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Now hiring: Ninjas, hackers, and rock stars apply within

More companies are giving job titles a facelift to attract top talent, but these new monikers may be more confusing than creative.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

While not a new trend, the practice of rebranding job titles to give employees more ownership over their roles, attract top talent — which I suspect is actually code for younger workers — and refresh the image of industries perceived as out of touch is seeing a renewed rise in popularity.

That means job titles like “growth hacker,” “data wrangler,” “customer service ninja,” and “recruitment evangelist” are now real things that exist. I don’t want to make this a generational thing, but is it a generational thing? (I actually wanted to ask if it’s really just a stupid thing, but I’m trying to be diplomatic.)

“Would having ‘ninja’ added onto your job title really make a job that much more appealing?”

According to a Wall Street Journal article from mid-November — and there’s a publication that certainly isn’t known for being particularly edgy — more companies are giving job titles a makeover as part of a larger effort to attract talent in a tight labor market. A 2018 survey by compensation consulting firm Pearl Meyer notes that 40 percent of firms use trendy titles to attract prospective employees, up from 31 percent in 2009.

I would hope that means companies are doing away with dumbed-down titles that let them get away with paying workers less — things like calling someone a [fill in the blank] coordinator instead of [fill in the blank] assistant manager. Instead, we’re getting a host of “rock stars,” “artists,” and, yes, that old favorite, “ninjas.”

Again, maybe it’s a generational thing. I’m in that fun sandwich generation between Gen X and millennials where I can see things clearly from both sides, but as much as I like to think I’m still a fairly young 38, I don’t have a lot in common with the youngest millennials or the latest generation to enter the workforce, Generation Z. Would having “ninja” added onto your job title really make a job that much more appealing? I suppose it might if you were assassinating people as part of your 9 to 5.

I suspect this isn’t a trend that has legs, but I could be wrong. At least, I hope in 50 years I’m not being helped around the nursing home by certified nursing ninjas or making visits to the hospital to meet with my heart health hero to discuss bypass surgery.

Paul Wolfe, Indeed.com’s senior vice president of human resources, told the Wall Street Journal that the trend could actually narrow the applicant pool for jobs because many candidates — especially older ones — might not search for such creative terms as they hunt through job listings. Wolfe also warned that job seekers with more unusual titles on their résumés might have a harder time explaining what they do and how their experience translates to prospective employers.

I don’t have a problem with sprucing up job titles to give them some weight. I also don’t object to letting employees have control over their titles. However, in an effort to stay ahead of the competition and attract the best workers, I wonder if these companies aren’t also sacrificing some of their credibility? I certainly roll my eyes a bit when someone reaches out to me bearing a job title like “communications ambassador.” What does that even mean?

Maybe some people think having exotic job titles gives them a great segue into a conversation about what they really do. I just think it creates a lot of unnecessary confusion, which is probably why I’m not rushing to change my title from online editor to “digital wordsmith” or “chief online media architect.” Unless, of course, there’s a raise involved, then you can count me in.

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