My Guru Will Disrupt Your Ninja

Help Wanted: Only Ninjas, Gurus, Jedis, and Rock Stars need apply…

Recruiting has a problem. In the crowded world of social media it’s becoming more difficult to stand out. 

I applaud most efforts to create compelling job descriptions, I’ve experimented with infographics and other formats myself, but I’m afraid we’ve gone a few steps too far in our efforts to compel clicks, likes, and RTs. Job descriptions have become so buzz-jargonized that it’s hard to take some of them seriously. In a world of ninjas and gurus, how does a regular job seeker know where they fit in?

According to, there was a 2,500% increase in jobs using the term ‘ninja’ from May 2006 to May 2012. The term ‘guru’ has seen a steeper climb, increasing from 6,500% from its debut around March 2008 to its peak around March 2011.

I’ve spent most of my career with at least a toe in the waters of technical recruiting, and assumed most of this buzzword abuse came from that sector. I was surprised to find that these terms have made the leap outside of tech, and now can be attached to anything. In a few minutes of research I found these terms applied to internships, grilled cheese cooks, coffee baristas and my favorite – fun guru.

Let’s look at a few examples from actual job postings

Data Ninjas are our “farm team” that are the first to get sent into more involved, detailed projects. [PS – these data ninjas are unpaid]

Solar Web Developer Ninja ‘What’s in it for you: you get to be a ninja’

Creative Ninja (internship) seeking organized, motivated, and detail-oriented Creative Ninjas to join their Frientier League baseball club for the 2013 season.

Grilled Cheese Ninja Chedd’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese is looking for enthusiastic, up-beat, and hard-working people to add to our team.

Fun Guru Do people tell you that your parties are a blast? Are you creative, fun and passionate? Do you believe in rolling up your sleeves and doing whatever it takes to get the job done? Then look no further; this may be the perfect opportunity for you!

A social media guru is able to express a brand effectively via social platforms and directly engage with consumers to inspire confidence in the company’s products or services.

Coffee Guru Assume all responsibilities of Master Roaster with immediate focus on production and sample roasting, coffee quality, the art of blending, green coffee selection and coffee education.

Now let’s take a look at some of the major job boards


Ninja – 76 jobs

Guru – 289 jobs

Advantage: Guru


Ninja – 6 jobs

Guru – 28 jobs

Advantage: Guru


Ninja – 46

Guru – 238

Advantage: Guru


Ninja – 597

Guru – 1,821

Advantage: Guru

Verdict: Sorry Ninjas, Gurus have the numbers – but you’ll always be a winner in the movie department.


13 thoughts on “My Guru Will Disrupt Your Ninja

  1. If you can get any recruiter to actually describe how a guru is different from a ninja is different from a samurai is different from someone who can stuff a beer can in their mouth while singing a country song and I’ll work for you for free.

    Reminds me of the bumper sticker in response to those idiotic “My Child is an Honor Student…” bumper stickers:

    “My child beat up your honor student…”

    [come to think of it, it would be funny if someone used the line, “Our Ninjas beat up YOUR Ninjas – ha, ha!” in a job post]

    Really good recruiters focus on the performance elements of the job and use a performance-focused tagline because they know that’s how you hook the good ones; only people who AREN’T ninjas or gurus – but believe they are – fall for such marketing crap.

    • Exactly. Those gimmicky titles drive away top talent, because they would be embarrassed to introduce themselves that way. A lawyer friend of mine was having a hard time taking a ‘Legal Ninja’ job seriously, and pulled out of the interview process because of it..

  2. HAHA Ninjas are assassins, no? Gurus are all knowledgeable and therefore would not need your training nor could you possibly afford them. I mean if they were THAT knowledgeable they would have their own company and you would work for them. IE Bill Gates. Ah silly humans are funny.

  3. Jerome

    I have to agree with Steve, that fact that these “words” seem to provide something is a joke. I have never seen nor worked with either a ninja or a guru, I feel that the real applicants need only list there true knowledge and experience. If someone (a recruiter) is looking for one of the said fables, then more power to them, and I do hope that they get what they pay for.

    • You’re right that it cuts both ways. It’s lame when companies/recruiters use them in job ads, and equally lame if someone puts those terms in their résumé/bio/etc. if someone wants to call you one of those terms (ninja, guru, rock star) – fine – but if you refer to yourself that way you’re not dong yourself any credibility favors.

  4. I’m frustrated by both the terms Ninjas and Gurus. It only seems to marginalize social media and implies that these jobs aren’t as important or real to a non-digital media marketing.

  5. Kathrine Giacchino

    Coming from someone who holds some wacky titles, in some cases I imagine employers are just posting job descriptions reflective of what is happening in their company. It’s not that the employee would actually have that particular title, in our case, none of us have titles. Our associates get to call themselves whatever they want, be it Director or Ninja. Internally, a title has no relevance to us, when all hands are needed for an effort, no one has a title that allows them to opt out.

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