Are you a guru? A maverick? Or a ninja?
Sorry, folks. The position of Chief TikTok Officer has been filled. It’s only the latest example of how companies and their “ninjas” in the C-Suite are fashioning quirky job titles to distinguish both their corporate and personal brands on LinkedIn.
One study from advisory firm Pearl Meyer found that three in four companies, on average, assign job titles to their staff, but a quarter also give them “latitude in determining their external or working title”. The important factor to consider, however, is that these clever branding techniques should primarily “convey authority and responsibility”.
Some job titles are innocent enough – perhaps even endearing in organisations that are investing in their work culture. In an age where the language of HR itself is adopting newer, more employee-centric vocabularies, job titles are necessarily changing along with the usual corporate speak.
The traditional CHRO role, for instance, is quickly changing into Chief People Officer or its close cousins, Chief Happiness Officer or Chief Experience Officer. Meanwhile, some roles speak of the future of work. For example, Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer. But others take personal branding a little too far, appending descriptions such as “ninja,” “maverick,” “magician,” “guru” or the suffix “-ologist” for titles that don’t really require all that jazz.
Being over the top with job titles also isn’t very practical from a recruiter’s point of view. The applicant tracking systems that head-hunters use might not be able to filter through the right candidate if a jobseeker’s résumé uses the wrong keywords.
Read more: World’s weirdest job titles
For global companies that need to manage talent pipelines across locations, introducing weird and wacky job titles goes against the logic of standardising roles. “There’s a need to have positions defined consistently across geographic and divisional boundaries within a company,” one business leader told HRD. A better alternative? “Maybe on your résumé, put a title that’s more consistent with what people would expect, and then put in parentheses ‘a.k.a. happyologist.’”
The switch to a fancy senior management role (even if only on paper) has also been used by some companies to rort the system of pay and benefits. Singapore, for example, led a crackdown against employers who purportedly mislabel staff as executives or managers in an attempt to cheat workers out of benefits such as overtime pay. In 2018, an estimated 30,000 workers were misclassified as professionals, managers and executives despite earning no more than SG$2,500 (approx. US$1,860).