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Choosing the Right Job Title Vital for NFP Recruitment

16 November 2017 at 5:04 pm
Luke Michael
Choosing the right job title is “very important” for not-for-profit organisations to attract the right candidates to a position, according to a leading not-for-profit recruitment agency.

Luke Michael | 16 November 2017 at 5:04 pm


Choosing the Right Job Title Vital for NFP Recruitment
16 November 2017 at 5:04 pm

Choosing the right job title is “very important” for not-for-profit organisations to attract the right candidates to a position, according to a leading not-for-profit recruitment agency.

Job titles – especially for small not-for-profit (NFP) organisations – can be difficult to choose when a person’s role encompasses a range of different duties.

But Louise Furlong, a senior consultant for NFP recruitment specialist NGO Recruitment, said it was vital that NFPs thought carefully about choosing a job title.

“The right title will get the right people faster. There will always be people that are attracted to a glamorous title, however those people aren’t necessarily the right people for the job. But the job title remains very important,” Furlong told Pro Bono News.

Clare Stuart is the general manager at Tuberous Sclerosis Australia (TSA), a small NFP offering access and support to people affected by the rare disease.

TSA currently only has two staff members, and Stuart told Pro Bono News that her organisation had struggled with selecting the right job titles.

“We’re pretty small. After six years [at TSA] I transitioned from being a volunteer to being our first employee – in response to some grant funding,” Stuart said.

“My first title was project officer, but since I was managing projects that seemed a bit redundant. That title was changed to project manager, but then I still had people calling me and asking to ‘speak to the boss’, even though there isn’t a boss and I report straight to our management committee.

“So we became a bit more ambitious and the committee invited me to take on some more responsibility. To ensure people knew I had authority we settled on general manager. That also ensured people knew I was someone who got things done, and wasn’t some overpaid CEO.”

When advertising for a second staff member, TSA originally listed the position as a “manager” role, but Stuart said they had people applying who wanted to manage a whole team.

Because TSA felt it was attracting the wrong kind of candidate, it changed the title to “coordinator”, as a better reflection of the range of tasks the role required.

“The person we found was really great, but she felt with her background that the word coordinator suggested it was a junior [role],” Stuart said.

“So we ended up deciding that there wasn’t a magical term, and we promoted her to be our fundraising and communications lead.

“We want someone who can do a [broad range] of things that get combined into a role, and that makes it hard to pick a job title.”

Stuart said she believed a job title was important to attracting prospective employees.

“I think everyone has different motivations at work and for some people it’s more important than others,” she said.

“For me, I want to make sure the job title doesn’t turn away people that would fit really well for the role.

“Since it’s the first thing that people usually see in a job advertisement, you want to make sure people don’t skip over it. I’d love to advertise a position without a job title and then have that discussion with the right person afterwards.”

Furlong’s advice is for NFPs to consider what a job actually entails, rather than what part of the organisation it is a part of, to make it clear what the role requires.

“Be clear about the type of level that it is and pitch it at that level. Also, be sure that the remuneration is going to be reflective of the level that you’re pitching it at,” she said.

“Consider what the job actually is, and call it that. For instance, just because a person will be part of a fundraising team, doesn’t make it a fundraising position.

“It could actually be a marketing or internal communications positions within a fundraising team. And you won’t get the people with that type of experience if you’re advertising it as a fundraising position.”

She said NFPs should resist the temptation to use a higher level title to attract a higher calibre candidate.

“You don’t want to mislead candidates. You also run the risk of wasting time on applications from people who won’t end up taking the job,” Furlong said.

“You need to consider things like the likely longevity of the person remaining in the role, and there’s also no point using a high level title if you can’t pay the appropriate salary for that level.”

Overall, Furlong said a job title needed to attract applicants’ interest, which cannot just be left to a well-written job description.  

“If the job title doesn’t appeal, then people often won’t read further into the content of the job description,” she said.

“Having said that, there’s only so much you can say in a job title, but that’s why it’s important to choose a job title that makes the right impact from the onset.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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