Research Shows Tech Companies Using Title Inflation During Tight Labor Market
Job description software company Datapeople’s research into real-world job postings has revealed a recent hiring trend regarding job titles. During competitive job markets, tech companies are using title inflation in an attempt to attract more candidates. According to Datapeople, this can diminish the quality of their applicant pools.
Title inflation is the practice of leveling up a job title without leveling up the associated responsibilities and requirements along with it. For instance, adding ‘Senior’ to a ‘Software Engineer’ job that only has mid-level or junior requirements. It’s often a well-meaning attempt to add value to a job so it can attract a larger applicant pool, according to Datapeople.
“Title inflation can deter potential candidates, though,” says Datapeople spokesperson Charlie Smith. “Job titles that don’t quite match the requirements can intimidate or confuse job seekers. By inflating titles, hiring teams may actually deter qualified job seekers while attracting unqualified applicants.”
Datapeople has been collecting and analyzing real-world job postings and hiring outcomes since 2015. In a recent analysis of job postings from over 10,000 employers, the company found that applicant pools for tech jobs have gotten significantly smaller in the last couple years. They attracted around 120 applicants in 2019 but only 77 in 2021.
In response, hiring teams have turned to title inflation. According to Datapeople, a quarter of the tech jobs considered junior in 2019 now carry senior titles. Also, twice as many junior tech jobs today include the word ‘Lead,’ and 20 percent more mid-level tech jobs include the word ‘Senior.’
Yet adding the word ‘Senior’ to a job title can have adverse effects, as Datapeople discovered in a separate study of financial analyst titles. The company found that jobs with ‘Senior’ in the title attract on average 29 percent fewer applicants, 39 percent fewer qualified applicants, and 27 percent fewer female applicants.
The trend seems to go primarily in the direction of a senior title with junior- or mid-level requirements, but it can go the other way too. According to Datapeople, if the requirements and responsibilities seem senior but the title is junior, that can also deter an otherwise qualified job seeker.
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