‘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.

Our research at CEB, now Gartner, has also found that employers have been making an effort in recent years to reduce the number of job titles in their org charts, in order to create consistent titling across the organization and increase the clarity of employees’ jobs and career opportunities.

Dishman also talks to Kieran Snyder, cofounder and CEO of AI startup Textio, who adds that women, minorities, and candidates over 40 are less likely to apply for jobs with titles like “ninja,” suggesting that not only are these titles driving away high-quality talent, they are also detrimental to diversity and inclusion. “These examples are coded to select for white men,” she tells Dishman. As we’ve seen before, word choices in job listings and recruiter emails can have a huge impact on who applies, with insider jargon and other “coded” terms often discouraging diverse candidates from applying.