Getting Linux Jobs
by Andrea W. Cordingly for OPINION/EDITORIAL section.

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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 interview.

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. Often including snippets such as "Windows Server 2019" or "Server 2016 Datacenter."

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 communicating. Even when their own ads suggest contacting them for any specific questions or details.

Unfortunately, it also means that these recruiters/HR personnel probably did not get the best candidates in for interviews, because their over simplified IT "keywords" failed to match with experienced professionals such as Linux gurus.

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 first place. I should know as I served in a Fortune 500 for the past eight years, being tasked to write some ridiculously inadequate ads.

Walter, another 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 facets of 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 operating systems.

For example, here is a quote from a recent "Linux Administrator" job posting:
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 or expand the phrase to include "Enterprise Server" generic experience, you can indeed end up getting a bit farther in the human resources bureaucracy.

I had two colleagues that tailored their resumes with some broader phrases and saw much better hit ratios 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. Often they don't even know what the job entails.

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. The current job market reality is that people who can actually administer servers are a unique and often very limited group.

Ironically, one day should the email systems fail, or the PABX connectivity hiccup, or core business files disappear from the cloud based host or file storage, these same executives are the first to get on the phone and demand utter urgency from these very same system admins.

Perhaps if they would stop leaving so many hot air telephone messages, or filling their emails with 50MB 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 email or 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.

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.

Third, few job ads today include any semblance of reality.

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. They are using a blue sky approach, hoping to get the best candidate for lowest market price.

In this situation, the Linux administrator ad you apply for, should include some key phrases for which you already have experience or certifications.

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 networking.

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."

This brief opinion piece should not be construed as factual information, and only contains the opinions and personal experiences of the author at the time of publication. could not find information in this article that at the time of publication was inaccurate. However, the opinions and personal experiences that have been posted do not express the opinions of and are not endorsed in any way. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. Microsoft and Microsoft Windows are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation both in the United States and Internationally. All other trademarks or registered trademarks in this opinion piece belong to their respective owners.