“Guru”, “Genius”, “Champion” – The Weird Job Titles That Put Women Off From Applying

Out with the old, and in with the new. This seems to be the general direction of many companies, entrepreneurs and startups. Specifically, we’re talking about the way certain job roles and titles are being adapted in order to lure in new talent. It’s not uncommon to see someone’s email signature or business card with a title such as “CFO – Chief Fun Officer”, or “marketing guru” rather than executive, for example.

But how is this trend impacting the pace of gender equality in the workplaces, and which US cities are seeing more of a boom when it comes to increasingly creative job titles?

Resume.io recently analyzed over 10,000 job ads to find out where employers are hiring for roles with the weirdest job titles – and then added their findings to an interactive map. Here’s a preview:

As part of this project, Resume.io also surveyed 1,000 Americans to find out how they feel about these terms and whether gender, age or education level plays a part in applying for them. Read on for these findings from the survey.

With this project, Resume.io explores the impact ‘quirky’ job titles has on applicants and their perception of the role they are about to apply for.

For this project, Resume.io started off by building a long list of the most common quirky titles reported on by business & careers journalists.

With a long-list of ‘weird job titles’ in hand, Resume.io then combed through 10,000 job ads on Indeed.com to identify which were the titles used more frequently, find the sectors that are prone to use these titles the most, and mapped out the locations where employers are actively hiring for roles with the weirdest job titles.

But Resume.io didn’t stop there. To help them understand the candidates’ perspective, they surveyed 1,000 Americans to find out how they feel about these terms and whether they affect their perception of the job.

Here are some of the key findings, which highlight the gender impact of this trend in job title adaptations.

  • South Dakota is the place with the highest concentration of any one weird job title. 155 out of every 100,000 vacancies in this state are for a champion.
  • 74% of all adverts for a hacker are for marketing roles (e.g. Growth Hacker). Tech roles are more likely to be for a genius, evangelist, or wrangler.
  • According to the survey, ads featuring the term champion put off at least two-thirds (69%) of job seekers from applying.
  • The professional Jedi is still a rare thing: they found just 103 job descriptions with Jedi powers as a desirable skill, and only two positions that come with a Jedi job title.
  • Women are 30% less likely to apply to champion or genius roles than men, and 38% less likely to apply to be a guru, the survey found.

This Country Needs More… Champions: The relative popularity of jobs with weird titles

Of the 15 terms analyzed, “champion” was the most popular. Not only there were 1,000 ads mentioning it, but 17% of those were in fact hiring for a position of “champion”. Jedis, on the other hand, weren’t so highly sought after, with only 100 ads on Indeed mentioning the term originating in the Star Wars franchise. While there were more ads mentioning “hero” and “guru” overall, a much higher % of “warrior” (18%), “ninja” (16%), and “rockstar” (10%) mentioned these terms in the job title.

In Title Only: Champions of Hospitality, Heroes of Healthcare

Looking at the split of ads containing our target terms by sector, a few things stand out:

●  74% of “hacker” ads are for roles in Marketing, e.g. “Growth hacker”

●  73% of “warrior” and 61% of “hero” ads are for Healthcare jobs, often in nursing

●  62% of “evangelist” job ads are in Tech, often for roles like “Product Evangelist”

●  35% of “ninja” ads are for roles in Education & Training

●  Around 20% of ads containing “champion” and “rockstar” are in Hospitality, i.e. accommodation and food service.
Here’s the full table of most common sectors for each term:

A Very Particular Set of Skills: Sales Rockstars and Tech Ninjas

If we expand our scope to include job descriptions, a slightly different picture emerges. While many companies might not advertise for “wizards” or “wranglers” directly, those terms are still mentioned either in descriptions of an ideal candidate or qualifications/skills required.

From this perspective, it’s Tech that comes up as a runaway winner, being the sector to account for the highest % of ads mentioning: “geniuses” (23%), “gurus” (21%), “hackers” (47%), “ninjas”(23%), “wizards” (30%), and “wranglers” (59%).

Of note, however, are “rockstars” of Sales and “storytellers” of Marketing – sectors where companies might not dare to put these terms in the title of the ad, but are likely to use them in the job description.

Women less likely to be comfortable with ‘genius’ label

Women have had to deal with discouraging job titles since forever. Fireman? Manpower in general? Even ungendered job titles that carry cultural baggage (e.g. nurse, receptionist) have the effect of cementing old-fashioned views into a professional world that urgently needs modernizing.

The weird job titles that most alienate women are the most superlative ones. According to our survey, women are 30% less likely to apply to champion or genius roles than men, and 38% less likely to apply to be a guru. Could this be the Dunning-Kruger effect – that incompetent people are more likely to overestimate their abilities – in action? After all, according to an OK Cupid poll, 46% of men believe themselves to be actual geniuses. For women, the figure is just 30%:

What is the cause for so many women shying away from roles and titles that signify a certain level of talent or skill like “genius”? Could it be imposter syndrome, which primarily affects women?

Research on Imposter Syndrome (IS) out of the UK found that “28% of working women feel like imposter syndrome has stopped them speaking in a meeting. It also found 21% have been prevented from suggesting a new or alternative idea at work, and 26% have failed to change career or role.”

It perhaps can also be traced back to the notion that women are less likely to apply for a job unless they meet all the outlined criteria, whereas men will identify one or two criteria and apply confidently anyway.

“Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them,” says the research from Hewlett Packard.

It is interesting to note that even with the shift in work title landscape, there are areas where gender inequality is still very apparent, showcasing how internalized and widespread disparity can be. If there is anything we can learn from this study is that change CAN be good indeed, but it is important to take note of who is creating the change, and how the change is impacting those who are traditionally more marginalized. Who has a seat at the decision-making table? As long as we continue to see more women in leadership and entrepreneurial positions, perhaps we will see more women apply for jobs with the “genius”, “ninja” “guru” “wizard” etc titles. Check out the full research and more on Resume.io.

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