Tips on how to get that perfect sysadmin job

During my time in recruitment, I’ve noticed a few patterns in the advice given by technology experts and recruitment specialists on how to get a job in the tech market.

There’s undoubtedly sage advice given in relation to how to construct a good CV, how to prepare for interviews, and how to develop an inspirational portfolio (and, in fact, I’ve written my own advice on web recruitment). However, the majority tend to focus on web design, digital marketing, and software development roles.

I’ve had the opportunity to network with a wide range of undergraduates as part of Heart Internet’s 2016 undergraduate placement program, and one thing that stood out to me was the large percentage of students studying ICT, Computer Science, and Engineering that have their sights set on other roles within the industry.

In fact, out of the 500+ people I spoke to, I’d say more of them were aiming for a role in a more hands-on hardware environment, such as system administration. However, since most recruiters focus on the more popular positions, such as design and development, it can be difficult to find out what you need to focus on for system administration positions.

I thought it’d be useful to give you a quick run-down of the most important things to consider in an application for any system administration role, whether as a placement year, entry level, or a seasoned veteran from the server farm trenches.

Woman typing on a laptop

Have the knowledge they’re looking for

This is an oldie, but a goodie. Look at the tech the company uses day-to-day, and think about what you’ve done that could make a difference in this environment. Have you used their tech? Worked on a project? Been part of something similar?

If you haven’t used their technology, do some research and find out what it’s about. With some tactical blog searching and sifting through the thousands of pages of technical message boards, you should be able to come away with enough knowledge to be able to hold a decent conversation with a line manager.

The main thing to get across is that you know they use this tech, you respect that choice, and you can also add something. When writing your cover letter, think – what can I add to this part of their business?

Man typing on a laptop that rests on his lap

Write your CV specifically for the role

Recruiters and line managers see hundreds of CVs. And a fantastic way to disappear into the ether is to send the same CV to every role. It might get past HR due to ticking all the keywords in the “skills” section, but line managers see right through this.

One of the best things is to build a CV that talks their language. They are looking for information that is relevant to their company and the position they’re filling, so make it easy for them to see it. If the job listing includes specific technology, and you have those skills, definitely put it at the top of your list!

Woman typing on a keyboard

Talk about what you enjoy doing

This works across all experience levels, and can really help bring your CV and covering letter to life. Employers want to see and hear that you love what you do, and passion jumps off the page when you’re writing with feeling.

State the hobbies you have that are relevant to your work, such as attending tech meetups, running your own Minecraft server, or participating in open-source projects. These not only show you have the skills needed, but also go towards building up the picture that you do the work not just because you have to, but because you love to.

Group of people having an informal meeting

Let them know how YOU have made a difference

This is key. System administrators often save the day – swooping in when the servers are down, work out a solution, and get everything running again. Think about the tasks you’ve done that have had the biggest impact.

It can be as simple as a recommendation you made when setting up a group project or a writing a fantastic script that changes the way your business works day-to-day. The size of the task isn’t important – the way you got to the end result is.

Highlight critical thinking and talk about how you thought outside the box. System administration can seem like a thankless job – you’re only noticed when something goes wrong – but by focusing on how you made a difference can really show prospective employers what you’ll bring to the position, and how you can make their business better.

Man typing on a laptop on top of a ping-pong table

So think about these four tips the next time you apply for that elusive sysadmin role, and remember to stand out from the crowd. Spending just a little bit of time at the beginning could save you considerable time and effort in the long run, as your applications to interview ratio might just become better!

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