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What’s in a job title and is it really that important?

Danny Lacey

 

As CEO of fast growing company, one thing I have to think about a lot is recruitment. Strangely, one element of the hiring process I struggle with the most is assigning titles to the roles I’m looking to fill. I know what kind of talent I need, but finding a title that aligns with my requirements can be tough. After all, we live and work in an era of ruthless competition and continuous innovation; job roles aren’t as straightforward as they used to be.

While some businesses attempt to keep within the confines of more traditional moniker, other companies have embraced the spirit of innovation by opting to use more creative titles for their employees – a trend that began within Silicon Valley tech companies.

Some of these titles reflect newer, more unusual roles or were created out of a company’s need for an employee with more flexible responsibilities:

  • VP of Misc. Stuff – does a little bit of everything
  • Director of Ethical Hacking – helps financial institutions identify vulnerabilities in their online applications and networks
  • Chief Curator – chooses items to be featured on the homepage of the company’s website
  • Digital Prophet – attempts to predict trends
  • Project Meanie – keeps coworkers on schedule

Others offer a new perspective on a well known role:

  • Director of First Impressions – Receptionist
  • Magic Messengers and Heralders of Good News – PR manager
  • Minister of Dollars and Sense – Chief Operating Officer
  • Human Talent Developer – Human Resources
  • Upward Mobility Big Shot – Salesperson
  • Catalyst – Executive Assistant/Office Manager

In some cases, the job titles reflect a company’s branding or mission:

  • President and TeaEO – CEO of Honest Tea
  • CEO of Love – Head of AOL’s matchmaking service

These companies often argue that more playful titles improve self-worth and inspire creativity, encouraging employees to view their role from fresh perspectives. After all, if you want your staff to think “outside the box”, why give them “in the box” titles?

They also cite the benefits of breaking down the barriers of more traditional workplace hierarchies, something that conventional job titles help to reinforce. Employees might be encouraged to speak more freely with superiors with less intimidating titles, which could, in turn, lead to more effective team work.

However, you also run the risk of creating confusion and bad feeling – salary levels, reporting lines and expectations around measurable achievements become harder to define. While creativity and open conversation is definitely a huge plus, successful businesses also need systems and efficiency. And then there’s the issue of company growth. Sticking to more conservative titles allow you to maintain consistency more effortlessly when including additional employees and departments.

There’s also the external perspective to consider – in particular, clients and prospective hires. In a highly competitive marketplace, anything that allows a company to display their unique identity and culture is welcome. Memorable titles could help a company to stand out, attracting prospective talent and helping to communicate branding to clients and customers.

But, again, this comes with risks. Creative titles could confuse job seekers – especially those searching for jobs online using more common keywords – leading to missed opportunities and overlooked candidates. And you could argue that more traditional titles suggests a certain level of credibility for some clients.

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