Job titles change all the time. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 1920 Census identified dairy farmers, farmers, stock raisers and laborers as the top occupations. Those were closely followed by clerks, retail dealers, servants, salespeople, machinists, millwrights, and toolmakers and carpenters.
That’s not an unsurprising list given the year, and by 1950, the picture had changed again. Milkmen, secretaries, gas station attendants, bus drivers and plumbers were the jobs that were climbing in popularity.
Since the rise of the tech industry, many jobs have fallen away entirely as the improved productivity and efficiency delivered by technological advances have made roles redundant.
On the flip side, entirely new sectors and job titles have also been created. For example, consider that before about 2008, there were no social media managers, directors or consultants.
And our time to achieve what sounds like a high-ranking role has diminished too. Whereas previously you may have spent a significant amount of your working life aiming toward a senior job title, these days, thanks to the competition for tech talent, getting a senior-sounding job title isn’t as difficult as it once was.
The rise of title inflation
Additionally, you may not even have or need the requisite experience either. It’s a phenomenon that’s being called “job title inflation,” with a 38% increase in senior-sounding job titles given to those with less experience in the past year, according to research from Datapeople.
Because 54% of Gen Zs expect an annual promotion, this practice represents a good way for employers to keep staff happy –– while crucially saving on salaries –– because inflated titles often come with no additional salary bump.
For example, in 2022, EY appointed over 1,000 new partners, but crucially these hires won’t have access to the traditional share of equity that comes with the title. Plus, positions featuring ‘Lead,’ ‘Vice President’ or ‘Manager’ in the job title (with a maximum of two years’ experience) were up more than a third over the last year.
There are other reasons why the practice is proliferating. It is a way to keep up with the competition, which is also offering inflated titles, and can also be a godsend for startups as it can help to attract talented workers away from bigger companies where titles may be more tied to actual performance.
But job title inflation can also have the opposite effect. “More often than not, title inflation has a detrimental impact on candidate pools,” says Datapeople.
“Seemingly inflated titles that don’t fit the requirements can intimidate or confuse otherwise qualified candidates — or prevent them from finding jobs on search engines entirely. Subsequently, hiring teams may inadvertently attract unqualified applicants.”
So how can you identify an inflated job title? Take software engineering jobs as an example. It generally takes at least five to six years of experience in a relevant software engineering field to become a senior software engineer. So, if you’re spotting jobs that ask for two years’ of experience for a senior role, then you’ve hit the title inflation jackpot.
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