When job titles go wild

Unconventional job titles can be fun in the right context, but they also risk damaging a company's recruitment prospects.
By: | July 3, 2017

An unusual job title can be a way of expressing a company’s unique culture. But unless it can also communicate the nature of the role itself, such titles can end up detrimental to an organisation’s recruiting efforts.

After all, “director of fun” isn’t exactly the most obvious variant of “marketing director”.

HRM Magazine has compiled this list of the five silliest job titles (and their translations) to have ever graced a business card.

  1. Captain of Moonshots (Head of research and development at Google)
  2. Scrum master (Software developer)
  3. Digital overlord (Website manager)
  4. Chief executive unicorn (CEO of software company PowToon)
  5. Wet leisure attendant (Lifeguard)

Workplace issues expert professor Cary Cooper says esoteric job titles also risk alienating potential recruits. If the nature of a job is not immediately communicated by the title, candidates are likely to give it a miss or not even notice it to begin with. Indeed, a study that Cooper was involved with, surveying 1,000 British adults, found that many popularly advertised tech job titles – such as “scrum master” – were either thought to be fake or incomprehensible.

All that said, when they aren’t used for recruitment, untraditional job titles can be a positive expression of a company’s work. Cooper cites the example of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which works primarily with severely ill children. For that demographic, meeting a “Magic Messenger” might be more of a comfort than an appointment with a “PR Manager”.

Ultimately, quirky job titles seem to work best alongside their conventional variants, and when they are expressions of a company’s specific work or culture. Rather than coming across as forward-thinking, slapping the words “grand master of underlings” on a job posting might just end up putting off the very talent you’re looking for.