Interview with a Geek

by Modis on May 14, 2013

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A geeky IT pro extending his hand for a handshake.It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the top minds and talents in the tech realm lean toward the geekier end of the spectrum. When you’re hunting for IT professionals to staff key positions among your team of techies, geeks are often among the most sought-after candidates. At times, however, interviewing such folks poses a challenge since introversion and awkward tendencies can be stumbling blocks. We’re indeed a quirky lot, but we have a lot to offer if you can look beyond our eccentricities. As someone who falls very soundly within this wheelhouse, here’s some interviewing advice for employers that are courting nerdy kinfolk.

Prepare for awkward moments – Social prowess is not typically a strong suit among geeks. Be ready for the possibility of odd pauses in the conversation, anxious behavior, and occasional verbal fumbling. If and when these or other unusual behaviors manifest during the interview, be lenient in your judgment and do what you can to put your interviewee at ease without making light of their quirks.

Avoid prolonged eye contact – When you spend the vast majority of your time immersed in code, computers, and calculations, close one-on-one interactions with strangers can be very uncomfortable. While eye contact is an important part of any interview, be mindful of how your interviewee reacts to it and don’t push it if they seem shy.

Find the spark – Whether in casual conversation or a more formal line of questioning, find out what aspect of their professional life and skill set interests them, then get them talking about it. By their very nature, most geeks have at least a few, often tech-heavy, pursuits they’re meticulously devoted to — even bordering on obsession in some cases. Get them talking about whatever they’re passionate about, and you’ll see a very different side of your interviewee as they open up. Be forewarned though – this can be like opening Pandora’s Box.

Embrace the “Geek!”– There are so many people out there that readily self-identify as geeks and have a sense of pride from their interests and quirks. Although only 13% of “geeks” actually “sneak their geek,” the other 87% are loud and proud about their geekiness. Don’t be afraid to embrace that! Many geeks are perceived as hard working and loyal – two excellent qualities in a potential hire. The passion that many geeks have for technology can be the extra edge for your company.

It’s important to remain open-minded and flexible when courting geeks to fill your to IT positions. Sure, we may have our eccentricities, but the benefits of finding the right candidate who has the chops you’re looking for and a strong passion for their work is worth it.

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