I Am Not a Guru (Neither Are You)

common barn owl ( tyto albahead ) head close up

Being a fully distributed company means we can hire the best people regardless of where they live. We receive hundreds of resumes every week from applicants all over the world. But I am still surprised to see the incredible number of “gurus” who are applying for open roles at Aha! — I mean, what are the odds?

Consider this post a gentle public service announcement for anyone pondering whether to add such a brag to a job application, LinkedIn profile, or cover letter. I humbly suggest that you should not.

Now, you may be thinking, “Wait, didn’t you just announce that you wrote a book about how to build lovable companies? That sounds like something a self-proclaimed guru might do.” Yes, I did write a book and I hope you will read it. But no, I am not a guru. And my guess is that neither are you. 

So why am I seeing so many resumes and cover letters from so-called gurus?

I do know that finding a new job can be tough. In comments on my previous posts about job hunting, readers have shared frustrating experiences as candidates, fumbling around in the dark trying to discern exactly what employers are looking for. Perhaps this lack of transparency leads candidates to think a sweeping term like “guru” will grab the attention of a hiring manager. Or maybe these job seekers are hoping to communicate confidence and mastery.

But even if you truly do have super powers, you should never claim to be a guru in a cover letter. Why? Well, it can put you in a negative light.

Hiring managers will most likely perceive you as:

You should be confident in your abilities. But there is a line between confidence and arrogance. Give yourself a lofty label and you run way past that divide, putting yourself above everyone else. And while you are busy bragging, you may turn off employers who are looking not for mavericks but for people who can work with a team.

Declaring yourself a guru may seem like a gutsy move to you. But it smacks of desperation — a last-ditch effort to get noticed and it probably is not truly accurate. The employer might conclude that you see the world through a warped pair of lenses, unaware of reality and your actual skill set.

If you are willing to exaggerate or use hyperbole in your cover letter, employers may wonder what other facts you may be stretching or hiding (and why). You may come across as a schemer rather than someone who can be genuine, open, and honest with others.

Calling yourself a guru is a big put-on — a charade that forces people to read between the lines and make assumptions about the truth behind the self-anointed title.

But there is an even bigger problem. You are essentially announcing to the world that you have no room for learning or improvement. You are as good as it gets! No need to look any further! You already know everything. 

Well, at Aha! we are not looking for people who already have all the answers. We want smart people who are ready to learn, who want to grow, and will put in a big effort to get better every day. The best candidates demonstrate curiosity and humility. We love to hire people who have clear goals and can articulate how the job they are applying for will help them achieve those goals.

I bet that most employers are not seeking a guru. So when you apply for that next job, be truthful. Do not puff up your chest to promote what you have to offer. Present yourself with optimistic realism. 

You are not a guru and neither am I. And that is just fine with me.

What other claims should job seekers avoid?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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  1. Dar Weathers

    Thanks for this advice! Being honest about our abilities and not overstating or understating them is very important and refreshing to see it is important to the guy in charge, you!


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