WHAT IS THE GEEK CODE? (and why should Recruiters care?)

Okay, so I’m flipping the channels late one night and I come across a Spanish soap opera. I do  not speak Spanish, but from what I could tell somebody was cheating on somebody else and the  geek-codemain body was just getting home. Panic struck the couple and amid the hurried dressing and last minute kisses, someone said, “See you later.”

And I said, “Hey! I understood that.”

For a moment I thought I had mastered the Spanish language purely through osmosis and the mass consumption of Taco Bell burritos; but such was not the case. All of the characters began speaking Spanish again and I was back to looking at the actions and facial expressions of the people on the screen. As I observed all of this, I thought to myself, “Self, this is just like recruiting.”

Sound kinda crazy? Bear with me a moment and imagine the recruiting cycle from the angle of a Software Developer. Better yet, think of it from the angle of a highly-skilled Software Developer who works for a competitor. Better yet, think of it from the angle of a highly-skilled Software Developer who works for a competitor who mentioned on a blog that his job sucks. Better yet� Well, you get the picture. How many emails do you think this Software Developer received from recruiters seeking to seduce him (or her) into the welcoming arms of their open position? For arguments sake, let’s go with 7 emails a week (assuming a better economy than now).

Recruiter 1: “Hey I found your information online and wanted to introduce myself�”
Recruiter 2: “I have this new opening that you would be perfect for. Can we talk?”
Recruiter 3: “I am looking to recruit software engineers for my client in Redmond and�”
Recruiter 4: “Are you open to an interview?”
Recruiter 5: “Blah, blah”
Recruiter 6: “Blah, blah, blah”
Recruiter 7: “Blah, blah, blah, blobbity-blah.”

After a while all of the emails from recruiters begin to sound the same and the Software Developer does not “hear” them anymore. Instead, he (or she) looks for something in the email that speaks to them directly; something that either meets their immediate interest or persuades them to read through the entire email. For example, check this email out.


Your name,

Blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Software Engineer blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Redmond, WA. blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, competitive salary blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah.

A Recruiter


Now I will wager that this is how most people read unsolicited email, unless the content is compelling and/or elicits an emotional response to action; otherwise, a quick delete is exercised. Now imagine if there was a way to create an email that was so intriguing to geeks that they not only responded, but forwarded your email to their peers as well. Sound too good to be true? One may think that if they did not have access to� “The Geek Code.” (insert dramatic music here)�

Gee Jim, “What is� The Geek Code?” (insert dramatic music here)

“Glad you asked,” I reply. “Here is the answer.”

The Geek Code was created by Robert Hayden in 1993 as a means of self-identification for geeks. With just a few lines of (seemingly) indecipherable code, a geek could proudly proclaim his  25634406_0a70a1b63f1interests, his technical prowess and grant insight into his personality. In a very real way, it was like social networking, but without signing up for anything. (Umm� kinda’) For example, review the following Geek Code below:

GED/J d- s:++>: a- C++(++++) ULU++ P+ L++ E– W+(-) N+++ o+ K+++ w- O-M+ V-PS++>$ PE++>$ Y++ PGP++ t- 5+++ X++R+++>$ tv+ b+ DI+++ D+++ G++++ e++ h r- y++


Translated, the above code identifies the geek who wrote the code as:

  • ” Geek of Education, Geek of Jurisprudence (Law). My t-shirts go a step further and have a trendy political message on them. I’m a linebacker candidate. But someday I’d like to say: “I’m an average geek.” ” My age is 20-24.
  • ” I like C++. My tendencies on this issue range from: “Computers are a large part of my existence. When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is log myself in. I play games or mud on weekends, but still manage to stay off of academic probation.”, to: “I’ll be first in line to get the new cybernetic interface installed into my skull.”
  • ” I use Linux and Ultrix. I’ve get the entire admin ticked off at me because I am always using all of the CPU time and trying to run programs that I don’t have access to. I’m going to try cracking /etc/passwd next week, just don’t tell anyone.
  • ” I know of perl. I like perl. I just haven’t learned much perl, but it is on my agenda.
  • ” I use Linux ALMOST exclusively on my system. I’ve given up trying to achieve Linux.God status, but welcome the OS as a replacement for DOS. I only boot to DOS to play games.
  • ” Emacs sucks! pico forever!!!
  • ” My tendencies on this issue range from: “I have the latest version of Netscape, and wander the web only when there’s something specific I’m looking for.”, to: “The web is really a pain. Life was so much easier when you could transfer information by simple ASCII. Now everyone won’t even consider your ideas unless you spiff them up with bandwidth-consuming pictures and pointless information links.”
  • ” I read so many news groups that the next batch of news comes in before I finish reading the last batch, and I have to read for about 2 hours straight before I’m caught up on the morning’s news. Then there’s the afternoon
  • ” I give to liberal causes. I march for gay rights. I’m a card carrying member of the ACLU. Keep abortion safe and legal. But someday I’d like to say: “Getting paid for it!”

