The Problem with Job Titles

The artefacts traditionally used to describe work - CV’s/Resumes, job descriptions and job adverts - are text based documents which need to be read and interpreted before they can be understood.

It’s hard work that we often get wrong.

In this blog post, we are going to examine a common aspect of these documents - the Job Title. We all have them, but what do they mean exactly? More importantly, how much shared understanding do we have over the same words?

But before we dive in, a quick overview on what Workshape is.

1. How do you want to spend your time?

We think the answer to this question is the most important thing to know when matching people to opportunity. Your Workshape is a visual description of your answer, a radar plot based on time distributed across tasks. This is how it works


Unlike CV’s / Resumes or other types of profile, Workshapes are quantifiable, comparable and universal. There is no ambiguity over what words mean, because we’re not using words to power it. We're using a chart which represents a time signature of the work you want to do. Literally (ahem!) the shape of your work.

Now for the experiment. What do ‘Software Engineers’ look like on Workshape? Do the same words, produce the same shapes?

2. Data set: Software Engineer

For this experiment, we did not consider location, tech stack or level of seniority. We grouped Workshapes together solely by the job titles people used to describe themselves. All of the data is primary data pulled from our DB. No extrapolation from secondary data has been used. And all of the shapes you see in this blog post were created by real people after signing up on

The whole data set is available for viewing here

3. Same Words, Different Shapes


We can see from the above image that users who self identified as 'Software Engineers' produced a high degree of variance in their Workshapes. Remember that we are asking the same question, to ostensibly the same population. And it seems that Software Engineers want to spend their time doing very different things.

Some see their role as focus on back-end engineering.


Others seem to see it as equally distributed across all software engineering tasks

And yet others see it as focusing on other things

4. What does this mean?

What we can say is it is difficult to spot any kind of overarching pattern between the job title and the shapes produced. It's hugely variable. When it comes to talent discovery and optimisation, the implications of this is clear: job titles don’t tell you much about what a person wants to do. And when recruiters use job titles as their primary search term this leads to the false positives that produce a lot of the noise in recruitment.

This is the reason why we are building We want describe work in a new way. Instead of text, we think about work in terms of time distributed over tasks. And we want to display it in a way that doesn't require interpretation but can be unambiguously understood.


I hope you enjoyed this post. We had a blast putting it together. If you like it, let us know and we’ll keep reporting back to you on what we’re finding from If you have requests, or suggestions on how we could improve then please let us know! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter. And, if you’re a Software Engineer, sign in and show us how you want to spend your time.