Weird and wonderful job titles have been making headlines for some time now. The tech world in particular provides a rich source of exotic monikers applied to jobs that might otherwise sound a bit less thrilling. Few companies may have a Security Princess like Google, or a “Galactic Viceroy of Research Excellence” as Microsoft once did, but it’s not unheard of to spot jedis, ninjas, gurus, mavens, overlords, dynamos, vigilantes and superheroes popping up in the job listings.

Nor is it just a tech phenomenon: For instance, last year we spotted a “duct cleaning ninja” job on Indeed. Alas, while weird job titles can sound fun and may help communicate a company’s culture, they also cause confusion among job seekers and prevent employers from getting relevant candidates. When was the last time you searched for a job with “shaman” in the title, for instance? It’s more effective to be clear and use the terms job seekers are searching for when writing job descriptions.

We’ll talk more about best practices later in this post. For now, let’s crunch some numbers and take a look at the state of weird job titles in 2017.

Identifying the most popular weird job titles today

First we identified the most common weird job titles in the US. Given the many choices on offer, which terms would rise to the top among recruiters posting jobs online?

Zany Job Titles: Rockstars on the rise while ninjas beat a retreat

It turns out that the top five are: “genius”, “guru”, “rockstar”, “wizard”, and “ninja” — a combination of words suggesting deep thought and insight, showbiz levels of charisma, magic and…er...assassination.

Having established the champions of eccentric job titles we next asked: how do they stack up against each other?

As the chart shows, the rising star of 2017 was, appropriately enough, “rockstar” which has shown 19% growth since 2015 and finished first. Guru followed close behind, although it has lost popularity since its peak in early 2016, declining by 21%.

Most striking was the steep drop in “ninja” postings in the second half of 2017. After sustaining a steady climb since the middle of 2016, the demand for stealthy assassins has declined by 35% since its peak in March 2017.

Meanwhile, geniuses have pursued a slow but assured ascent since 2016, growing by 82.5% since 2015, almost to the point where they outperform ninjas. The continuing popularity of Harry Potter aside, “Wizard” job titles show less dramatic movement. It would seem that magic just isn't that much in demand.

Where the wild job titles are

Next we decided to take a look at the geography of weird job titles. Although the media focuses on the eccentric titles coming out of Silicon Valley, the reality is that this phenomenon has long since spread beyond the wold of tech and across the country.

In fact, weird job titles today are more concentrated outside of California. From Idaho to Utah, recruiters seem keen to jazz up their job titles with terms such as “rockstar,” “guru” and “wizard”—with Oregonians being especially enthusiastic. By contrast, plain speaking New Yorkers "keep it real" and don’t turn up in the top five states at all. 

Rockstar: Largest share of job title by state

When you think of rock stars, images of LA and the Sunset Strip may come to mind. If you’re a rock history buff, you might even think of Cleveland, Ohio, which is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But rock stars are actually in highest demand in Idaho, if job titles are anything to go by. That said, while Idaho is renowned for the quality of its potatoes and the Idaho Potato Commission has close to 1500 recipes involving potatoes on its website, we were unable to find “potato growing rockstar” in our listings. Sunny California only places fifth for concentration of rockstar jobs, falling behind Colorado, Utah and Oregon. When we look at sheer volume however, the Golden State's population means that it comes first—accounting for 23% of all rockstar job listings in the nation.

Ninja: Largest share of job title by state

When we search for ninja job titles, we find that they are especially in demand in Maine, despite that fact that the state is renowned for lobster rather than turtles. Recruiters are also listing jobs for ninjas in mountainous Colorado, the desert landscapes of Nevada and Utah, and chilly Nebraska. And while a search for “ninja” on Indeed does return some relevant job titles such as “Martial Arts Ninja Coach” we also see a decent amount of “Marketing Ninjas” and “Customer Experience Ninjas.” Perhaps the most confusing is “Time Ninja”which is not an assassin who travels back in time but apparently somebody who works in human resources.

Genius: Largest share of job title by state

Delaware holds the honor of being the “first state” in the US. It also holds the honor(?) of placing first for confusing job listings containing the word “genius” in the title. In fact, Delaware accounts for 1.32% of all genius job listings nationally, despite the fact that it only contains 0.29% of US population (according to the most recent Census numbers). Interestingly, the hunt for genii is most intense in the original colonies of the US, and of the top five states for this title, four are located in the northeast. Once again, California doesn’t quite make the top five despite the very real demand for brilliant tech minds in Silicon Valley—the Golden State places seventh.

Guru: Largest share of job title by state

Guru is a Sanskrit term meaning “teacher" which is applied to people of great wisdom, although in recent years it has taken on the additional meaning of “somebody who is quite good at tech.” This is a trend we likely see reflected in California’s second place showing for “guru” job listings. That said, gurus are in even greater demand in Oregon, which we previously saw placing fourth for “rockstar.” However, rather than instilling wisdom, “guru” is a term that can very quickly become confusing for job seekers: We see it turning up in everything from “Digital Marketing Guru” to “Distilled Spirits Guru.”

Wizard: Largest share of job title by state

And finally we come to “wizards.” While New Mexico may be the “Land of Enchantment” Oregon is the number one state for “wizard” job titles, as it was for gurus, and—of course—it also placed fourth for rockstars. In other words, Oregon appears to be the king of zany job titles. That said, although the state ranks first for “wizard” job titles, they’re not exactly abundantonly about 3.75% of all jobs in the state include the term.

Keep job titles clear, descriptive and concise for best results

We know that weird job titles can be fun and indicative of a more laid-back culture. However, without a cultural frame of reference, using them in your job listings can affect how well your job posting does.  Most people search for roles that match their skills and experience and so using terms like “ninja” and “rockstar” in job titles and descriptions can confuse job seekers and put them off from applying.

Our recommendation? Put more of a focus on conveying the specifics of the role, and leave the quirkiness to the workplace.  To improve your placement in search results, keep the following in mind:

  • Keep the job title concise, between 5 and 80 characters, and avoid all caps. If your title is too long or too short, it will not rank well. Also it’s important to not include special characters in your title. This makes it easier to read and more likely to match the search queries from job seekers.
  • Describe the job title in normal terms. If you are hiring a “Javascript Developer”, call it that. Avoid phrases that people are less likely to search for.
  • Avoid internal titles that don’t accurately describe the job. Job seekers may misunderstand abbreviations or acronyms. “Senior Web Designer” is much clearer to applicants than “Web Designer II.”
  • Use the job title to describe the main aspects of the job. For example, “Events and Sponsorships Manager” is much more effective than just “Marketing.”

There's much more you can do to optimize your job titles so candidates are more likely to find them. This post will give you more advice about how to become a true job listing writing expert, and for a really deep dive you might want to check out Indeed Academy, our new, free training platform designed to help recruiters get the most out of Indeed.

Methodology: Indeed identified the most common "weird job titles" and then calculated the share of postings containing the phrases ‘genius’, ‘rockstar’, ‘guru’, ‘ninja’, or ‘wizard’ over the last 2 years.