When Job Titles Make Today’s HR Look Like a ’70s Personnel Dept.

You know what position I would love to apply for!? Junior Human Resource Manager, said no one ever!

I hate spending three seconds on job titles because job titles scream, “Personnel Department,” but I have to just take a few minutes to help out some of my HR brothers and sisters.

Recently, I came across a classic job title mistake when someone had posted an opening and then broadcasted it out to the world for a — wait for it — “Jr. Industrial Engineer.” When I saw it, I almost cried.

Who wants to a “Jr. Industrial Engineer?”

Really! No, Really! “Junior!” You actually took time, typed out the actual title, and then thought to yourself, “Oh yeah! There’s an Industrial Engineer out there just waiting to become a ‘Jr. Industrial Engineer’! ” Don’t tell me you didn’t, because that’s exactly what it says.

But Tim, you don’t understand! We’ve always called our less experienced Industrial Engineers, Junior, so we can differentiate them from our ‘Industrial Engineers’ and our ‘Sr. Industrial Engineers’. What do you want us to do, call them: Industrial Engineer I, Industrial Engineer II and Industrial Engineer III?

No, I don’t want you to do that either.

Here’s what I want you to do: I want you to title this position as “Lesser Paid Industrial Engineer.” You’ll get the same quality of responses!

You know how to solve this (but you won’t): Just have one pay band for “Industrial Engineer,” from $38K to $100K. Pay the individuals within that band appropriately for their years of experience and education.

This is why you won’t do it: Your ‘Senior’ Compensation Manager knows you aren’t capable of handling this level of responsibility, and within 24 months, your entire Industrial Engineering staff would all be making $100K – Juniors, Middles and Seniors!

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A throwback to a ’70s Personnel Department

Please don’t make me explain how idiotic it looks when you list out your little number system on your post as well (Accountant I, Accountant II, etc.), because you know there just might be an Accountant out there going, “Some day, I just might be an Accountant II!”

If SHRM actually did anything, I wish they would just go around to HR Pros who do this crap and visit their workplace and personally cut up their PHR or SPHR certificates in half, in front of them, like a maxed out credit card that gets flagged in the checkout line. That would be awesome!

All this does is make it look like you took a time machine in from a 1970’s Personnel Department.

But seriously, if you know of any Senior Associate HR Manager III positions, please let me know.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


2 Comments on “When Job Titles Make Today’s HR Look Like a ’70s Personnel Dept.

  1. Pretty vitriolic, isn’t it? Remember the “honey and vinegar” adage. By the way, if you’re going to call HR people stupid, you should know that the plural of junior, middle and senior has no apostrophe; you lose a little credibility when your scathing opinion piece has misspellings in it. Seriously, suggesting certified HR professionals have their certification torn up is over the top. This is not that big a deal. BTW, I recently did post for a “Junior” technical position, and received over 100 applications, at least a dozen of which were good enough to consider, and hired a very good recent college grad, which was exactly the sort of candidate we were seeking. Employees want career ladders; the more experienced ones chafe at having the same title as the newbies; and the newbies want to see a career path. Our employees are much happier with their career prospects simply because of our adding levels of Engineer or CSR or Accountant. They know where they can go and they know what they need to do to get there, at least as far as differences in the requirements and duties of the jobs at each level. You make valid points, but they get lost in the hyperventilation and insults.

  2. Martha B, while you make excellent points, not all companies use these titles as “career ladders.” Some use them just as described in the article (overlooking the misspellings). My company is one of them. The “promotions” are given to favorites simply as a way to give bigger pay raises at review time, not for any kind of additional duties, knowledge, or experience. Why, our HR VP went so far as to change the payroll specialist to “HR Representative I – Payroll” when he was hired – won’t that look great on a resume?

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