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How To Hire a Hacker 370

Posted by samzenpus
from the kid-have-you-rehabilitated-yourself dept.
itwbennett writes "If you want to hire a hacker, you need to take a more psychology-based approach to the entire interview process to determine whether he or she has changed their ways enough to be a trustworthy employee, says Mich Kabay in a recent Network World blog post. But this approach is also 'germane for highly skilled staffers, even those that don't come with arrest records or who have done something questionable in their pasts,' says David Strom. For example, in your next interview, ask a question that will suss out how much of a sense of entitlement a candidate has — or how much you or your company has. 'One time when I interviewed with Microsoft in Redmond I couldn't get over this sense of corporate entitlement — it was one of the biggest turn-offs that I had during my interviewing day there,' says Strom. 'I got the feeling that I wasn't going to fit in, no matter how smart I thought (or they thought) I was.'"
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How To Hire a Hacker

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  • Sounds more like (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wampus (1932) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:22PM (#29294663)

    Sounds more like "how to hire a self important misanthrope" to me.

    • by Jewbird (596227) <jewasaurus@ y a h o o . com> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:39PM (#29294815) Homepage
      If you aren't hiring self-important misanthropes, you aren't even trying.
    • In fairness (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SlappyBastard (961143) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:39PM (#29294819) Homepage
      The article is about how to not hire a self important misanthrope.
    • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:59PM (#29295047) Homepage

      Calling such people "misanthrope" is a bit harsh, I think.

      Someone who is intelligent, competent, and has a difficult time finding acceptance (or even a modicum of comfort-with-others) in new environments could very easily get falsely labeled a misanthrope. If they're capable and know up from down, calling them self-important is a wee bit counter-productive - and I dare say, quite possibly why they'd be viewed as misanthropic.

      A better characteristic descriptor would probably be "socially clueless". I know a lot of guys who come across harsh - myself included. They are usually some of the most open people I've known; they're also very amiable - but havent' a clue how to relate to others unlike themselves.

      • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @11:35PM (#29295265) Journal
        I have a friend in the high energy physics field. Four advanced degrees. I had the good fortune to have hired him as a contractor once when I was in a narrow bind, and I know he's bright. A bloody Klieg light amongst candles.

        He's also often distressed by the stupidity of the people he works with. "Mate" I said, "Everybody you work with will be stupider than you. Get used to it."

        I don't know if it helped much, but it's indicative. In a world of so-so thinkers, any bright sparks will have trouble fitting in. And it takes a fairly bright spark to be even a mediocre sysadmin, to be honest.

        • by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @12:37AM (#29295619)

          About 90% of people in the world *are* stupid.

          It's not their fault. They have been mis-educated,
          and are easily distracted. They really are clueless
          more than stupid. And they don't care that they
          don't know what is really going on.

          • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @12:41AM (#29295633) Journal

            About 90% of people in the world *are* stupid

            You are under arrest for egregious misuse of statistics.

          • I think it's a bit harsh. But I can say and prove with statistics that 50% of the people are stupider than average. :)

          • by rho (6063) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:34AM (#29298017) Homepage Journal

            Except for a few biologically retarded individuals, I've found that most people aren't stupid at all. Instead they're narrowly focussed in their intelligence.

            So Jim Bob may not know Sartre from Sasquatch, but he intimately knows a Chevy big-block engine. Or how to skin and clean a deer with a broken Coke bottle. Or some damn thing. He's intelligent and capable within some narrow parameters, and he's happy when he stays within them.

            It's the pervasive and rigid modern school system that divides people into "smart" and "stupid".

            • by Mr Z (6791) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:31AM (#29298685) Homepage Journal

              There's also the difference between "intelligent" and "informed." There are plenty of otherwise intelligent people that ignorant on topics that they're asked to weigh in on. Ignorance is a bigger problem than lack of intelligence, I'd say. This dovetails nicely into your observation.

              To see the effects of institutionalized ignorance, look at all the wasted intellectual effort of the Dark Ages. You have bright minds of the day debating over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, as opposed to advancing science and engineering. Imagine if all that effort had gone into developing the steam engine a few hundred years before James Watt got to it.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              I could go scavenge a Heinlein quote a paragraph long, but you already know how it ends: specialization is for insects. Creativity is part of intelligence. Being stuck in a rut isn't intelligence, it's pathetic.

