Your Linux/DevOps Career – Should you apply to a job if you’re missing some “Requirements”?

So, you’re looking through a job board and a job posting catches your eye. It seems like a great opportunity, but some of the qualifications they’re asking for are missing from your skillset. What do you do? Should you still apply? In this video, I’m going to give you my thoughts on that.

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  1. Apply anyway. When I was recruiting people to join my team, I had overqualified people who I didn’t like and underqualified who I liked. And obviously, the other way around too. And I wasn’t looking at studies at all, I ended up recruiting a college dropout.

  2. I used to work as a recruiter and saw similar things from the hiring managers we worked with. If you have a decent match with the job description, want to learn the remaining technologies, and are relatively in the ball park for that type of position, it doesn’t hurt to apply. If it’s the kind of job you’d be interested in, don’t limit your options.

    I also rarely was able to find candidates that checked every box. Folks should see it as the more boxes you check, the better your chances, but at least try to apply for jobs where you check the majority of the boxes. If they need 10 things and you have 6, give it a shot.

  3. Out of curiosity, what things made you like one candidate over another beyond qualifications? Was it the attitude, proven skills during technical interview or past projects (~portfolio)? Cheers.

  4. I would say biggest factors were potential and passion, with a very tiny amount of knowledge. Passing the entire knowledge test wasn’t mandatory, but we preferred people at least get a 65-70% score, or at least get close enough to some questions to consider them passable.

    I’ve went through some CVs with people who were outside of the tech field and applied to a helpdesk position, and later on, same thing happened for a sysadmin position. I personally did not like those. I’d have a better chance to just look for randos on the street and training them.

    The 3 people on the helpdesk interviews that we called were:

    • a 40 yo dude who had about 5 years of experience as a helpdesk at an ISP (so not a lot to work with, but had some potential)
    • a 21 yo who dropped out of college and worked for 2 years as a very low-skilled network engineer, laying Ethernet cables, connecting them to APs and switches, some Windows debugging, but not much else. His colleagues were the ones configuring the equipment. We got him and I trained him with some basic Windows and Linux stuff, like installing them on encrypted drives, configuring users and installing software
    • a 34-ish yo who had his own company, installing security cameras, alarms and other systems, but which went under, so he worked for another security company doing the same and was looking to get a helpdesk position

    For the sysadmin role, basically taking my place, but I would have trained them in what they needed to do,I had stringent requirements for Linux experience, either at home or at previous workplaces. People I invited to interviews were:

    • a 23-25 yo who was in his last year of college, seemed to be working with Linux at home, he seemed passionate, he was dual-booting Ubuntu on his laptop
    • a 28-ish yo who worked as a low-skilled sysadmin and NOC engineer at a VPS, we hired him, but he left in a month for personal reasons, wasn’t even interested in full remote work anymore. He had experience in setting up DNS servers, web hosting servers in cpanel, installing Proxmox and CentOS and all the software needed, mail server (I think also through cpanel) and more
    • a girl from another city who wanted to relocate, who had some really serious sysadmin experience, we were planning to have an interview with her, but ultimately she applied somewhere else and we didn’t get a chance to talk to her
    • 2 other dudes who I don’t remember much about and a few others

    Oh, there was one person who seemed to have some experience, but was completely lifeless, he got on my nerves pretty badly. I tried being friendly and try to cheer him up, but he was absolutely hopeless. Apparently his car got totaled 2 days previous to our interview, so he was sad, but his pessimistic attitude stuck with me, I still remember how frustrated I was. My colleagues were laughing their asses seeing me slightly losing my patience, because I pretty much never lose my temper.

    And there was one guy who said he worked as a helpdesk before and wanted to apply for the sysadmin role, but this guy didn’t pass the knowledge test at all. It was a live test, we were asking questions and people were answering. But in that interview, he did realize that he was lacking a lot of knowledge, but I really, really liked that guy. At the end of the call, he asked what it would take for him to do in order for us to hire him. He had such great potential, but we really needed someone knowledgeable of Linux and networking, at least with the basics. We gave him some tips and how to improve, if we have had another helpdesk spot, I would have hired him on the spot.

    So, qualifications were just a part of the story. We didn’t mind hiring people who had home labs or were doing stuff with linux at home, but besides the tiny amount required that we asked for, the biggest factors were potential, passion and I would say attitude too, given how frustrated I was with some people. Keep in mind that many places aren’t looking just for the best NPC, people are looking to add someone like-minded and with similar interests in the team.

    And for the sysadmin role, in all honesty, the skillset required was so benign that it’s not even funny. I knew a lot more when I left the company, all self-taught, but I lowered the bar substantially, because I knew I would train someone to get to at least a point where they could manage my infrastructure, but even then, the people who applied, with few exceptions, were not qualified, yet still left a good impression, and if not for the lack of time, I may have hired someone a bit underqualified if I saw that spark in them.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing that, makes me hopeful that one day I might catch up with the “industry standard” to consider a career switch. For now, it’s all just hobby projects and the like, I don’t think I could handle most of the things that you listed there.

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