By Mark Swartz
Canadian Workplace Specialist
“Mobile Guru” wanted. Seeking a talented “Developer Evangelist.” Now hiring a “Brand Ambassador.”
Guru. Evangelist. Ambassador. Not exactly job titles from your parents’ generation. They are, however, among the recent positions listed in Monster.ca’s job postings.
Is there a revolution going on in labour lexicon? Do you have to start re-naming every job with pizzazz simply to attract good candidates?
The Evolution of Job Titles
Not so long ago, naming a position was pretty straightforward. The folks you hired to deal with customers were Customer Service Representatives. That gal who ran the finance department was the Director of Finance.
Descriptive naming is still the norm when it comes to most titles. It is a simple convention that clearly portrays both the nature – and level – of any particular job. That’s why it remains so popular, if a little on the dull side.
Enter Gen Y and their newfangled gadgets into the workforce. These 20-somethings wear their energy and creativity on their sleeves (or in their piercings). Jostling to get their attention, some employers have begun to play around with job titles as a way to make work sound more fun and hip. It’s especially true in hi-tech industries such as IT, where titles such as Software Developer Guru and Project Management Ninja abound.
New Jargon, Same Old Job?
Take for example the job of social media specialist. This position didn’t even exist before 2006, back when Facebook was just a way for some kids at Harvard to keep track of their dating exploits, and Twitter had barely tweeted its first emergent chirp.
By 2009 a flood of demand swamped this field. Every employer that could afford to hire an in-house social media person began advertising for one. Thus the race for talent began. It turned out that the savviest practitioners in the game were the young adults who’d been early adopters of social sites: the MySpace generation now in their mid 20’s or so.
One bright employer recognized this youthful skew and realized that naming the job in a funky way could have greater appeal to the Millennial job seeker. Hence came Social Media Guru. Same job as the previous year, now cooler sounding. Think of it as Job Titling 2.0.
Getting Carried Away
Playing around with job titles to make them sound more appealing is nothing new. Take the redoubtable Customer Service Representative. It started off as the more basic “Contact Center Agent.” Kind of bland, right?
Not surprisingly, today you might see it advertised as a Client Service Facilitator, or Customer Care Specialist, or (on the somewhat overblown side) Customer Interaction Management Specialist.
Is this up-scaling of a title an improvement? It could be, if it attracts better candidates and helps employees feel good about themselves, without also having to give them a costly raise. But be careful: the fancier or more outrageous the title, the higher expectation of responsibilities it can set, or the murkier the role can become.
Do you happen to know, for instance, what a Tonsorial Artist is? A hairstylist. How about Director of Initial Impressions? The receptionist. Employment Opportunity Research Analyst? A job seeker!
Keeping Up With Trends
If you do deem it necessary to rename the title of a job you’re advertising, make sure you don’t depart too much from the norm. You don’t want to confuse and lose your applicant base.
Consider using naming conventions that your competitors have already established. Words such as “ambassador” and “evangelist” are now more commonplace. “Ninja” not so much yet.
So have a look at comparable jobs that are posted on Monster.ca. See what they’re being called and try to be somewhat consistent.
A Rose By Any Other Name
Job titles are but one aspect of a well-packaged job offering. The position description and your company bio round things out. Each aspect should be compelling in its own right.
All elements ought to be complementary as well. They might reflect your corporate culture and style. Your web presence, and the tonality you use to describe your company and services, figure into the picture too.
A job’s title should be designed with utility in mind. Given that job seekers tend to look for certain key words and established job titles when they conduct their searches, sticking to the familiar is a good rule of thumb. Not that you can’t try to spice things up if necessary. Only not so much that no one knows what the heck they’re dealing with.