              I don't care if I'm a genius or not, what I feel differentiates me and people like me from the masses of asses is that I want to learn new things. I like to think that Slashdot has a greater than average share of lifelong learners. I'll never be satisfied with what I know.

      • by rastilin (752802)
        Well I get called a "misanthrope" as well. It has nothing to do with being socially clueless. I've always felt that there was an understanding, you get summoned to perform a function, you turn up and you do it; then you leave. if you have nothing in common with your co-workers, then there's no real reason for you to bond with them and there's nothing wrong with working in companionable silence.

        Team building exercises are a blight on co-operation. Getting a bunch of people who may have legitimate reason to
        • by Glonoinha (587375) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @12:43AM (#29295649) Journal

          Actually that's because most 'team building exercises' suck.

          You want to build the most amazing team that ever graced your workplace? Send the three or four of them to Vegas or Miami or someplace that has TROUBLE for them to get into under the pretenses of a training class or a seminar, and only get them one car. That will insure they get in a ton of trouble together. When they get back, they will be tighter than any team you've ever seen, and they will get serious amounts of amazing work done. And the three or four of them will work so well together for the rest of their tenure - they will kick the snot out of any teams built over an afternoon playing blindfolded Monopoly and drinking non-alcoholic beverages or whatever the current fad in weak ass team building exercises is this season.

          Disclaimer - trouble in moderation. I'm talking going to strip clubs and drifting the rental car around corners, not burying a dead hooker in the desert.
          That said - a team that does the latter will be a LOT tighter than the team that does the former. Or so I've heard.

          • Re:Sounds more like (Score:5, Interesting)

            by TheModelEskimo (968202) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @01:40AM (#29295959)
            That's nice, unless you work in a place that's even mildly diverse, where you have people like Kevin the married Mormon who is into skydiving, Samir the introvert muslim who regularly takes prayer breaks and loves Sunny-D, and Tammi the feminist who enjoys electronic music and builds analog synths in her spare time.

            No, I think your amazing team-building system would work best with extroverted dopey white guys aged 20 - 30 and see nothing wrong with TV. Mooks, basically. It assumes a non-diverse team, so by definition it's a weak way to build teams in general.
          • by JWSmythe (446288)

            Time to bring on the dead hooker jokes.

                Q: What do you do when a hooker OD's at your house?

                A: Bury her in the back yard.

                Q: What do you do about the dead hooker buried in the back yard?

                A: Nothing. She's quiet, so she's obviously happy. Leave her alone.

                Q: What's the difference between a Corvette and a dead hooker at your house?

                A: Nothing. I don't have a Corvette.

        • "Team building exercises are a blight on co-operation."

          Agreed. I always feel like the misanthrope when something like that comes along. The people I work with have never been anywhere, they've never done anything, they don't read anything (assuming they are actually literate), and they have no clue what's happening around them. But, we're all supposed to make nice and say sweet thing about each other, and be "understanding". Phhhht.

          The less I know about most of them, the more I can pretend that I respec

        • Re:Sounds more like (Score:5, Informative)

          by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @02:53AM (#29296337)

          Team building does simply not work out. You cannot build a team. It happens or it does not. It's just that simple.

          If you really insist in "building" a team out of people who don't know jack each other, simple way: Grab them all for an afternoon, put them in a pub, sit down with them and get them drunk. Really drunk. Then have them talk. You'll have a team the next morning some of the times. And if not, you at least got a good hangover out of it on corporate pay.

      • Re:Sounds more like (Score:4, Informative)

        by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <marc...paradise@@@gmail...com> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:45AM (#29298853) Homepage Journal

        Someone who is intelligent, competent, and has a difficult time finding acceptance (or even a modicum of comfort-with-others) in new environments could very easily get falsely labeled a misanthrope.

        True, but.... far more often, they're just misanthropes *. You only have to look at the vitriol aimed at the "sheeple" that we see posted every day here to see that. It's possible to hate humankind in general while still liking specific people in your personal "circle", in the same way it's possible to be a racist while still having friends of another race.

        If they're capable and know up from down, calling them self-important is a wee bit counter-productive - and I dare say, quite possibly why they'd be viewed as misanthropic.

        It may be that they're viewed as misanthropic because of the scorn and disdain they heap onto others whom they don't view as being as smart as themselves -- which is usually 99.999% of the population.

        Yes, there are a lot of people who are simply "socially clueless" as you've described. But there are also a lot of misanthropes in the IT/IS fields. A rose by any other name, etc...