And this is only a portion of what the code means! To decipher the entirety of this code would make this post a WHOLE LOT LONGER. The Geek Code encompasses multiple facets of Geek life to include: Appearance, Computer knowledge, Politics, Entertainment and Lifestyle.

So what would people do with their Geek Codes? They would add it to their email signature lines, hide it in the source code of technical projects or post it in forums when debating ideas. What happened next? Initially The Geek Code was an instant underground phenomenon that only geeks were privy to; eventually the popularity of the code forced itself into the mainstream (somewhat). In 1995, The Geek Code was mentioned in Fast Forward, Boardwatch and The Washington Post.

Although the mainstream notoriety waned, The Geek Code continues to exist (in some capacity) among geeks online in source code, the occasional blog entry and in forums. Here are a few examples:

After discovering The Geek Code, two things immediately came to mind. First, I have a means of tracking geeks based on their Geek Code (more on that later) and should I decide to contact them, I have free access to who they are as a person. (Imagine how much easier building a rapport would be with this kind of insde info on a candidate?) Second, I have a way of breaking through the clutter of email and getting geeks to identify with me and vice-versa. For example, remember the email example I used before? Let’s review a new and improved email, powered by The Geek Code.


Your name,

Blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Software Engineer blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah Atlanta, GA. blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, competitive salary blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah.

A Recruiter

GLS d- s: a? C+++ L- W++ N+++ K- w+ O- PS- PE+ Y+ t+ X++++ R* tv+++ b+ DI+ G e h– r+++ y+++


The desired geek response (and hopefully the average geek response) would be:

“Wow! I’ve never received an email from a recruiter that knows and understands the geek code. Maybe they do “get it.” I’m going to reply to this email for sure and just for giggles, let me send it to a few of my pals.

Dude! Can you believe this? This recruiters is hip to the geek code!!! Who’d a thunk it?

So maybe I am being overly optimistic? With email being so cheap to send, what’s the harm in trying it out?

*If you like what you have read so far, click here to download the rest of this article. This is what’s inside of it:

  • How to track Geeks by the Geek Code (and other codes not mentioned in this article)
  • Search strings that you can immediately use to find Software Developers and…
  • The Sourcing Geek Code (insert dramatic music here)

Happy Hunting!

Jim Stroud, Searchologist
(404) 939-5752

Version: 1.0 – http://jimstroud.com/code
SE+++++ JB SN+++++ T Tr+++++ So++ So+++ So++++ Y+++++ W IS+++ IS++++++ M+++

About Jim Stroud:

jim-stroud-public-speaker-gives-webinars Jim Stroud is a “Searchologist” with an expertise in the full life-cycle placement of Executive and Technical personnel, Recruitment Research and Competitive Intelligence. He has consulted for such companies as Google, Siemens, MCI and a host of start-up companies. During his 3-year tenure with Microsoft, he served as a Technical Sourcing Consultant and was a regular contributor to Microsoft’s Technical Careers Blog. He is presently a Social Media Development Manager for EnglishCafe – the premier English learning community for global professionals.

By Noel Cocca

CEO/Founder RecruitingDaily and avid skier, coach and avid father of two trying to keep up with my altruistic wife. Producing at the sweet spot talent acquisition to create great content for the living breathing human beings in recruiting and hiring. I try to ease the biggest to smallest problems from start-ups to enterprise. Founder of RecruitingDaily and our merry band of rabble-rousers.