “Because it’s true!”

    In my company we recently bought a site where all the Dept. Managers were calling themselves “Director of” yet they usually only had a few employees under them or none at all. Corporate HR immediately changed their structure to remove “Director of” at the beginning of their titles and adding “Manager” at the end.

  4. Interesting. I always thought about this, and you are right, the other long titled and vague ones have increased in recent years.

    I still prefer short ones, which actually describe the job without having to ask further what the job actually entails.


  5. Ed Han on the 8th July

    Honestly, I’ve always felt that the more characters in s job title, the more junior the position. Consider:

    VP of [noun]
    Manager, [2-3 nouns]
    Coordinator, [5 nouns]

    But I don’t think the fault lies with the employee: wouldn’t it be more correct to say it lies with the organization?

  6. Thera on the 8th July

    Everyone here (except the CEO) has the job title “Engineering” on his/her visit cards because we don’t have a real job description:

    – monday, you could be making a website design in Photoshop

    – tuesday, you could be coding a plugin for a realtime rendering engine to do face tracking

    – wednesday, you could be writing marketing texts for the next press release of the company

    – thursday, you could be optimizing the scripting engine of the major software of the company by switching to Chrome’s V8

    – and friday you could be modeling 3d characters using motion capture.

    – (and of course saturday/sunday, you’re catching up on the other things you could not finish in time)

    So we gave up on titles because “we do everything, and the rest; we have no lives” wasn’t a good title either.

  7. Winston Muller on the 9th July

    Tell you what, I was quite happy the day my official job description changed from “Junior Software Developer” to “Software Developer” !

  8. gugu vakiele on the 12th July

    wow i have been referred to this site by talent desk and im very impressed with the info furnished

  9. Mimi Yang on the 5th September

    I am just about to be crowned a new job title, and I am not too sure what is going to be. But what I know for sure is that I do exactly what my supervisor dose, and more. He is a Network Manager, and I was hired as Help desk and ever since he has been referred me as his assistant , I do everything from fixing a broken fax machine, or phones system, to Networking, web design and developing database for the company. Yes my major is in computer engineering. Do I even need a job title at this point?

  10. Aaron Joy on the 9th September

    Personally, I think it’s all modern b.s. to inflate a bunch of hurt egos that need to sound important. You’re a garbageman or a doorman, no embarressment in that. It doesn’t make you stupid, but I think these people feel less than and so many of this new job titles tie into compensating for that.

    The sad thing I’ve found I’ve needed to do it to just get calls on my resume. Some years ago I worked at a xerox/print store. Like Kinkos but small, privately owned and over 30 years old. I opened/closed, was one of 3 employees, the others working less than 20 hours between them while I did 40 plus. Customers asked me over the other two people and I did everything from computer design to fixing the machiens. But, to put “made copies” on my resume was getting odd questions at later interviews, if I could even get interviews. i must be stupid. Today I put “computer aided graphic designer” or some variation. It’s true though.

    Once I even interviewed for a job that I only discovered on day two – there was no day three – that it less a “community awareness compaign” but door-to-door sales. Do you really think, at the time, I wanted to put “door-to-door salesman selling credit card machines to business” on my resume? “Experience: being run out of businesses by cops, being viciously yelled at and feeling humiliated.”

    I don’t need an ego boost … I just want a job and to be noticed, sadly, it seems like we sometimes have to puff ourselves up with all the competition.

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