        *disclaimer: recovering misanthrope

    • Sounds like you're just being jealous, to me. ^^

    • Sounds more like "how to hire a self important misanthrope" to me.

      Where do I sign? :D

  • by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:23PM (#29294669) Journal

    Like a lot of big geeks on Slashdot, I take pride in always receiving a job offer after an interview... accept once. Once I interviewed with the EDIF reader group at Cadence, and the manager had exactly one technical question for me: "Do you understand recursion?" "Well... yes I do." "Well, then, you have all the skills that matter. What really counts is that you know how to fit in, and you don't impress me there."

    I'm still shaken up over that interview.

  • by overbaud (964858) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:24PM (#29294679)
    "Another problem is that some criminal hackers may exhibit traits associated with clinical personality disorders such as the narcissistic personality disorder." I'd say a large amount of IT staff exhibit personality disorders. Not just 'hackers'.
    • In the writer's defense, there is a wide difference between malignant narcissism and most other personality disorders. Dealing with a true narcissist is a soul-killing experience. Many other personality disorders range from the ho-hum (adjustment disorders) to the downright funny (obsessive compulsive personality disorder).

      Most personality disorders are fairly dealable. NPD is just a nightmare that never ends, short of someone one shooting the narcissist.

      • Many other personality disorders range from the ho-hum (adjustment disorders) to the downright funny (obsessive compulsive personality disorder).

        It's only funny for the first couple minutes. Then it starts to get old, and then it starts to drive you insane.

    • Re:On Personality (Score:5, Informative)

      by ignavus (213578) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @12:35AM (#29295611)

      "Another problem is that some criminal hackers may exhibit traits associated with clinical personality disorders such as the narcissistic personality disorder." I'd say a large amount of IT staff exhibit personality disorders. Not just 'hackers'.

      It is a job requirement. If we got on well with other people, how would we spend enough time alone with computers to become experts?

  • by mysidia (191772) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:25PM (#29294693)

    How to Fire a Hacker

    (Without getting pwned by her/him or his/her friends)

    Because (let's face it), there's a chance you hired one on accident, without realizing it, and that they don't have an arrest record, for one reason or another.

  • by shoemakc (448730) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:27PM (#29294705) Homepage

    I've found the best thing is to doze off during the interview, and when woken...ask for a raise.

    Remember, no sleep and no coffee are your friends here...

    -Chris

  • by mysidia (191772) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:34PM (#29294777)

    I consider this blatant hacker discrimination morally reprehensible.

    Is hacker culture so bad that anyone who identifies as a hacker needs to pass special scrutiny?

    Isn't it a bit insulting to the hacker community to say they shouldn't be hired, unless they've "reformed", and imply they have arrest records, suggesting they are all criminals ?

    Perhaps you mean cracker

    • by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:43PM (#29294869) Homepage Journal

      Perhaps you mean cracker

      "If I was a real cracker, I'd want to be topped with a real cheese, maybe a strong stilton."

      And I thought "hacker" actually meant someone who (literally) hacked on things. With a hatchet or similar. Or maybe language just changes, and we need to all get over it.

      • This is Slashdot, not the mainstream media. When we say hacker, we usually mean someone like Richard Stallman or Eric S. Raymond, that is people who are naturally talented at writing code. A hack is an interesting way of using something, such as using CPU fans to cool a cooler. Just because the mainstream media misuses tech words, does not mean that it is really correct. It would be like saying that RNA is simply half a strand of DNA, even though it might give the general picture to people without basic kno
        • by wampus (1932) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:52PM (#29294975)

          So hacker means blowhard?

        • Just because the mainstream media misuses tech words, does not mean that it is really correct.

          The thing is, it's not a technical word. It's more of a social/identity word, and that consists just as much of people identifying you as it does of you identifying yourself. It's a case where "everybody does it" makes it correct.

      • And I thought "hacker" actually meant someone who (literally) hacked on things. With a hatchet or similar.

        So more like Hans Reiser?

      • And I thought "hacker" actually meant someone who (literally) hacked on things.

        Sometimes, the word can also mean a minister.

        Yes.

    • by bennomatic (691188) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:45PM (#29294883) Homepage
      Mmmm. Crackers make me hungry. I'm a snacker.
    • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @11:23PM (#29295193) Homepage

      Perhaps you mean cracker

      Cracker is a derogatory slang term for people originating in rural areas of the southern part of the US.

