Is it our attempt to make even the most boring job roles sound exciting or our drive for continuous innovation and the need to think outside the box that we are creating weird and wacky job titles for our employees? Or perhaps it has been the emergence of our Gen Y’s and Gen Z’ers, where individuality is highly sought, that a need to venture left of centre is becoming the cultural norm?

Self-explanatory job titles are comfortable. Acceptable. Expected. They don’t confuse. They don’t mislead. They are transparent. So does this mean that the job title, Director of First Impressions, aka Receptionist, should be abandoned because it is too obscure? Personally I think this is a really clever and intuitive title for the person that really is the first face one sees when they walk through an office entrance. But what if the job title, while quirky, was less obvious?

We have seen the ninja’s, the wizards, the lords, the viceroys and even the jedi’s and vigilantes, but would you automatically associate a Chief Cheerleader with a CEO role? Peculiar job titles can add a sense of fun to a job title, however unless it communicates a company’s culture it is likely to create confusion among job seekers and see genuine candidates failing to apply for the vacant role.

Let’s think about this for a moment. You’re a qualified accountant seeking a challenging new role. Does your key word search include Bean Counter, Counting Consultant or Penny Processor? Unlikely. If you’re a hiring manager, how many quality candidates can you expect to attract if your job posting attests to the zany job title? Considerably less than say a job listing that sought a Senior Accountant, or a Financial Accountant, or even a Senior Financial Accountant. Lol. The job titles don’t get too exciting in the world of taxation and finance reporting, so why post an accounting position with an unconventional title? Unless you’re Google, you wouldn’t even dream of it. It is more effective to use terms job seekers will search when looking for a new position. Roles that match skills and experience will have the highest rate of return. Job titles that incorporate Rockstar and Prophet will alienate the vast majority of job seekers.

There are industries that lend themselves to the weird and wonderful and the tech world is guilty of being a key driver of the eccentric position title. Yet why did someone even venture down this path in the first instance? Well, a job title provides an employee with their identity within their organisation’s hierarchy. A job title may not only allow an employee to aspire to greater heights, but it provides an indication of their responsibility and value they have to their organisation. Likewise if you don’t entitle a position well, you can have the effect of undervaluing the role, thus fail to attract the right candidate. Let’s ponder for a moment, what would be the impact if you allowed your employees to choose their own job title? The results of a study published in 2014 in the Academy of Management Journal found that employees were less stressed and burned out when they were allowed to select their own job titles. The research found that self-reflective titles broke down barriers within companies and allowed employees to better express themselves. Perhaps what we should be doing is relying on generic position descriptions when looking to attract elite candidates and later allowing the successful candidate to define their own job title. Provided they don’t overinflate their value, this could be a productive exercise. Food for thought.

A laid back company culture does lend itself to the less conventional position title, but without the right cultural framework, engaging progressive and unusual job titles can negatively affect the number and quality of candidates your job posting attracts. In general job seekers look to match key job seeking words with their skills and experience. Guru’s and Geniuses are not realistic title descriptions, thus can confuse and prevent a job seeker from applying for a role with your company. With the core goal for every recruiter to find the best performing candidate available, why disenchant job seekers with incomprehensible job titles?  My advice, don’t sacrifice a conservative approach for pretentiousness. There is still prestige to be found within the traditional job title.

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