Why We Don’t Hire Rock Stars : Under30CEO Why We Don’t Hire Rock Stars : Under30CEO
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Why We Don’t Hire Rock Stars

| April 8, 2013 | 20 Comments

My company doesn’t hire rock stars, and neither should yours. Think about it: Rock stars are notorious for drinking, partying, and staying out all night. They’re not known for being responsible or particularly hard-working. Is that really the kind of employee you want to work with?

I’m sick of the job descriptions that state that the companies in question only hire rock stars. If you’re not a music producer or a distributor of black eyeliner for men, you don’t want rock stars. Here’s my shortlist of the other personalities that keep popping up in job descriptions that I would rather not bring on our team.


Startups, specifically tech startups, are notorious for stating they want a “website ninja” or a “social media ninja,” and I simply cannot figure out why. The definition of a ninja, according to dictionary.com, is “a member of a class of 14th-century Japanese mercenary agents who were trained in the martial arts and hired for covert operations such as assassination and sabotage.” Although this means they have a very impressive skillset, I’m not sure I need a trained assassin running my company’s Twitter account. Ninjas are also known for being extremely stealthy. I’m afraid that if we hired a ninja, we’d never be able to find him, and would just find sliced fruit lying around the office instead.


While I’m completely content with hiring diehard “Star Wars” fans, I’m not sure Jedis would fit in with our company culture. Jedis are known for being very secretive. They are most definitely not transparent, and I imagine I’d have a hard time ever knowing what they were really working on. The Jedi mind trick skill might be valuable when dealing with clients, but I’m not sure I could subject the rest of our team to this type of psychological warfare.


People have adapted the word “guru” to mean a specialist, but the real definition is closer to a spiritual leader. Since I don’t run a religious organization, I don’t currently see a need for a spiritual leader on the team. If someone is a self-appointed guru in a specific area, we know he won’t be a good fit simply because he’s the type of person who declared himself a guru. Enough said.

This is a real problem. Companies don’t know what a good employee should look like, so they default to the heroes they see in entertainment. They’ve begun using trendy phrases as shorthand for what they want because they don’t actually know what they want. If you don’t believe me, you can read this article on the WSJ, chockfull of stats on companies begging for rock stars.

It’s not that my team doesn’t want to work with great people; it’s actually the contrary. We want to work with wonderfully talented, driven, intellectually curious people. Rock stars, ninjas, Jedis, and gurus need not apply.


Kelsey Meyer is President and Co-Founder of DTA, a leading provider of expert content to the world’s leading publications.

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Category: Startup Advice

  • http://twitter.com/sebmaldo Sebastián Maldonado

    what about super heros??

  • http://twitter.com/sebmaldo Sebastián Maldonado

    What about super heros?

  • http://www.siedahmitchumdesigns.com/ Siedah Mitchum

    I think the best way to do business is to keep it simple and get to the point. I actually understand where you were coming from in this article.

    I know a few ninjas and gurus myself. Everyone wants to highlight as being a “expert”.

    I like to be myself and be honest with people! There are no tricks or special effects to what I offer; just good customer service!

  • http://twitter.com/Kelsey_M_Meyer Kelsey Meyer

    Thanks for the reply Siedah. I agree simplicity is best :)

  • http://twitter.com/Kelsey_M_Meyer Kelsey Meyer

    haha I think a case COULD be made for hiring super heros, but I’d need to make sure they didn’t use their powers for evil :) Thanks for reading Sebastian.

  • http://www.siedahmitchumdesigns.com/ Siedah Mitchum

    Your welcome. I look forward to more of your posts Kelsey.

  • http://twitter.com/AppIt_Ventures AppIt Ventures

    haha, I love this. I’m not sure I entirely agree; I’m a stickler for language choice (the phrase “I could care less” drives me nuts, because the true meaning is the opposite of the intended) but I think in this case, they’re just trying to be fun and show a somewhat informal side. If that’s not what they want to portray, then they should use formal terms like “expert.” But otherwise I think it’s not the worst thing ever. With that said, I do have a personal pet peeve against “guru” so I guess I’m just picky in any case!

  • http://www.theconfidencelounge.com/ Aaron Morton

    What is more interesting is whether the company that is asking for rock stars/ninjas/gurus/superstar Jedi has created the environment that actually allows them to be that anyway.

    For the majority of time I think these companies put these names on a job description in order for them to sound a bit more interesting and edgy but in reality can turn out to be just another business that is too risk averse to be innovative – which is essentially what they want from these super heroes!

    Good article

    Aaron Morton

  • http://www.facebook.com/ellen.cherninsperling Ellen Chernin Sperling

    Thanks for putting a smile on my face. There’s not a lot of room left in a workspace after all the egotistical rockstars, ninjas, gurus and jedis take over. For other business options, visit YouveGotFunds.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/nita.jones.5855 Nita Jones

    Awesome points

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  • http://twitter.com/Kelsey_M_Meyer Kelsey Meyer

    Hey Aaron, Thank you for the comment I completely agree that a lot of companies are hoping to attract people that wouldn’t necessarily love the environment the company has already created.

  • http://twitter.com/Kelsey_M_Meyer Kelsey Meyer

    Thank you for the comment! I’m glad we agree on the “guru” pet peeve! I completely understand your point that companies are just trying to show an informal side, and I think it definitely accomplishes this. I hope they can find more creative ways to show personality in job descriptions in the future though. Thanks again for reading and commenting :)

  • http://twitter.com/Kelsey_M_Meyer Kelsey Meyer

    Thanks for reading/commenting Ellen! Glad you enjoyed the article :)

  • http://www.leadsandappointments.com/ Anika Davis

    Ninjas, Jedis, Gurus. Well their attitude is also not belong in my company. As a company owner I do evaluate their attitude before hiring because I know that sometimes our success varies on their attitude. Really like your post Siedah :)

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  • Marc Zazeela

    I think that anyone who refers to themselves by any of these self aggrandizing terms, is someone that needs to be self employed. Rock stars, gurus, ninjas, and the like don’t seem like they would be good team players.



    Just an ordinary guy

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