Employers, Stop Looking for Ninjas!

You are a hi-tech startup manager, director of an NGO, or perhaps a CEO of an established company. You are seeking candidates for a key position, and you want to make it clear that you are looking for the best in the field. In a sense, you want a superhero.

As a recruiter I have seen ads for ninjas, rock stars, gurus and jedis. I understand what would motivate you to come up with a dramatic, superhero type title. I know you want to attract the best candidates, you want to stand out, and you may also be trying to communicate a young, driven, fun vibe. But let me tell you, in most cases using these terms will work against you. And I will tell you why.

Job seekers want clarity

Contrary to popular belief, job seekers are busy people too. They want to know if the job you are advertising is a fit for their experience and skills, and they hope to glean that information from three places: the job title, the job requirements, and the job description. If the job title does little or nothing to narrow down the requirements of the position and the scope of experience required, you have first of all wasted more of the job seekers’ time than was necessary. And a self-respecting professional in any field will have cause to resent it.

Superhero titles can scare off your best candidates

Superheroes in the movies have a certain personality type: they are usually glamorous, get a lot of attention, defy convention, and know how to solve every challenge that comes their way in a dramatic or dangerous manner that ends up working in their favor.

Perhaps the job you are advertising does need someone of that description; however most employers using these kinds of terms are just trying to find a cool way to say they want the best. And if you are looking for a data analyst, a legal consultant, a social worker, a programmer or a project manager, your ideal candidates will probably have other central qualities, such as patience, comprehensive perception, organizational skills or attention to detail, perhaps even humility and the ability to work well on a team; in other words, not the standard superhero qualifications. Although of course we all know that the term “ninja” really just means “the best,” a person with a more introverted or team oriented personality can actually find the title threatening and off-putting.

Superhero titles may attract the wrong candidates

The other side of the coin is that people who are attracted to the superhero titles and identify with them may have qualities that you are not looking for, such as a thirst for praise and attention, an inflated ego, or a simplified or childish view of how the professional world functions.

Also, in the superhero world the main character often proves him- or herself worthy of respect despite a lack of training, qualifications or relevant previous experience, and there are certainly plenty of job seekers out there who feel that they are a superhero waiting to happen, even if they don’t qualify even remotely for the job you advertised.

Using fantasy inspired titles will not present your company as a fun place to work

Part of the motivation to use fantasy inspired titles can stem from a desire to use the job description as a shortcut to describing the character or atmosphere in the workplace as fun, creative, young or otherwise exciting.

The work environment is a central consideration for your best candidates, so don’t scrimp on it. Offer a true description both of what your company does and what the work atmosphere is like, and the best candidates will appreciate your candor and clarity; whereas using superhero titles to give a young or dynamic feel to your workplace will not offer an adequate enough description to be meaningful for your target group.

Find better ways to stand out

I know that job titles can sound boring or repetitive, and you would like to stand out of the crowd.  However superhero inspired titles are not the way to go about making your position more attractive or glamorous. This is first of all because so many companies are already doing it; and second of all because such titles can smack of superficial and insincere advertising.

If you want to stand out, write the things that your ideal candidate wants to hear. Things like an environment open to creative ideas, opportunities to move up and develop within the company, rewarding compensation packages, a warm and supportive professional team. Bottom line: clarity and sincerity have a good chance of standing out among the crowd of hyped-up and dramatized job descriptions.

Give it a try.

About the Author
Gila Weinberg, CEO of Mikum Consulting, is a recruiter and a career coach. She helps organizations and companies find great employees, and helps great people figure out their next career move. Gila is also the author of Not So Grimm: Jewish Fairy Tales, a comparison between tales from the Talmud and classic fairy tales.
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