Getting Linux Jobs
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by Andrea W. Cordingly for Reallylinux.com OPINION/EDITORIAL section.
In a qualitative review of job posting websites, even highly
skilled Linux administrators would be hamstrung to succeed in getting to the stage of an
All of this results in hundreds of decent and skilled people
being snubbed without cause simply because today's job market requires a few extra tools to increase the odds.
I have two colleagues and a cousin who have all received
certifications with RedHat, managed quite extensive server rooms, and received
earnest recommendations from former employers.
All of these skills,
certifications and experience come to naught as they apply to employer ads that
are crudely constructed by someone hurriedly cutting and pasting snippets of
"skill words" from a list of technical terms.
Not surprisingly, today's politeness has gone the way of the bird, and a non-response from companies posting ads seems to be the new way of
Unfortunately, it also means that these recruiters/HR personnel probably did not get the best candidate.
The reason I can say this with such conviction is because of
the type of buffoonery that takes place so often when creating job ads in the
Walter, another Reallylinux.com guest writer, presented how
Job Want Ads Have Gone Mad.
Perhaps he's right. However, I believe every Linux job
seeker can avoid pitfalls of a job hunt by keeping in mind three key facts
about job ads.
First, few advertisements for Linux administrators are
exclusively about Linux.
Bear in mind the occasional Linux system administrator job,
where you would actually be using Linux on servers. Instead, many jobs that rise
up on a "Linux administrator" search are actually referring to a plethora of 'NX
For example, here is a quote from a "Linux Administrator"
This role will provide support for build system integration,
especially operating system installation support for BSD applications...
Or another ad declares in the bowels of its content:
Windows administration experience required.
Ironically, if you show up to interview for any of these
types of jobs and focus on Linux, they probably will not choose you.
Even more importantly, if you simply include Linux as your
expertise, they may not even bother with your resume, because they can't tell
the difference between UNIX, BSD, Linux, etc.
As a result, if you are conscientious and only include Linux
on your resume, you are automatically out. But change that Linux to UNIX/Linux
and you end up getting a bit farther in the human resources bureaucracy.
I had two colleagues that ended up changing this on their
resumes and getting a much better hit ratio for interviews, which were still
slim pickings because most job ads are tailored with some particular person
already in mind. The main intent behind such job ads being a cover for the ass
of the department making the claim of having an open job.
Second, the only person at the company who cares at all
about the system administrator position is the technical lead/manager hiring
for the slot. Others at the company, including the HR contact or the
management could not care less.
I remember sitting in a board room as a fly on the wall,
hearing one executive vice president refer to server administrators as "dime a
dozen geeks." How wrong they are to suggest this.
Ironically, one day should the mail system fail, or the PBX
connectivity hiccup, or perhaps core business files disappear from the
intranet, these same executives are the first to get on the phone and threaten
to fire the system admins.
Perhaps if they would stop leaving so many hot air telephone
messages, or filling their emails with 35MB photographs of another vice president's
fishing trip and wife, the servers wouldn't be so problematic.
Be aware that a Linux administrator ad, or any job posting
for server administrator is placed because someone at the TECHNICAL level sees
an urgent need for staffing. You're not going to get any empathy talking to HR
or any leader of the company. Instead, take the time to find out who the
hiring technical manager is and try to telephone them.
You can always call them directly because you have some
"specific technical questions" you know the HR person could not answer. This
opens the dialogue with the person who actually cares that the position is
filled and ensures you get a foot in because you took the time for personal
contact, even if it was a 60 second phone call.
What if the HR beauracracy won't let you through?
Start asking as many tech questions as possible direct to
the HR hiring contact, such as how their Linux clusters are setup and do they
run VMs exclusively? Anything relatively technical will send these HR people
in a tizzy and allow you the question: "may I contact the technical manager
of the team?"
If the response is a fluffy "maybe" or "I'll get back to you
on that" they already filled the slot in their mind with someone else two weeks
earlier, such as the HR staff member's fiance. They simply wanted it to look less
like nepotism and more like indeterminism with a dash of egoism.
So take the time to find out who is the direct TECHNICAL
leader hiring for the position and talk to them. It can make a difference and
get you past some of the baloney.
I've seen enough ads requiring a junior system administrator
with expertise that senior level experts don't have, to know the plan is to
list the blue sky wish list and then find out who applies.
In this situation, the Linux administrator ad you apply for,
should include some key phrases for which you already have experience or
The trick is to so overload your resume with the key phrases
that MATCH their ad, it becomes almost impossible for them to determine which
phrases you left out.
This doesn't necessarily translate to a job, but it often
adds enough intrigue to get you an interview, which now a days is a major step.
By understanding and applying these three techniques, hopefully
those seeking Linux administrator jobs have a head start on those who have only
a slim chance in hell.
Even if these tips don't get you interviews right away, you
can use the experience and awareness when you go to the next trade show, or
company sponsored technical conference.
I strongly recommend you regularly attend these as well,
especially if they are reasonably close, as they always provide a kick start to
Remember that job networking now a days is a pseudonym for
"getting the gossip on which companies are actually hiring and which ones are
just lying about jobs to give the appearance of growth for shareholders."