What’s in a Title?

From Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet:

JULIET: ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

I’ve been thinking about titles a lot lately. I’ve applied for a couple of positions that would be a step up for me career-wise, but haven’t gotten a 2nd look because I do not have the title “Manager” on my resume. Now I will admit, even with my recruiting background, I’m not the best person to write a resume. I do not do a good job of selling myself on paper (which is why I’m going to pay someone to re-write my resume this summer). Yet, as an HR professional who has coached many a manager/supervisor on reading resumes, asking them to read a little deeper, looking at duties and not just the initial skim, I can’t help but wonder why we don’t take our own advice?

We will be among the first to say “Titles don’t matter,” and then contradict ourselves by saying “oh, you can’t use that word, it’s only for this or that type of jobs.” We accuse managers (behind closed doors) of attempting to elevate staff with a title, when we feel that person doesn’t “deserve” it.

But here’s the thing: Titles matter. It matters that Romeo was a Montague. It tells us a LOT about him. It tells us who raised him and with what values. It tells us who his friends are and possibly a little bit about how he thinks. Just like titles.

Titles tell us where you’ve been; they are a short cut to your experience. It helps the recruiter or manager make a split decision of whether or not to move forward [taking a chance on someone who doesn’t meet your listed qualifications is probably another post]. But it shouldn’t be the be all, end all of your decision making. We need to be better about reviewing the full resume, the full skill set before rejecting a candidate. No candidate is going to be perfect and we’ve all come across that candidate who is “perfect” on paper, but once you actually talk to them … not so much.

Which is why Titles DON’T matter.

It ultimately, for Juliet, didn’t matter that Romeo was a Montague. While the title told you some things about him, it wasn’t the full story.  Romeo had some different ideas than the other Montagues. Romeo filled the role Juliet was looking for (or thought she was looking for – at 14, do you really know?)

We also know that titles are not universal. They used to be, until we wanted to, needed to provide more insight, more prestige to roles. That’s why you don’t see a lot of secretaries anymore, and you see administrative assistants. A Coordinator (i.e. mid-level management) in my current world is a LOT different from a Coordinator in my former world (administrative assistant).

And this is what I’m hoping you take away from this: understand that titles ARE important. They tell a story not only to your staff, your employee, but the outside world what role this person plays in your organization. But in the same vein, remember that the title does not tell the whole story. You need to dig a little deeper, maybe talk to a few more candidates to get at their true experience. We all know recruiting is expensive but the wrong hire is even more so. It’s important to get it right the first time, so take your time. Talk to the candidates. Find out about them. Repeating myself, but take your time to make the right decision. You will not regret talking to one or two more people.

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