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6 DevOps recruiting tips: How to land the right people

Esther Shein Freelance writer

As more companies recognize the need to break down the walls that divide software developers and IT operations, recruiting DevOps skills has become more critical, and DevOps recruiting has become more difficult. Qualified candidates are a hot commodity these days, and for DevOps professionals, the world is their oyster.

More than half (58 percent) of DevOps engineers earn $100,000 a year or more, while just 47 percent of all IT practitioners earn that much, according to a 2014 DevOps Salary Report by automation software provider Puppet Labs.

So how do you find the right people to complement your DevOps team—or build a DevOps team from scratch—in your organization? Because DevOps means different things to different people, finding the right people with the right mix of skills depends on your company's specific needs. However, job board postings suggest some common skills requirements, including experience with Amazon Web Services, automation, development, Linux, tools such as Puppet and Chef, and programming languages such as Ruby and Python, according to DevOps 101 For Recruiters.

But what do other professionals and recruiters say? Here are six quick tips for finding the right people for your team or organization.

1. Look for soft skills

Soft skills are also important. Joe Sanchez, IT operations manager for Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, said in a March interview on technical recruiting site Dice that he looks for creative, freethinking people who get along well with others.

2. Don't get caught up in the DevOps buzzword

It's important not to get caught up in the DevOps buzzword, since companies have different interpretations of what DevOps is, says Tim Lockwood, lead recruiter at New York City technical recruiting firm Workbridge Associates.

Janine Davis, president of Fetch Recruiting, a southern-California-based boutique technical recruiting firm, concurs with Lockwood, noting that she's currently working on two DevOps-focused job placements. One is for a software engineer who has worked with current technologies and has a background in infrastructure, which she says is more on the development side of DevOps. The other is for a cloud-based Linux role that requires programming and scripting experience. "Those are the two ends of the spectrum, and then we see everything in between,'' she says.

3. Focus on specific needs first

Both recruiters say hiring managers need to hone in on their specific needs before recruiting. That doesn't necessarily make the actual recruiting process any easier, though. "If you're an IT director or engineering manager, it's a full-time job to recruit these candidates because anyone with these skills is very happily employed with some nice perks and has found a nice work/life balance," says Lockwood. Workbridge has 20-30 jobs for DevOps professionals open at any given time and can immediately line up 10-15 interviews for an experienced DevOps engineer. If the market for technical workers in general is tight, the market for DevOps professionals is "candidate-driven in the extreme," he says.

4. Find people that share a culture of engagement

In his book, DevOps Hiring, Dave Zwieback says organizations that embrace DevOps look for people who are resistant to organizational silos. DevOps recruiting is fundamentally different from traditional recruiting, he says, and it should be based on the often referenced culture, automation, measurement, and sharing (CAMS) paradigm.

"The first step in breaking down the silos that keep candidates, recruiters, and hiring managers focused on divergent outcomes is identifying a common goal,'' writes Zwieback. "Luckily, all three groups share their desire to be, employ, or work with highly productive and engaged workers. A culture of engagement is a key component of DevOps hiring."

5. Look beyond typical recruiting sites

To find what he calls the "dark pool of candidates, " Zwieback recommends looking beyond typical professional sites such as LinkedIn and search smaller, more focused social networks, such as Hacker News or GitHub. Additionally, services such as TalentBin, Entelo, and Gild collect and organize information from different sources to present a more complete picture of potential candidates.

6. Network and go beyond just salary and benefits

To succeed in recruiting, hiring managers must do everything they can to grow their networks, including going to meet-ups, which can be invaluable for discovering who's in the market or who might be good to know down the line. Lockwood also recommends selling candidates on what your company can do for them beyond salary and benefits, such as helping them grow their technical skills.

Recruiting isn't going to get easier any time soon, but successful hiring is vital to company growth. By networking, focusing on the right mix of skills for your business needs, offering a culture of engagement, and focusing on what your company can do for the right person, you'll be well positioned for success in your recruiting process.

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