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Why Employers are Inflating Job Titles

Job title inflation – say hello to our entry-level Head of?

  • +48% increase in senior-sounding job titles in the past year in the US
  • 52% of Gen Z’s expect annual promotion
  • 47% of young workers do not see managing someone else as an indicator of seniority
  • 39% of Gen Z’s believe their ‘ideas’ is their strongest asset
  • Over a quarter of employers believe young workers are more ‘entrepreneurial’ than previous generations
  • 72% of employers claim Gen Z lack critical soft skills


Whether its Gen Z professionals wanting to fast-track progression, or cash-strapped employers trying to save on money but keep staff engaged; job-title inflation – the process of giving employees a more important-sounding job title - has caused an influx of new, more senior sounding job titles to enter the market without the experience, skills or salaries to match.

Positions featuring ‘Lead’, ‘Vice President’ or ‘Manager’ in the job title, with a maximum of 2 years’ experience were up a combined +48% in the US, over the last year.

However, according to Data People, job listings that use the title of ‘Senior’ incorrectly can see a -39% decrease in applicants.

In 2022 accounting firm EY appointed over 1,000 new partners, however the latest cohort will not have access to the traditional share of equity that comes with the title – bringing to question what relevance the title holds today.

Adam Woolley – Associate Director Robert Walters comments: “In the past, titles such as Lead, Principal, Partner, and VP were earned through years of dedicated experience and effort. However, there is a noticeable shift occurring where individuals are now acquiring these titles even in the early stages of their careers.”

"Employers need to recognize that the balance swings in both directions. Associating senior titles with junior positions can have a double-edged effect. It can pique the interest of potential candidates, but it can also make them feel inadequately qualified to apply.”

Are Gen-Z's asking for too much, too fast?

According to a poll by staffing firm Robert Walters, over half of Gen Z's expect to be promoted every 12-18 months – and if they don’t receive this they start looking elsewhere.

Adam adds: “Young workers are aware of how candidate short the market is – especially at entry level, where the backlog created by the suspension of graduate schemes during the peak of the pandemic continues to linger.”

"As a result, these young professionals find themselves in a favorable position, holding the upper hand. If they don't receive the desired promotion or the coveted job title from their current employer, they are well aware that attractive alternatives can be found elsewhere."

Robert Walters’ recent study into ED&I in the workplace found that although Gen Z professionals receive promotions at the highest rate of any age group – they are most likely to earn up to $21k and least likely to earn beyond $100k. While employers may offer more appealing job titles - they aren’t necessarily aligning them with matching compensation.

Are Gen Z’s worthy of the title?

When asking Gen Z’s what qualities they feel they bring to the table; 39% stated that their ideas and creative thinking was their best asset, followed by a third claiming digital knowhow, and a quarter stating that they aren’t afraid to stand-up for what they feel is right and push the company forward in a different direction.

Managers on the other hand stated that what Gen Z lack in experience, they make up for in perseverance (33%) and entrepreneurial mindset (26%) – with almost two thirds of employers expressing how impressed they are with the level of autonomy this generation can handle.

Adam adds: “Many Gen Z’s would have completed their education remotely, subsequently transitioning into the workforce, often adopting a hybrid approach to work. Embracing solo work and digital check-ins or updates, rather than face-to-face interactions, has become the standard for these young professionals – so it comes as no surprise that they can thrive in this environment.”

The drawback to this is that social skills have taken a hit. An overwhelming 73% of hiring managers state that soft skills such as communication, relationship management, rapport building, and collaborative working are all lacking in this generation.”

Gen Z’s dictating their path

In a stark comparison to previous generations, Gen Z’s do not see the opportunity to manage a team as a sign of seniority.

In fact – 47% of young workers stated that who they line into was a far better indicator of seniority and job importance vs who (or how many people) they manage.

Two thirds of Gen Z’s are attracted to a flat structure, with a third stating that they would like to line into a C-Suite equivalent e.g. Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Head of People, or CEO – by year five of their time at a company.

The recent Robert Walters study into workplace ED&I highlighted just how much Gen Z’s value active engagement with senior leaders. 80% more Gen Z’s than Boomers reported that a lack of relationship with management and decision-makers was a key challenge to them progressing in their career.

Adam comments: “The research indicates that the ability to drive high-level decisions is an important contribution to Gen Z’s feelings of worth to an organization. This is very different to previous generations, who had far more comfort in knowing that their specialism – such as finance or marketing – was part of an important cog in a bigger machine.”

The Rise of the Workfluencer

Unlike their older peers, Gen-Z’s no longer want to be a cog in a bigger machine – they want to be the machine.

Over half (53%) of young professionals, if given the option, would take a more senior role that they may not be ‘fully qualified for’ yet vs older counterparts – who value close mentorship & guidance from senior leaders as a more viable route to progression.

Adam comments: “What this points to is a clear prioritization of instant seniority, inflated job-titles and an entrepreneurial mindset over traditionally valued soft skills and interpersonal abilities. This could very well symbolize the tip of the iceberg in a growing trend of individuality in the workplace, of which young professionals are at the helm of.”

However, young professionals aren’t the sole drivers of inflated job titles – there are numerous reasons why employers may tactically attach inflated job titles to roles.

Adam uncovers the core drivers as to why businesses may inflate job titles:

  • Attraction & retention: Giving employees important-sounding titles instills a feeling of importance and value to the business - helping to boost morale and reduce turnover.
  • Keeping up with competition: Job title inflation has become so widespread that it is often seen to keep up with the competition. As companies try to compete in terms of perks and benefits, they may feel pressure to offer employees more impressive job titles.
  • Branding for start-ups: Firstly, a compelling job title can lure candidates away from well-known companies, for example Gen Z’s might prefer a 'Head of Data' role at a startup over a data analyst position at a large bank. Secondly, startups aim to appear as if they have top-tier talent, especially during funding rounds. Displaying an organization chart with multiple 'Heads of' is a great illusion to demonstrate experience.
  • Money Saving for Employers: Job-title inflation has been seen by some employers as an effective way of offering the promise of seniority without having to foot the bill.

Adam drills down into the drawbacks of job title inflation:

  • Careers at risk: Inflated job titles can lead to confusion, miscommunication, and inefficiencies, as young professionals may unwittingly take on roles they aren't qualified for, given the unclear responsibilities and expectations associated with vague titles.
  • Organizational chaos: It may also damage companies in the long run. Mixing managers or heads who don't manage teams can cause confusion and resentment among employees, leading to a sense of unfairness and inequality. This, in turn, risks burnout, lower morale, and higher turnover among young professionals.



For Media Enquires:

Laura O’Flynn

Marketing Manager

E: laura.oflynn@robertwalters.com

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