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Exciting Job Titles Can Be Powerful Recruiting and Retention Tools
Posted By Dr. John Sullivan On August 13, 2012 @ 5:16 am In Advice and How-Tos | 14 Comments
It’s pure genius. The approach that I call “Compelling Job Titling” involves giving a job a compelling title, and because it costs virtually nothing, it may have the highest ROI of any single recruiting and retention tool.
That may sound like an outrageous statement but consider the example of “the genius bar” at Apple’s retail stores. From all accounts, the job itself is not particularly unique (you simply help resolve customer product problems) but with the job, you get the official company bestowed title of “genius.” Simply by giving this job a compelling name, Apple has been flooded with applicants and once in the job, geniuses stay longer than the average Apple retail employee. And the best part is that these powerful recruiting and retention results from providing exciting job titles come at no cost to the company. Currently popular compelling job titles include Jedi, Rockstar (used for over 2,000 jobs) and Ninja (used for over 8,000 jobs).
You certainly don’t have to be a genius to get the “genius” job at Apple. There are no stated IQ or degree requirements for the job, and knowledge of Apple products isn’t even required. The title of “genius” at an admired firm like Apple is by itself compelling. Any Apple store manager can tell you that regular Apple store employees strive for months and even years to become a genius. The title alone may make your family proud of you and it will certainly help you in making new friends. And the title may even impress future employers.
From the organization’s perspective, you should also realize that there may also be significant direct business benefits because your customers may also assume that a title like genius or expert actually means that the people with the title are extremely well qualified. As a result, a title like this may mean more sales and a stronger product brand.
Years ago, Starbucks demonstrated its understanding of the value of compelling titles with the use of “barista” for its coffee servers and the “coffee master” black apron to demonstrate a superior level of coffee expertise. The “geek squad” (now a part of Best Buy) is another illustration of Compelling Job Titling. As a result of the wild popularity of the #1 syndicated show “Big Bang Theory,” being labeled as a geek no longer carries the negative connotation that it once did.
Even the conservatively managed Best Buy has decided to make its compellingly named “geek squad” more prominent in the marketing and product areas in order to take advantage of its positive name recognition. The leaders of the geek squad go further than simply providing team members with a title; they also get to drive “a cute” and colorful VW bug with the name “geek squad” painted boldly across both sides. Other firms that have a history of using compelling job titles include Google and Microsoft, as well as many startups that use non-corporate job titles because they help get the person and the startup noticed.
For a few days, I actually had the official title as the “Godfather of Talent”; that is, until corporate nervousness forced a title change to the more mundane Chief Talent Officer. The goal of the Godfather title was to send a message to employees and potential applicants that our approach to talent management was different. The power of a title has been known for years but it has been used as a recruiting tool primarily on individual candidates. Any experienced recruiter knows that individuals frequently take jobs with low pay or other faults simply because the job has an impressive title. But for some unexplained reason, the strategic practice of “Compelling Job Titling” has seldom been implemented throughout major corporations.
Recruiting leaders and managers have been happy to accept the job names provided by the compensation function, even though the titles that they have traditionally provided not only have no panache but many are simply dull! A few firms have made small attempts at more compelling job titles by changing the title of “secretary” to administrative assistant, or by calling employees “associates.” But what I am proposing is a more strategic companywide effort to use marketing and branding  techniques to make the development of compelling titles for key jobs a major recruiting and retention  tool.
The desired impacts from a compelling job title
Compelling job titles are sales tools that can have five major results, including:
In order to qualify as compelling, the job title should meet one or more of the following criteria.
Here are some quick examples of compelling words that might be included in a compelling job title. Note: many of the job titles used here as examples are the titles for real jobs.
In addition to titles and job descriptions, employees can be given symbols of excellence to excite them. For example, the black apron to demonstrate a superior level of coffee expertise at Starbucks.
If your recruiting or management team decides to adopt a “Compelling Job Titling Strategy,” here are a list of action steps to consider.
The time has passed for lawyers and job analysts to dominate the creation of job titles and job descriptions. Today recruiting and HR professionals need to realize that job titles and job descriptions are both marketing and sales tools that can have a tremendous impact on recruiting, engagement, retention, and product sales. Currently job titles are under-managed at large corporations. It’s time for recruiting to take charge and put together a strategy and program to ensure that for at least key jobs, the title and the content of the job both become key selling and branding points. The costs are minimal but the results can be amazing. The only real roadblock is a lack of courage.
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 Image: http://www.ere.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Geek-squad.png
 branding: http://www.ere.net/tags/branding
 retention: http://www.ere.net/tags/retention
 the Apple genius position description: http://jobs.apple.com/index.ajs?method=mHvexternal.showPositionDetails&&BID=2&Language=en&CountryId=3&PID=51
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