      If you want to hire a cracker, just look for the baseball cap and check for a pickup truck with a gun rack-- or a John Deere tractor-- parked outside.

      • Perhaps you mean cracker

        Cracker is a derogatory slang term for people originating in rural areas of the southern part of the US.

        If you want to hire a cracker, just look for the baseball cap and check for a pickup truck with a gun rack-- or a John Deere tractor-- parked outside.

        ...so what's "redneck" mean, then?

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          ...so what's "redneck" mean, then?

          "cracker" is racial/cultural (must be white)
          "redneck" is socioeconomic/cultural (probably white)

          The difference is subtle, and you should expect a large overlap between the groups. However, the key to proper use of such epithets is being as precise as possible.

          Similar pairs include: "white trash" vs "trailer trash", "chink" vs "coolie", "kike" vs "shylock", and "WASP" vs "yuppie"

    • Yes, I agree. Article seems to be more focused on hiring crackers. As any hacker knows, crackers are not generally skilled geniuses. I don't see why you'd want to hire one anyway, at least not for their cracker experience.
    • Sorry, dude, the media morons won this one: hackers are evil critters that pwn machines for the lulz, while crackers are poor white people. The only really way that popular culture describes smart computer people is "scary person we don't understand". For instance, Terry Childs.
  • Even the stupidest hardened criminal can pretend remorse when it'll get him something... do hiring managers really think they're going to screen out the unrepentant with questions whose "right answers" are obvious. I mean, the few fools who suggest in an interview that the way to handle a bad supervisor is to break into his account and use it to download child porn are going to be pretty obvious in any case.

    • What you're talking about when exhibited by a person with a criminal record would be considered a psychopathic personality. Believe it or not, some personality types simply cannot fake their way through their disorder. And narcissists are among the weakest at faking neurotypical behavior. NPDs generally have a hard time grasping what is so wrong about their bad behavior, and often are flagrant in their gloating and celebration of every evil deed they ever did.

      I have a relative who is a full-fledged malig

  • Simple plan: (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Hurricane78 (562437)

    1. Go to a big forest.
    2. Follow the loud noises.
    3. ...
    4. HACKER!

  • How to... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:58PM (#29295041)
    The easy way to hire tech people and keep them happy is have them work on, wait for it... technology. That is, most of them, unless they signed up for help desk basically want to be given a problem, some hardware, some software and then them to fix the problem. Thats it, no "team building", no pointless meetings, in general most tech people are happy simply working. The less social interaction with most people is the best.
    • Re:How to... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wampus (1932) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @11:08PM (#29295115)

      That's a hard way to make a decent product. If Billy's app doesn't talk to Sue's service because the two never speak to one another or sit down to do a review, it doesn't matter how brilliant either of them is. Their shit still doesn't work.

      • Communication among programmers is expensive. Brook's law. Sometimes it's necessary, but it's never cheap and it's always ugly time. Moral? Define the interfaces first, and make people write standalone tests for the inputs and outputs to their work first. Peer-review the code periodically to keep people honest, but otherwise leave good programmers the hell alone.

        And get off my lawn.

    • Re:How to... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alpha830RulZ (939527) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @11:19PM (#29295157)

      I don't agree. If this were true, then the foosball table in our kitchen wouldn't be busy all the time.

      I think it's a subtler truth here. Many technical folks are more comfortable on working technical problems than people problems. Tech problems have at least one right answer that is unambiguous. People problems may not.

      I think the way to keep tech people happy is to give them good problems to work on, serve as a diplomatic layer to insulate them from the annoying people surrounding them in the world, and facilitate making the rules clear on the floor to minimize conflict among the team. And provide free pop.

  • by hardburn (141468)

    Just offer them a Miata, X-Men number 1, and a subscription to Playboy.

    • Eww. Offer them a Cayman S and let them find their own female companionship - the whole lone geek thing is only true in high school, and often not even then.
  • by fireheadca (853580) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @11:31PM (#29295243)
    A good hacker shouldn't be looking for work. He should be running....

    ---
    When they outlaw computers only outlaws will be free.
  • Love the Arlo Guthrie reference here :)

  • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000 AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @12:14AM (#29295505)

    When it is safe to have a hacker on your IT staff

    It is always safe to hire and employ a hacker. If they don't follow the hacker ethic [he.fi] they aren't a hacker. Maybe a cracker, hackivist, or script kiddie but not a hacker.

    Falcon

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