By Scot Herrick

"Ninja" is the latest fad to try and describe a person's job skills. The Wall Street Journal reports:

In 2009, the growth of "ninja" as a new job description far outpaced the growth of other trendy titles, according to LinkedIn Corp., a Web site that provides networking for more than 65 million professionals. While the numbers are still small on LinkedIn - some 800 current or former ninjas have public profiles on the site- their growth has skyrocketed past other fashionable careers such as "gurus" and "evangelists," says Monica Rogati, a scientist at LinkedIn who finds patterns in jobs data.

It's harder to quantify precisely what a ninja is.

What's a Ninja?

A Ninja, apparently, is anything anyone wants it to be. Deft at programming? Ability to handle anything thrown at you on the job? A Ninja. Tired of the "evangelist" and "guru" titles of Web 1.0? Ninja is the new term for Web 2.0.

Therein lies the problem for candidates shooting for real jobs and using the term as part of their work resume: Ninja can mean anything to anyone. Since there's no clear definition of what it means in the workplace, you risk having your resume thrown out in the first seconds after reading it in the description.

Remember, the purpose of the resume is to get you an interview, not to get thrown into the circular file because you're not using recognizable terms to the person deciding if your resume should get passed on to the hiring manager.

After all, while the English language clearly evolves over time, the starting definition of a Ninja is this one: a spy who also kills people. If your literal person reading your resume thinks that Ninja was a spy and that describes your work, the circular file will become your destination. Even if the person reading your resume isn't so literal, why would you risk an ambiguous job title when your objective is laser focused on getting the interview? You could even fall into some big traps by using Ninja. Again, the Journal:

In finance, ninja has a more dubious meaning - it's an acronym for a kind of loan in which a bank hasn't verified an applicant's income, job, or assets. After the housing bubble, many of these sorts of loans ended up in default, with their borrowers disappearing like ninjas.

That will help you get the interview in a finance role, don't you think? Not.

Fashionable Job Titles Don't Help You Get the Interview

Now, I don't know about you, but whenever I look at the short descriptions of people's work title on LinkedIn and see those quirky, fashionable job titles, I want to gag. "Chief Evangelist Officer," "Programming Guru" or "Process Black Belt" are all just fashionable titles. When I see them, I immediately discount the person's abilities to do the job because of the made-up job titles.

Look, it's understandable to want to differentiate yourself from others competing for jobs. But here's the deal: resumes need to show how your work contributes to company and department goals. The resume needs to show your results, preferably with numbers and impact on department goals. Producing results like "programmed new inventory process that reduced cycle time for customer orders by one day, saving the company $1 million" will go much further than "Inventory programming Ninja."

The really great news? Most resumes don't show results of the person's work. Provide results and you automatically differentiate yourself.

Results Matter

Forget the fashionable job titles that offer ambiguous definitions and can't possibly be proven. Instead, work to get your results from your work into your resume. Results that have business impact that can show increased revenue, decreased cost or reduced cycle time. Show that your work can help the company reach their business objectives.

It's not your job title that matters on the resume. It's your results.


Scot Herrick is the author of "I've Landed My Dream Job--Now What???" and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. provides online career management training for workers who typically work in a corporate cubicle. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.