Blessed are the Geeks, for they shall internet the earth

Top 10 tips for technology recruiters from a geek's perspective!
Will Nett

Ok, so I've been interviewed this month several times for various positions. This prompted me to come up with my top ten clues for recruiters (internally & externally) to effectively hire geeks.

1. Know thy clients requirements. We're not asking you to go and get MCSE, CCNA, or Solaris certified, but a comprehension of technology terminology definitely helps you to help us help you make money. Befriend a geek and maybe buy him/her lunch. During that lunch do not be afraid to ask questions about things you do not understand. A good geek can explain to you in layman's terms what is what, and help you comprehend what your customer is looking for. Trust me when I say there is nothing more frustrating for a geek when he has ten plus years experience and the recruiter disqualifies the candidate because he has no experience with DCHP. DHCP was the correct acronym... but recruiter had no idea what that was. Good geeks actually are willing to help.

2. Peter Parker does not exist. You are not going to find someone with MCSE (Windows), SCSA (UNIX), RHCE (Red Hat), CCIE (Cisco), CISSP (Security) certifications, and who has good experience in Oracle DBA, Bioinformatics, wireless, and data backup. I don't care how much money you throw at them, this is not one person... this is a small team of people. One person cannot be expected to perform all of these duties in an effective capacity. We may be geeks, but we do have limitations. If you do find a geek who can perform all of these duties, they'll burn out in a matter of weeks.

3. Certifications are worth their weight in paper. Surely you've seen these candidates who have a ton of certifications all obtained in one years time. Let me set the record straight... we call these people paper qualified. More than likely (99.99% chance) they did not learn the job, but rather they learned how to pass the test from a boot camp or cert mill. Experience weighs more heavily in my perspective than any certification or diploma. Any experienced geek knows that what's on a certification test may never apply in the real world. There exists too many potential variables that could cause something to go wrong that textbooks don't teach. I'd rather work in the trench with a geek who has been there rather than one who read it somewhere.

4. Thou shall not lie. Remember, we are believe it or not social, and do talk amongst each other. We are inquisitive and find out rather quickly what our peers make and often at times compare our skill sets and experiences. If you bring me in at $40K/yr and I find out that someone on my team is making $70K/yr with lesser experience or knowledge... you can bet your paycheck I'll be on within a few weeks. I once knew a disgruntled geek who had access to HR's monthly payroll spreadsheet and would send it out via anonymous e-mail to everyone in our department. That company has since folded.

5. Red tomatoes vs. Green tomatoes. What you call an Analyst may be called a technician by another company... or maybe an Administrator. There has never in the explosive growth of technology an HR summit that clearly labels or defines a position. Titles mean nothing to us in the grand scheme of things. Granted in the 80's there were either operators, technicians, or programmers, but today there exists too much melded criteria for too long to actually define a position title. Look at our resumes and compare that with your customer's needs. You'll have far better success.

6. The emperors new clothes. We're geeks... If we are expected to run wires beneath raised floors that haven't been cleaned in five years or climb under someone's desk, do not expect us to wear suits, collared shirts and tie every day of the week. We don't like it when we go home looking dirty because we had to go in a dusty closet and run wires. Remember that good geeks seldom have to go into closets that your cleaning crews don't even know about.

7. Salary is not slavery. Many of us that have supported the birth of the Internet are now in our thirties and forties. As such, believe it or not... many of us have families. Albeit, there are many newbie's (High-school & College Grads) that are single and enjoy working many hours overtime or working off hours... but remember we're human too. Our husbands, wives, and children would like to spend time with us as well. Please consider writing an official plan for comp time or overtime compensation. If you don't compensate your geek, someone else will.

8. Benefits is not just a word... it's a plan. Companies that have medical / dental benefits plans that equate to nothing more than a toothbrush and aspirin are small potatoes. If this is your plan, expect to retain lower grade geeks. I once worked for a company that had a medical insurance program through a company I will not mention that when I called about my children's medical shots for school told me, "Don't call us unless an ambulance is involved." Needless to say, I moved on.

9. Be Frank! Geeks are fickle, and ridiculously honest if you are frank with them. Interviews for us can be stressful... we are not salesmen / saleswomen, but if you talk to us like you would talk to your neighbor of ten years, we won't lie. Good geeks hate to frump themselves up with their knowledge or affiliations. We know, you are not a geek, and as such we will throw buzzwords your way that will get us into the door so we can meet with hopefully like geeks that will comprehend what we've done and where we plan to go. Ground zero honesty is the best policy.

10. When in doubt... Lunch! Invite a currently employed geek to lunch, no strings attached, pay for it, and fire away. You may learn exactly what your client / employer is looking for. You'll also learn a lot about the culture and personality of the geek. Never be afraid to ask them to break it down into layman's terms. If she/he is good, then they will convey it to you effectively in a way that you can understand.

In the end, if you follow these rules... you'll have a happy geek staff.

William M. Nett


 The Information Technology Survival Guide -- Douglas Chick


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