‘Weird’ Job Titles May Drive Away Top Candidates

‘Weird’ Job Titles May Drive Away Top Candidates

“Digital solutions ninja” may sound like a more exciting job than “tech support,” but do quirky job titles like these attract or repel candidates? Fast Company’s Lydia Dishman highlights some research that suggests the latter:

According to jobs platform Indeed, the top five are genius, guru, rockstar, wizard, and ninja. The winning titles were identified as the most common “weird job titles” as calculated by the share of postings containing them over the last two years. Rockstar, in particular, has grown in frequency by 19%, followed closely by guru, although the latter has lost some steam as it’s declined by 21%. Ninja itself is experiencing a slow assassination, declining by 35% since its peak in March 2017. But does the quirkiness really result in surfacing qualified candidates?

Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of HR at Indeed, thinks they just serve to confuse people. “When you do your [job] search,” he contends, “you’re not going to put ninja” in the search box. “Companies use these to express what their culture is like,” Wolfe concedes, “but there are other ways to get that point out.” Career pages on a website that contain videos, photos, and other descriptions of what it’s like to work at the company are a better vehicle than a cutesy title.

A 2016 survey by Spherion came to a similar conclusion about these too-clever-by-half job titles, finding that many employees consider them unprofessional and not descriptive of what they actually do. Even more ordinary titles like “specialist” or “project manager” are often seen as too generic.

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What’s in a Job Title?

What’s in a Job Title?

A recent survey commissioned by the staffing firm Spherion looks at how employees feel about their job titles. One quarter of employees, the survey found, “consider non-traditional job titles unprofessional and are against the idea of having one,” while 23 percent also said these types of titles don’t accurately describe their roles:

Although not every company may have a “Chief Happiness Officer” on the payroll, Spherion found that creatively-named roles are merely a small part of employees’ overall professional title dissatisfaction. Nearly half (42 percent) of today’s workers feel their job title does not accurately reflect their true roles and responsibilities. However, even employees in favor of more traditional titles believe they could use improvement, as 14 percent consider monikers such as “Project Manager” or “Specialist” too generic.

“Employees take great pride in their job titles, and in some cases, a title that is considered limiting or hard to describe can significantly impact their job satisfaction,” said Sandy Mazur, Spherion Division President. “As businesses face greater pressure to retain and recruit top workers, reexamining how different titles are perceived and applied can make a big difference in building morale and positioning a company as a favorable place to work.”

Job titling is an area of frustration from the employer perspective too. At CEB, we asked HR leaders last year if they were planning to reduce the number of job titles in their organizations. About two-thirds of HR leaders reported that they had done so, or would consider doing so. Their goals were to create consistent titling nomenclature across the organization, increase clarity of career opportunities for employees, emphasize titles that provide clarity and impact in external markets, reduce the gap between junior- and senior-level employees (in other words, flatten organizational hierarchy), and reduce overspecialization of roles and responsibilities. On the flip side, only 2 percent of organizations were letting employee choose their own job titles (though another 17 percent said they might consider it).

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