Landing a Job in Tech: Do Job Titles Tell the Whole Story?

This is the fourth piece in our ongoing series, Landing a Job in Tech, fueled by Nitro’s own Talent Team.

Tech start-ups are famous for their quirky job nomenclature. Word Ninja, General Antagonist, and Overseer of Order are nestled onto job boards next to Customer Support Representative and VP, Product. Knowing what is expected of you, even if a job description accompanies a Master of the Universe title, can be perplexing.

To get to the bottom of what tech firms are looking for in potential employees (quirky title or not), I talked to Nitro’s Talent Team, Jennifer Trendler and Rachel Klarfeld.

I often hear that start-ups expect employees to “wear several hats.” Can you tell me what that truly means?

Rachel: Wearing several hats really is a fancy way of saying, “Genuinely agrees to tasks outside their job description.”  Start-ups need people who are capable of a lot of responsibility and are eager to have input on projects outside their job description.

Would it behoove job seekers to emphasize their ability to take on a lot of different roles?

Jennifer: Well, yes and no. In a smaller company, yes. But as a company scales upwards, we’re more interested in people with very specific skills. The ideal candidate has diverse past experiences but is also deeply knowledgeable in their area of expertise. As Nitro is growing, we’re now in the latter category, and will sometimes choose not to move forward with a candidate who wants to “wear several hats” instead of fully inhabit the role they are interviewing for. Enthusiasm is a plus, but being unfocused is not.

Rachel: That said, we look for people who can not only fill a specific role, but who will be able to take on more responsibility within their position and grow with us.

So, the trajectory of the company matters a lot, then?

Jennifer: Exactly. We want first to know you have the skills or experience for the role you are interviewing for, but don’t be shy about telling us how you can take it further, and how you have done that in the past.

Rachel: Also, it’s important to find the happy medium of not sounding too stuck to your role. Suggesting you’re of the “that’s not in my job description” or “that’s not my job title” ilk would certainly be a reason for recruiters to pass on you. Being flexible surrounding the work you do is key.

Clever or not, a job title alone may not give you much insight into what a company expects from you. Understanding why a company is hiring and how (are they scaling up, or are they still bootstrapped?) will help you know what to emphasize in your application, and what to expect when you’re on the job.

Next time on Landing a Job in Tech, we’ll take a look at what it’s like to work at a smaller start-up versus a rapidly expanding company like Nitro