Every company uses job titles in a different way. Image credit: Shutterstock.com
Job titles on paper seem to be straightforward, but they can also be confusing to put into practice. One company may place much more responsibility on a "manager," for instance, than another one would.
If communicated correctly though, job titles can be an easy way to classify roles within a company, establish clear hierarchies and help attract diverse talent.
A firm understanding of job titles can also help you read a company's org chart, which paints an overall picture of how an organization functions on the inside. This can be a powerful tool when searching for a job within that org or to help model your own company's org structure.
Let's break down the anatomy of a job title and the many ways they can be put into practice.
What’s the Purpose of a Job Title?
Job titles have a wide variety of uses. At their base level, they should do at least one of several things:
- Show the level of the position within the hierarchy, such as:
- Describe what the position actually entails, such as:
- Social Media Specialist
- Do both at the same time, such as:
- Marketing Manager
- Assistant Sales Representative
- HR Director
- Head Content Writer
- IT Trainee
In most cases, a job title will also let you know what department an employee works in. For example, an IT Trainee works in the Information Technology department, an HR Director is part of Human Resources, and an Assistant Sales Rep is in Sales.
How Job Titles Are Used
Along with communicating the function of a role, job titles can also bring benefits to how an organization is structured. Here are some use cases:
1. Reporting Hierarchies
Most large organizations have a set of job titles for each rank within their company, from the CEO down through vice presidents, directors, managers, and individual contributors. This creates a clear hierarchy, making it easier to see who fits where.
It can also provide a straightforward path for promotion within the organization’s structure. For example, an intern can be promoted to an assistant, then an associate, then a manager.
2. Duties and Responsibilities
A good job title establishes what a person does. A Quality Assurance Engineer at a software company isn’t going to be mopping floors or fixing the pipes. An employer should be able to take one look at an employee’s job title and instantly understand the scope of their duties and what department they’re in.
3. Compensation Management
Many employers will use job titles to regulate how they pay employees. Certain types of job titles may be tied to specific pay grades, with a salary range for each level and type. For example, there may be a specific salary range for an IT Technician, Head Chef, or Director of the Social Media Department.
Defining these salary ranges and tying them to positions will make it easier to determine what to pay various employees within the company.
In order for a prospect to find their dream job at your company, they have to know what they’re looking for. Job titles help candidates discover your job opening online or in print. If you need a copy editor, putting that job title front-and-center in your job description will catch the attention of relevant prospects. That brings those prospects one step closer to becoming great candidates and employees.
Job Title Hierarchies
Of all the ways different types of job titles can be used, establishing reporting hierarchies is among the most important. Most companies organize their ranks into tiers that look like this:
These tiers are helpful for understanding the flow of responsibilities and authority. Here’s what they usually include:
Board of Directors
Not all companies are big enough to have a board of directors. For those that do, the board is made up of the people who ultimately control the direction of the company. They are elected by the business’ stockholders.
The board may take an active role in running the organization’s affairs, or they may leave that to the C-Suite below them. Certainly, the most important part of a board of directors’ responsibilities is appointing the executive officers who will make up the C-Suite.
Types of job titles in this tier may include:
- Chairman of the Board
- Vice Chair
- Board Member
At the top of the job title hierarchy is the C-Suite. The C-Suite is ultimately responsible for developing overall goals and policies and ensuring that they are pursued satisfactorily. This tier is typically headed by the CEO, who oversees the rest of the C-Suite in managing the business and reports directly to the board of directors when applicable.
Job titles in this tier may include:
- CEO (Chief Executive Officer)
- COO (Chief Operations Officer)
- CFO (Chief Financial Officer)
- CIO (Chief Information Officer)
- CMO (Chief Marketing Officer)
- CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer)
- CTO (Chief Technology Officer)
Small businesses may only employ one or two figures in the C-Suite, perhaps a CEO and CFO.
Vice Presidents and/or Directors
Vice Presidents, sometimes referred to as directors or executive managers, are in charge of the departments within a company, such as:
- Human Resources
- Research and Development
They lead the managers and staff of their departments and report directly to the C-Suite team above them. Types of job titles in this tier may include:
- Director of Business Development
- Vice President of Finance
- Sales Director
- Vice President of Human Resources
- Director of Operations
- Vice President of Engineering
Under the vice presidents and directors, the managers oversee the smaller units within departments. This may happen locally or on a national scale. For example, a corporation’s nationwide sales department may have regional managers who handle sales for different states, who in turn have employees below them who manage individual counties or cities.
Another example would be a marketing department — headed by a marketing director — with managers in charge of sub-departments such as digital marketing, branding, on-site marketing, and affiliate marketing.
Regardless, these managers are generally more involved in the day-to-day operations of a company.
Types of management job titles may include:
- Digital Marketing Manager
- Design Lead
- Key Accounts Manager
- Maintenance Supervisor
- Facilities Manager
- Business Administrator
- Project Manager
- Executive Chef
Individual contributors are usually the largest group within an organization. This tier makes up the rank-and-file in a company, such as:
- Delivery drivers
- Budget Analysts
- Software Engineers
- Account Representatives
- IT Technicians
- Front Desk Receptionists
- Shelf Stockers
- Phone Operators
- HR Coordinators
- Customer Service Agents
In short, the employees who carry out the basic tasks of a business, whatever that business may be. Their job titles vary by industry, company, and even department more than any other tier.
These employees answer to the managers directly above them. In many cases, they won’t be in charge of anyone but themselves.
Entry-level jobs are for people just joining a company and learning the ropes for a new position. Entry-level job titles often look like:
- Student Nurse Intern
- Financial Advisor Trainee
- Apprentice Engineer
- Underwriter Trainee
- Sales Apprentice
- Assistant Mechanic
Smaller companies often skip entry-level programs altogether. Where they do exist, these positions usually report to both individual contributors and managers.
Want to Learn More? An Org Chart Can Help
Job titles can be confusing. To get an idea of how the various positions fit together in a company, nothing beats an organizational chart.
An org chart is a diagram of the structure and hierarchy of an organization. It works a lot like a family tree, just for coworkers instead of relatives. At a glance, an org chart will reveal how a company operates and who reports to whom.
If you’re interested in using an org chart to clarify the roles and responsibilities in your company, just click here. We’ll guide you through the set-up so you can take advantage of the unique benefits an org chart has to offer.