advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

This Is When It’s Worth Negotiating Your Job Title

When you get a job offer, more than just the salary is up for negotiation. Here’s how to decide whether you should ask for a new title, and what to say.

This Is When It’s Worth Negotiating Your Job Title
[Photo: Flickr user OSU Special Collections & Archives:Commons]

You know you can negotiate more than just your salary after landing a job offer: benefits, vacation time, flexible hours–it’s all on the table. But what about the job title itself?

advertisement
advertisement

Sometimes you’ll get to the end of a hiring process and find that the position’s scope and responsibilities exceed the actual title they fall under. That could mean an employer wants to pay you a bargain rate–or it could mean nothing at all. Even so, you can negotiate a job title under the right circumstances. Here’s when you might want to do so, and how to go about it.

When The Title Doesn’t Match The Responsibilities

According to Joseph Liu, a career consultant and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, negotiating a job title is all about context. On one hand, he points out, you want to “ensure the title is commensurate with the role’s responsibilities.” On the other, you may run “the risk of being perceived by your future employer as someone who’s more focused on the job title than the actual opportunity.”

Liu points out that you shouldn’t be applying to positions with lower-level titles than your current one in the first place. Considering a lateral move is one thing, but “in most cases,” he says, “assuming the job title was attractive enough for you to apply for the role, I’d recommend you avoid bringing up job titles unless the label is wildly out of line with the actual role.”

Minda Harts believes the question of whether to negotiate your job title doesn’t just hinge on the relationship between the title and the duties. It’s also about your career stage. Since a job title is “symbolic of the knowledge and background you bring to the job,” explains Harts, the founder of The Memo, LLC, a career-development platform for women of color, your title may matter more “when you are moving from entry to management; not so much for lateral moves.”

Titles Are Often Tied To Salary Levels

If you’re negotiating a job offer, it makes sense to take every aspect into consideration. While job title and compensation are likely to be related, Liu says that “this really depends on the company. Generally, in more established companies, job titles could indeed be a proxy for salary, but in earlier-stage companies, job titles may be a bit more arbitrary.”

Still, Harts continues, “A title change should be viewed as part of your compensation package. This is equally important as your salary and fringe benefits.” If you do convince a company to tweak your title, she says, “You might not receive additional compensation, but you could leverage a new job title to help position yourself for your next career move–which will help as your negotiate your next salary.”

advertisement

How To Make The Ask About The Value You’ll Bring

If you decide to make your case for a higher title, your success hinges on how much you can bring to the table. As Liu puts it, “Focus on the benefit to the company and additional contributions you could make” if you were to perform the same function under a higher-level title, “which would likely relate to your organizational influence, credibility both within and outside the organization, and willingness to take on additional responsibilities that come with that title boost.”

Harts agrees. It’s all about “convincing the hiring manager that having a title change benefits both parties and the company’s bottom line,” she explains, which requires “articulating how the title change equates to status in the industry and creates credibility among colleagues.” Just be careful not to overreach. Harts points out that generic-sounding titles may be easier to dial up than others. “For example, if you are [considering a job as] a business associate, you might suggest a senior business associate or analyst,” she says.

Finally, it may be wiser–as a general rule–to negotiate your job title if you don’t plan on negotiating your pay. “Asking for both a salary change and title change is not out of the question,” Liu acknowledges, “but can create some risk around you coming across as too particular out of the gates, which could have a negative impact on initial goodwill between you and your new employer.”

advertisement
advertisement

About the author

Rich Bellis was previously the Associate Editor of Fast Company's Leadership section.

More