Sales Ninja, Linux Geek, Marketing Rockstar. These are all real job titles being used in the business world today, and according to data from online business card printer Moo.com, these creative titles are on the rise.
You’ve probably seen some of these tongue-in-cheek titles at digital conferences or among savvy startup entrepreneurs. But is an imaginative title like Word Herder or Copy Cruncher a fit for you?
We spoke with a number of HR professionals and hiring managers to get their thoughts on out-of-the-box job titles, and in the end, it all came down to corporate culture and communicating a clear role at your organization. The list of pros were few and the cons were many. But that shouldn’t discourage those of you out there hoping to be known as the Head Honcho or the Website Weaver.
Read on for a look at the pros and cons of choosing an inventive job title, from the perspective of 12 hiring extraordinaires.
In our chats with recruiters, three main positives came up when dealing with imaginative job titles. For the most part, these pros were cosmetic, and the underlying feeling among all of our interviewees is that job applicants must be able to back up their creativity with a boat load of qualifying experience, just like every other candidate. So, could a wacky title help get you noticed? Maybe. Here are the top three pros for thinking outside of the box:
- Stand Out: “I believe there’s a real need to be creative and ‘stand out from the pack’ in today’s hiring climate. If handled correctly, the external message these kinds of titles and job descriptions sends will be meaningful to the entire broader audience interested in your company, signaling that your organization is different from the norm.”
– Ed Nathanson, Director of Talent Acquisition, Rapid7
- Strike Up a Conversation: “Having a unique title makes for fun, interesting conversation when networking and helps break the ice. As a hiring producer, I love creative titles — but they must be original. Trite never works in my book. The best creative title I think I’ve heard is Cineninja for a director of photography. More people should dare to be different.”
– H.Cherdon Bedford, Owner and Creative Superhero, Humblebee Media
- Communicate the Company’s Culture: “Funky job titles can serve as an extension of a company’s brand and indicate that you are a company with a fun culture that doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
– Carlos Jimenez, President, The Zella Company
Our HR experts identified a long list of reasons why a clever job title could hurt your odds in the job market. If you have your heart set on a unique title, though, don’t let these words of wisdom stop you — most of the cons are based on the workings of traditional business. If you have your eyes set on a more progressive company, then a list of edgy previous titles may just catch the recruiter’s eye.
Imaginative titles aren’t all candy and rainbows, though — think hard before you make the leap, because you may have a lot working against you. Here are some of the cons associated with job title wordsmithing:
- Don’t Follow a Dying Trend:“Several years ago, during the Internet bubble, it was ‘trendy’ for individuals to have job titles which were not mainstream. The silliest I ever saw was Chief Playtime Officer. I’m sorry, but if you have a business that you want to be taken seriously, you don’t hire someone as a Chief Playtime Officer for $100K a year. It sounds like a kindergarten monitor.”
– Alan Guinn, Managing Director and CEO, The Guinn Consultancy Group
- Be as Clear as Possible: “Job titles can be a great marketing tool, but emphasis should always be on clearly communicating the role’s function. There’s a real backlash against titles that are creative without being clear, especially in the tech sector. An applicant, the company and future associates should all be able to understand what value the role brings to the company and the skill set implied. More creative titles can have their place in less formal settings, on business cards or personal profiles that are more for self-expression than job description.”
– Bhavna Dave, Director of Talent, Clearspring
- Stay Away from Cliches: “Ninja and rockstar are so overused in the startup recruiting space. I prefer to use genuine functional titles to advertise openings and attract the right candidates, but once we get someone on board, we’re open to what they’d like to be called.”
– Megan Pittsley, Associate Director, E la Carte
- Focus on Your Work, Not the Title: “Personally, I don’t like [non-traditional titles] and from the hiring meetings I’ve had with managers, they don’t like them either. They tend to be perceived as cheesy to the elite creative talent in the industry. What gets better results with elite talent are standard titles, good clients, award-winning work and a strong culture.”
– Zachary D Killian, Lead Recruiter, The Marketing Arm
- Don’t Fool Tracking Systems: “Creative job titles are a career ‘don’t,’ because they often won’t be recognized by Applicant Tracking Systems. Applicant Tracking Systems are automatic sorters used by many large companies — and more and more so, even SMBs — that pick out keywords, including position titles, in resumes. The systems look for keywords that correspond with the open position. So, if your resume doesn’t have the applicable keywords — which likely won’t include ‘Word Herder’ or ‘Sales Ninja’ — the system will discard the resume, and it’ll never be read by a human.”
– Heather Huhman, Founder & President, Come Recommended
- Be Taken Seriously: “These [creative] titles, while fun to read, feel extremely ‘forced’ and give me zero idea of what a candidate’s real capabilities are. If I’m comparing two resumes, one with ‘Sales Ninja’ and the other with ‘Director of Sales,’ for example, I would take the latter a lot more seriously.”
– Mike Sprouse, Chief Marketing Officer, Epic Media Group
- Don’t Distract Recruiters:“Many recruiters and hiring managers are in the Baby Boomer age range. These individuals know more traditional titles, and that is what they will use to search for candidates. These same people often view these creative titles as distractions or desperation.”
– Sharon DeLay, Founder and President, Adjunct Solutions
- Don’t Be a Narcissist: “I recently worked with a company who arranged to bring in its Social Media Guru for a meeting, and that was his official title, on the business cards and everything. It frankly smacked with so much machismo that he would have had to just blown me out of the water with his ideas and understanding of social media in order for me to walk out of that meeting with a good impression of him. He didn’t impress. And maybe having a Director of Social Media Strategy title wouldn’t have changed things, but my only real memory of the meeting now, six months later, is thinking all the way through that this guy had the gall to use such a title.”
– Sean Muir, Marketing Manager, MRINetwork
- Think Long-Term:“It’s too easy for creative job titles to come across as creepy today and become dated tomorrow. Your team might think you’re hip and edgy. Potential clients might think you are lame. What seems super cool now, in ten years will most likely to be embarrassing.”
– Lisa Merriam, Brand Consultant, Merriam Associate