What’s in a name? When it comes to accounting and finance titles, quite a lot.
Young professionals seek jobs that offer a range of responsibilities and opportunities for growth, and they use titles to determine whether an opening offers those benefits.
Use A Generalized Title That Indicates Variety
A generalized title signals flexibility and variety, while listings such as “financial reporting analyst” or “technical accounting analyst” suggest rigid positions with little room for exploration.
Most candidates don’t want to work in siloed positions with few chances of diversifying their skills. In fact, they shy away from openings that have these clear-cut titles. We recently worked with two startups that illustrated this dynamic perfectly.
Both clients were high-growth, high-profile Bay Area companies. One needed a technical accounting manager to manage its revenue guidance and stock compensation programs. It was a very specific position, and the hiring managers were uncomfortable listing it as anything other than “technical accounting manager”.
Although the company was well-respected, the candidate pool proved small. Many were turned off by the siloed nature of the job. As a result, the startup spent several months trying to find the right hire.
The second company needed to fulfill the same functions as the first. But it structured the position to include both technical responsibilities and general ledger accounting. The hiring managers titled the position “assistant controller”, which sounds more appealing than “technical accounting manager”.
The second startup attracted five times the number of candidates as the first, and it filled the position within a month. There’s no doubt the generalized title and diverse responsibilities influenced that outcome.
Don’t Wait and Don’t Overinflate
Selecting the right job title impacts your organization in two ways. The first is that it determines the quality of candidates you attract. The second is that it affects how long it will take to fill the seat.
In the same way that people are reluctant to buy houses that have been on the market for several months, they shy away from jobs that remain open too long. They assume the positions are for stale, dead-end jobs, and they move on to fresher opportunities. This draws out the hiring process even more, and it lessens the chance of recruiting great people.
The best job titles indicate engaging positions with potential for growth. They’re also realistic. If your company does only $5 million a year in revenue, you’re not doing candidates a favor by offering them the title of CFO (especially when they have limited experience). They’ll struggle to find another CFO position when they leave your company, and they may have to accept a lower-ranking position. Just because they held the title at a small company doesn’t mean they’ll be able to serve in that role at a bigger organization.
Be honest when writing job descriptions. Choose titles that are commensurate with the position and with your company’s size. “CFO” or “chief accounting officer” is appropriate if your business is public or close to going public, while “head of finance” is more suitable for small startups.
Crafting great job titles may seem like a minor detail when recruiting talent, but it’s an effective way to grab the attention of the people you most want to attract. Before posting your next opening, think through the titles you’ve chosen and how they reflect on your company.