Job Titles Do Matter

Jan 4, 2017

Why Job Titles Matter in Construction

Are your job titles enhancing the marketability and relevancy of your open positions? Are those titles reflective of your employees’ levels of contribution and seniority within your organization? Are they consistent with those used by your competition?

The conventional wisdom in the construction industry is that job titles shouldn’t matter.  Every company is different, right? A Project Manager at one company could easily be called a Senior Project Manager at another company, yet perform the same job. An Engineer at one company could easily be called a Technical Manager at another company, yet perform the same job.

Right or wrong, when it comes to recruiting talent, I can tell you that job titles matter very much. In some cases, a job title can be the final determining factor in a person’s decision to take or turn down a position.

Why is this a big deal? Frankly, because they speak to the culture of recruiting and retaining top talent in today’s marketplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person will change jobs 7+ times in their career. That is a job change nearly every six years, on average. Candidates simply want the title to affirm their worth to the organization, and not feel as if they are taking a step backwards in their careers.

What’s in a Name?

Think of a title as a first impression with a candidate. A title can offer a glimpse into a prospective employer’s company and may suggest how valued the candidate will feel as a member of the team. A job title is certainly not the only determining factor, but it could make a candidate less excited or more excited about positions, and this could tip the balance.

Of the following two identical positions, titled differently, which would receive the most interest?

Project Manager


Project Manager, Major Projects

I can tell you from experience that the second title would entice many more candidates than the first.

A Simple Way to Create Stronger Job Titles

I have commonly heard the argument that most companies (of any size) have a set hierarchy that would be extremely complicated, if not impossible, to change. However, there are creative ways in which companies can alter existing job titles without making radical, systemic changes. Enhancing titles can be one way for employers to attract quality candidates without spending any capital.

One example of a free and simple title change that can make a big difference is to add relevant acronyms to the title. With the addition of the right acronyms, a job title can succinctly summarize the position while advertising the attributes that the employer is looking for. For example, if a company is seeking a Professional Engineer for a position, the title could have PE built into it. An employer who is looking for a Certified Project Manager could add PMP to the title. Making your job titles as accurate, specific, and as targeted as possible will help attract the right people to the job.

The proposal is not to bloat or artificially inflate job titles. This could create unnecessary and distracting entitlement issues within your organization. However, evaluating unique and creative ways to update and enhance your job titles could increase your likelihood of landing top talent.

Research Before Retitling

Do some market research to see how your competitors are titling their positions before making any changes. A simple way to do this is to use LinkedIn or similar sites to compare your current job titles and descriptions against theirs to see if you need make any updates or revisions in order  to be more competitive.

In addition to competitive research, ask your current employees for their thoughts on their job titles. This process can have a side benefit of boosting job satisfaction, as suggested by a recent Harvard Business Review article: Creative Job Titles Can Energize Workers. They suggest that morale goes up when employees are asked to deeply consider how their titles can better reflect their jobs’ purpose and value. Employee suggestions can help you alter your job titles to more accurately reflect your positions and your company, which can help you attract qualified talent that is more likely to fit your culture.

You may not need to make drastic changes, but it will be well worth your time and effort to give your job titles some attention. The competition for top talent is so great today that employers need every advantage they can get. Don’t let the outdated notion that titles don’t matter get in the way of doing everything you can to attract the best talent for your company.

About the Author

Justin Wilkins

Justin joined Kimmel & Associates in 2008, first serving in the mechanical and power industries. In December 2017, he was promoted to Vice President, and now leads the Industrial & Energy Division, where he oversees renewable energy, sustainable infrastructure, and various other energy transition verticals and industrial niches.

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