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HR Job Titles: what do they mean?

31 Jul 2019
Sarah Ferguson

HR Job Titles

We have found that ambiguity in HR job titles can easily lead to confusion around the level of the role being recruited or applied for. From Head of HR or Chief People Office to Chief Happiness Officer, employers have a variety of creative ways to title their HR.

When we talk to candidates looking for their next challenge in the HR world, we regularly receive feedback that HR professionals are applying to roles advertised at all levels as there is a lack of understanding about the specific level of the role from the job spec.

HR Job titles such as HR Assistant and HR Administrator or HR Adviser and HR Manager can often mean similar levels within various organisations but, equally, can mean something completely different depending on the business. I have found instances where an HR Manager in one business has the same responsibilities as a Head of HR in another – hence the confusion for applicants.

From our research and feedback, it seems a job title can be dependent on the size of the organisation, the industry sector, and whether the role is stand-alone or part of a wider team. Other factors, such as whether the wider HR team is based in the same office or in other UK/overseas locations can play a part in determining the level the position sits at.

Candidate Advice

How will a candidate know if a job is the right level for them to apply to?

  • Firstly, if the role is advertised via a recruitment firm, we always encourage people to pick up the telephone. We are always happy to chat to prospective candidates and usually can answer any questions. A recruiter should be able to provide candidates with more information on the specific level the role is positioned at and the wider responsibilities with an indication of the salary.
  • If the role is directly advertised by an organisation, candidates may have to do a little digging. LinkedIn is a great platform for researching prospective employers and their various teams. A company’s LinkedIn presence will provide an idea of the size of the HR team and from there, can extrapolate where the new role may sit.

Support For Employers

How can you make your job spec and job title clearer and attract the right kind of candidate?

  • Provide as much information as you can about the structure of the team and how the role fits into it.
  • Will the role be stand-alone or part of a wider HR team/function?
  • Who will the role be reporting into? Providing details of the structure can help attract the right calibre of candidate.
  • Does the role require a specialism? i.e. compensation and benefits, culture change etc.
  • Will the role have anyone reporting into them, or require any direct management experience?

For employers, ambiguity around job titles resulting in confusion around the level of a role can ultimately lead to a large volume of candidates applying, but not necessarily at the right level. By providing detailed information in the first instance, a lot of time can be saved when it comes to the screening process. This way you can continue using creative job titles to reflect the personality of your company, but without any negative effects.

What has the HR community experienced with job titles, from a candidate or employer perspective? We are always interested in your feedback and can offer support with resource planning, job descriptions and of course your recruitment needs - just get in touch.


Sarah Ferguson
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