Skip to main content

Overblown Recruitment Titles

By July 15, 20103 Comments

What does your job title really mean?  Is it part of a corporate pre-determined hierarchy structure, or did you just make your title up to fit what it is you feel you do?  As you scale the ladder in the recruitment industry, each new position comes with subtly different responsibilities and expectations, but the title changes can be dramatic.

How important is your title to you and what do all of the different titles in the recruitment industry actually mean you are supposed to be doing?  Does your title really reflect what you do or was it given to you as a tactical retention strategy?  “Stay here with us as an Associate Director rather than going to them as a Team Leader – even though you’ll be doing the same job”.

I came across this article via Phillip Tusing on Twitter.  Apart from the photo of the fabulously titled Vinton Cerf of Google (Chief Internet Evangelist) it really got me thinking about the range of titles in recruitment.  I get hundreds of recruitment CVs every month and I have to say that, whilst the range of titles is impressive, they really are quite conservative and sober, and many times are not really reflective of what the candidate actually does anyway.  So why not have a bit more fun with them?

I myself went from Hays where I was a Senior Consultant, an immovable title predetermined by my years of recruitment experience and salary bracket, into a boutique firm Hughes Recruitment, where I was given the title Branch Manager.  But being a boutique, I was able to call myself what I wanted.  I thought Branch Manager made me sound like a banker (and no I’m not using that word as a euphemism for something else).  As I was also recruiting for the Wellington and Christchurch markets, and not just Auckland, I decided I would be “New Zealand Manager”.  This is all well and good but hardly really describes what I actually did there.  I wasn’t even managing any staff apart for during a period of late 08 to early 09 (sorry Chris I hope you have sufficiently recovered from that experience).

I then had a stint with Beyond as a Client Manager, which for them is a Recruitment Consultant, which was even more confusing as people didn’t even know I was in recruitment anymore.

I have another client who calls Candidate Managers Recruitment Consultants and Recruitment Consultants Account Managers.

So amidst all of this confusion for clients, candidates, and for recruitment companies themselves, I thought I would write down a list of the different recruitment industry job titles with what I personally would attribute as job responsibilities to that title.  Whether it actually matters one jot is up for discussion.  As Juliet told Romeo:

“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”


So what Juliet is actually saying is it isn’t the size of the title that matters, it’s what you do with it that counts, to your clients and candidates.

So here goes:

Candidate Manager

Provides a support role to the recruiters in the areas of attracting candidates, screening CVs and possibly interviewing them before handing over to recruiters.  Most heavily used to support Temps and Contractors recruiters in organizing contracts, satisfying OSH requirements and employment legislation, and keeping in touch with candidates to check availability to start new contracts or temp roles, or extending existing roles.

AKA: Resourcer, Researcher, Recruitment Co-Ordinator

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

Those starry eyed new entrants to our world of cut and thrust recruitment, possibly coming in with a few years B2B sales experience or stepping up from a Candidate Manager position.  Typical periods of time in this position range from the 3-month probationary period to the full one year of shadowing seniors, attending joint client visits, sharing clients, and formalized classroom-based training in recruitment methodology, ad-writing, overcoming rejections, behavioural interviewing skills, negotiating etc etc.

AKA: Associate Consultant, Para Consultant, Junior Consultant

Recruitment Consultant

Ahh, the foot soldiers of our industry, the infantry wearing out shoe leather pounding the city streets, the fee billing engine rooms of recruitment.  Handling the full cycle of end-to-end recruitment, winning business, sourcing candidates, and delivering on clients’ needs.

AKA: Account Manager, Client Manager (heh), Recruitment Professional, Career Agent (I like that one – cap doffed to 920)

Senior Recruitment Consultant

Typically a recruiter who has at least 3 years continuous recruitment experience, although sometimes the “Senior” medal is pinned to the chests of the humble recruitment consultant earlier than this to make them feel more important (hey it worked for me).  Another difference with this title is usually the weight of expectation with revenue earning productivity and possibly also looking after more key accounts.

AKA: Putting ‘Senior’ in front of any of the others above

Principal Consultant

This is the title for those battle hardened recruitment commandos who have carved out a big-billing ($500k+) track record but successfully avoided the distractions of man management and training new recruits, so they can concentrate on yet more billings.  Not so interested in company performance, staff retention or growth, they will take on, and place, $200k+ level roles, work crippling hours, and handle some of the firm’s most key client relationships.

