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  • Writer's pictureAllen Bastow

Product job titles and what they mean

When it comes to job titles, Chief, Head of, Director, Lead, VP, what’s the difference?

I’ve spoken to Chief Product Officers who’ve been responsible for three people, and Product Leads who are accountable for over 100 people.

There’s a lot of opinions out there around job titles, particularly in the start up world. Job title levelling and the frameworks around it often come after product market fit has been found and the business is already in a high growth phase. Over the years, the delta in opinions means that we’ve seen candidates miss out on great opportunities because the title wasn’t what they wanted. Equally we’ve seen hiring managers say no to great talent as they’ve over looked the experience because the candidate is “too senior” or “not senior enough”.

Advice to hiring managers;

  • Job titles mean different things in different companies.

  • Look beyond the title and accept some candidates might have a “vanity title”.

  • Candidates want their profile to demonstrate career progression. If you have, or are building an internal levelling framework that does not have trendy job titles, make your framework public. Candidates want to know the responsibilities at different levels and ensure they are correctly benchmarked.

Advice to candidates:

  • Before you send your CV, do a little research on the team and see what titles they use internally. If you can work out where you’d sit in the hierarchy, make a note against your job title so that it matches.

  • The opportunity could outweigh the title, sometimes you might have to swallow your pride for the right role.

  • If the title on your CV is not reflective of your work, make sure the content counteracts it. Similar to impact metrics on the CV, a common thing missing from leadership CVs is how the team grew around you. e.g. I came in as first product hire and scaled the team to 3 PMs, 2 designers and 1 data analyst.

Thoughts and opinions welcome.


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