Do Quirky Titles Really Attract Applicants?

In a tight labor market, some companies are hoping revamped titles like “customer service ninja” or “marketing rockstar” appeal to prospective hires. But whether they help or hurt the hiring process remains in question.

Compensation consulting firm Pearl Meyer reports that 40 percent of companies say job titles are used to attract candidates, per The Wall Street Journal. That’s up from about 31 percent that reported using them in 2009.

As the unemployment rate has dropped — 3.7 percent in October — companies are raising wages and speeding up the hiring process. Employers retitling jobs may have Millennial job seekers in mind, as established companies look to project a youthful image.

Per The WSJ, in the way “executive” or “vice president” have been added to titles to entice candidates, more companies are now crafting titles that catch the eye of younger staffers who want to make a difference, Rebecca Toman, vice president of the survey business unit for Pearl Meyer.

Some of Indeed’s top “weird” job titles last year: “genius,” “guru,” “rockstar,” “wizard” and “ninja.”

Creative job titles may be responsible for boosting employee attitudes, according to the Harvard Business Review, which notes that staffers who work at Disney parks are called “cast members,” and the person making your Subway sub is a “sandwich artist.”

“Companies should recognize that are powerful symbols of who we are, what we can do, and what others can expect from us,” Dan Cable, London Business School professor, told the HBR.

Cable was one of the researchers behind a 2014 study on the reduced stress and greater meaning felt by Make-A-Wish Foundation employees who gave themselves fun, new titles.

But quirky titles can run the risk of confusing people, since job seekers aren’t likely to search terms like “ninja,” Paul Wolfe, Indeed’s senior vice president of human resources, told Fast Company. 

“Companies use these to express what their culture is like, but there are other ways to get that point out,” he told Fast Company. HBR says creative titles are more common at startups and companies like Google and Disney.

Unconventional titles may even prevent some candidates from applying, according to Kieran Snyder, who cofounded AI startup Textio. She told Fast Company that jobs with “genius” in the title aren’t as likely to see applicants who are women, those over 40, or underrepresented minorities.

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