Job Titles Retailored to Fit

By ASHLEY ROSS/New York Times

Designers at Pinterest are called pixel pushers. (Their interns, no surprise, are pinterns.) Customer service representatives at the jewelry start-up BaubleBar are SWAT members (an acronym for Service With Accessorizing Talent). And the administrative assistant at the Washington Web agency Matrix Group is the first-impressions officer.

“Titles are less relevant, absolutely,” said Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s designated career expert. “It’s not a true description of what we do in a majority of cases, because the number of job titles and the kinds of jobs out there have changed.”

She has seen an uptick in quirky monikers on LinkedIn, where user freedom leads to titles like “Jane Bond of innovation” for Nilofer Merchant, the chief executive of Rubicon Consulting. Or “chief troublemaker” for Tereza Nemessanyi, a start-up developer for Microsoft.

The job overview, or description, allows even more leeway. “First person to get shot if things go wrong,” is how Kayak’s chief executive, Steve Hafner, describes himself on the site.

A Silicon Valley start-up sensibility has something to do with it, said Ryan Freitas, a founder of, a hosting service that allows users to create their own Web page.

“It’s always been more important that there’s collaboration and communication within these companies, and hierarchy just gets in the way,” Mr. Freitas said. “You find that the focus is around harnessing people to get the most out of them, as opposed to trying to put someone in slots. And start-ups are about trying to push somebody past that.”

Paul Shafer, who works as a “principal in compensation practice and talent practice” for the human resources recruiting firm Aon Hewitt, agreed that the relevance of job titles has declined. But he said he believes they are still important in recruiting.

“We don’t ignore titles, but we de-emphasize them because they can be so inconsistent and variable from organization to organization,” he said. “Only on a secondary level are you going to look at the title to scale that person’s level of experience.”

Ms. Williams of LinkedIn noted, however, that creativity in profiles comes at a price as recruiters search for key words that will pop up only in a more standardized job description.

“You can be the wizard of marketing,” she said. “But the fact of the matter is that the majority of recruiters are looking for a director of marketing.” (New York Times)

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