Job Titles: I’ll Never Be A Ninja Again

I was “let go” in the middle of the dot-com bubble. I had a good job, too. I was making great money working on a team I would have never ever left behind.

But there we were. Unfunded. Unemployed.

I was the last one they let go because my pay rate was so much lower than everyone else’s. This was only my second job. I sat around and waited. Watched my coworkers pack their things. Watched Twitter. I was really sad. I had learned a lot from this team about, well, everything.

After I cried and drank for a week or two, I started my job search. I got on (this was 2010) and I searched “social media.” My lease was up and I had taken it as a sign. I told myself I would move to the area that had the most social media jobs posted. I was working my odds. Statistically, if there are a ton of jobs I will be able to find a good one quickly.

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Guess where I ended up working? They optimized this ad for a “social media ninja” so it came up first. Because I was working at a competitor, it was a natural fit. I was one of their first social media hires.

*Sound of shrieking brakes here*

Y’all know how I feel about ninjas. But I, Katrina Kibben, was, in fact, a ninja.

That ninja job title could have killed my career.

I don’t hate fun job titles, I just hate them because they hurt your company and your people more than they ever help them. Here’s why.

When I decided it was time to leave, I contacted a recruiter who had called me about jobs a few times after interacting on social media. He was great. He put me in contact with where I would eventually end up working. When I went in for my interview, the VP said a very interesting thing that I will never forget.

“I’m so glad we had you come in. We didn’t know what a ninja was but we figured we would give you a chance anyway.”

So problem #1: No one knows what the hell a ninja/guru/wtf ever job title is, which means when those people go out and apply for jobs they’re at an inherent disadvantage.

I mean recruiters. Tell me. When’s the last time you did a search string with the word “ninja” in it. The answer is likely never. Don’t @ me with your random one-off scenarios.

Which brings me to my second problem with these job titles.

Problem #2: Candidates don’t search for ninja/guru/wtf ever job titles, which means you lose any chance of organic candidate traffic. You know, the free stuff. Job titles are one of the top indicators for job SEO and you want to just skip that for “cool?”

Ok, I guess?

Then, I see this…

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The rest of the sentence is “WALL STREET JOURNAL”, by the way.

Come. On.

Why do we keep perpetuating lies about job titles? This is really hurting our abilities to do our jobs and even more importantly, the people we could be hiring or have hired.

That’s all I can say about that without swearing.

Now, I’m not going to bring you all the way here just to #endrant.

Here’s how you actually *should* be writing job titles, in case you want to know. It’ll take less than 2 minutes and once and for all we can say, “no more ninja (job titles).”

You can also sign up for our on-demand class.

Candidate Generation and Nurturing Job Postings recruiting Recruitment Marketing Advice

Katrina Kibben View All →

Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.

Katrina has written for,, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.

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