AKA: Lead Consultant, Consulting Partner

Business Development Manager

Often not managing any actual staff, this role sees the real recruitment hunters working on behalf of a group of delivery-focused recruiters in going out and securing business (jobs to fill) from clients.  This concentrates purely on the sales aspect of the recruitment cycle and does not require dealing with any candidates whatsoever.  Often the work would entail key account management with existing clients, schmoozing PSA clients, preparing tenders and presenting bids, and also prospecting new leads and cold calls.  This is clearly the area of recruitment where the highest levels of creativity have so far been used in title creation…

AKA: Client Relationship Manager, Client Solutions Manager, Account Director, Partnership Manager, Strategic Account Manager

National Sales Manager

Similar to the BDM above but often working on winning large, national, multi-site supplier agreements and handling key accounts at the most senior levels.

Managing Consultant

A title created for a high-billing recruiter whose company has decided they would like them to start managing some staff to see if some of their top level recruitment skills can rub off on their new protégés, whilst continuing to recruit and bill at the same levels (it often doesn’t work).  I have given myself this title on Linked In for some reason, although remain steadfast title-less on my business cards (I mean come on, it says Rice Consulting and then Jonathan Rice, says it all really doesn’t it?)

Team Leader

So at last, the balance of responsibilities tends to tip more towards team management and staff development, with personal fee-billing expectations still expected but not as onerous as they once were.  Now it is more about how much your team is billing each month rather than just you.

AKA: Section Manager, Team Manager

Divisional Manager

Almost pure staff management now, with perhaps the odd senior level role or particular search assignment thrown in to keep you on your toes (and often to prove to your staff that you can still recruit).

AKA: Business Manager, Branch Manager, Recruitment Manager


Associate Director

Managing recruitment managers, usually on a national or state-wide basis.  Often owning some equity or shares in the company, with pay tied in to EBITDA or profit share rather than necessarily recruitment commission.  Sometimes still comes with some recruitment responsibilities too, depending on the size of the business.

AKA: Regional Director, Executive Manager

General Manager

Managing a business on a national or regional basis with responsibility not just for the recruitment business and staff, but also the operations, HR, accounts and legal sides too.

AKA: Chief Operating Officer, Country Manager


Managing the entire company on an international basis.


Hopefully this is the most self-explanatory of all!  Often this is the company Founder who started it all from scratch, either alone, or with others.

AKA: Director, Managing Director, Partner

I looked through my Linked In contacts and there aren’t many deviations from these titles in there.  We’re a pretty conservative bunch aren’t we?  In fact the one area showing the most emerging levels of creativity is with out friends in internal recruitment, with some pearlers like Talent Acquisition Consultant, Resourcing Executive, Sourcing Channel Manager, and my favourite…Talent Scout.

So come on everyone, let me know your thoughts on my list.  Is it fair and accurate?  Give me some suggestions for how we can jazz things up a bit….Recruitment Ninja….Account Lord…..Matching Alchemist…..?

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • I have seen a few internal recruiter LinkedIn profiles with position titles as follows;

    – Talent Awareness Officer
    – Chief Talent Intelligence Officer
    – Talent Evangelist

    All American (of course).

  • Jim Wilkes says:

    Hi Jon
    Great article. I would add I think titles are a response to a very congested and competitive market i.e. inventing “titles” is an attempt to differentiate, to show clients and potential clients how different you and/or your business is and how important you are. The problem I think is the traffic is pretty heavy and it’s all heading the same way. To the top of the curve. So does changing a title do anything……nup. I don’t think so. People are pretty savvy out there and they see through a nice glossy title pretty quick. Maybe the key is as simple today as it always was. Just deliver !

  • Øyvind Ihle says:

    Came across this thread while research a better title for a Sales Manager for our boutique consultancy. We titled our HR guy “Talent Lead”, which works well for us. Our business is strategy consulting, and his role is talent sourcing as well as people development,  compensation and anything HR related. This title may or may not work for the Recruitment industry. I quite like Talent Scout. In the same vein, how about “Talent Sourcing Lead”?

    We want our people in general to assume leadership rather than just manage tasks or people, which is why we use “Lead” in most of our senior titles.

    In general, I do think titles are important. They should communicate what you do, and preferably your level of seniority. Title status is important to (some) clients, to make them confident theyare dealing with someone worthwile their attention).