Sometimes a job title can be completely apropos, such as this one for a US Department of Justice official in charge of responding to Freedom of Information Act requests: FOIA Denial Officer. In business, most companies go for more traditional titles. You might be a chief executive, chief financial officer or information officer, vice president of marketing, or director of customer service.

But there seems to be a growing trend embracing the offbeat job title. Midmarket Canadian job market board Workopolis is a middle market firm that has a manager of first impressions, which seems to be its term for the receptionist. ("That would be Joan, and if you drop by our office, she's the first person you'll see.")

Unusual and even oddball titles aren't restricted to regular employees. In particular, younger high-tech companies have developed a reputation for having evangelists, ninjas, gurus, and other nontraditional titles, even for people at the top (grand poobah, anyone?). But the trend doesn't stop in the virtual world. Midsized firm Welk Resort Group has a vacancy for a chief fun officer position.

Why Job Titles Matter

Job titles may seem to be a matter of either ego or an arbitrary decision, but that's not usually the case. Choosing the wrong title, even if it's a traditional choice, can lead to hiring the wrong person because you've sent a signal that you need a person with one set of expertise rather than someone different who would be a better match.

Creating a new title can be confusing. Often, no one inside the company knows what it means, let alone recruiters or candidates. There is a playful aspect to having unique titles, but most companies should remember that they're in business, not entertainment. Humor is a tough thing to get right, and you can just as easily come across as silly rather than reflecting a clever or witty organization.

But don't completely dismiss the idea of creating a new title. It's not as though titles such as CEO, CFO, vice president, director, or manager existed at the dawn of commerce. All of these titles have come into fashion over time and may one day pass into obscurity.

If your organization is tempted to create new titles, let the people involved ask why the existing title in question won't suffice. The reasoning behind the answer should be one of the following.

New Type of Job

Different factors (especially changing technology) can quickly change the way business is done, and companies may find that they need to hire for different needs as a result. Your company might require a data scientist with specific expertise in mathematical analysis, marketing, strategic planning, and information technology to help dig insight out of mountains of data. Developer advocate (or technical evangelist) and community manager are two other technical titles coming into wider use because they clearly express a corporate need that doesn't fit cleanly anywhere else. On the other side of the coin, keep in mind that the need for certain roles disappears over time. When it does, the obsolete titles should be left behind as well.

Clarity of Communication

It may be that a different title can help a company by more clearly conveying the substance of a position. As Leigh Buchanan of Inc. Magazine has pointed out, there might be times when a company needs a "thought leader," or a visionary founder who doesn't have the operational skills of a CEO but whose insight is crucial. A "competitor proxy" could act as the in-house enemy, looking for tactics that would undermine the company and act as an early warning system against the moves of competitors.

Culture Reinforcement

Titles can also help strengthen company culture. If you have a flat organization, maybe a plain title that recognizes almost everyone as a contributing employee would make sense. Be careful, though, because this is one area where many managers indulge themselves a bit too much. I've seen companies that insist on calling everyone but the top brass "associates," which then becomes a synonym for peon.

Are there any unique titles that have worked well for your company? Any titles that you can't stand? Let us know what you think by commenting below.

Erik Sherman is an NCMM contributor and author whose work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, the Financial Times, Chief Executive, Inc., and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch. Sherman has extensive experience in corporate communications consulting and is the author or co-author of 10 books. Follow him on Twitter.