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10 Best Practices to Help You Hire a DevOps Engineer

Updated: Jun 14

DevOps, short for Development and Operations, is one of the fastest-growing tech and engineering fields out there today. Professionals with DevOps training are in high demand, making it extremely important to hire the right people and keep them loyal.

If you want to attract talented DevOps engineers, vet them properly, and hire the best candidates, you’ll need to implement these ten best practices.

1: Look for The Right Skills

DevOps is not like some other tech fields, such as the Full Stack Developer, which end up as a catch-all for any tech skills that could be used to run a computer system. DevOps engineers have specific skills and abilities they need to train; if they aren’t what you’re looking for, you’re going to be disappointed in who you find.

What skills are most relevant to a DevOps engineer?

  1. Familiarity with technologies such as Git, AWS, Bamboo, Puppet, Jenkins, Docker, and Kubernetes. Each of these represents a range of technologies, including cloud, version control, deployment, automation, and other operations.

  2. Understanding of scripting languages, such as Python, Ruby, Perl, and core Linux/Unix functionality. Most DevOps environments run based on some combination of these languages and frameworks, so familiarity is a must.

  3. Knowledge of IT security. DevOps aren’t necessarily security specialists – that’s DevSecOps – but your DevOps engineers should at least know the basics of good security practices.

More importantly, your job posting should list the requirements specific to your company and environment. Don’t list familiarity with Git and Ruby if your company uses Svn and Python instead.

2: Look for Relevant Soft Skills

If an employee doesn’t have the right soft skills for their position, they won’t thrive, no matter how good their hard skills are.

In a DevOps environment, the most critical soft skills tend to be collaborative in nature. They focus on team-based empathy, good communication skills, the ability to work as a team, a drive for continuous improvement both for themselves and for their company, and an alignment with the overall vision, ethics, and goals of the company or project they’re working on.

“On the ‘soft skills’ side, a DevOps engineer should be able to communicate and interact well with others, be service-oriented, and care about the ultimate end value of the project.” – ZDNet.

Remember, hard skills can get trained, while soft skills often cannot. Thus, finding someone with the relevant soft skills and the drive to learn can be a more valuable investment than finding someone with the right hard skills but lacking in soft skills to fit in.

3: Look in the Right Places

One of our most common pieces of advice for recruiting is to look for talented individuals where they spend their time. Since they’re in such high demand, many of the best candidates are currently employed and may never see your job advertising unless you reach out to them directly. In the case of DevOps Engineers, chances are you’re going to need to go to them, rather than the other way around.

Where can you find these DevOps candidates? LinkedIn and LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, Reddit subs, DevOps organizations, conferences, and other similar locations can be a great place to start.

“DevOps professionals, like other ITers, often join forums and groups where they share ideas and develop networks. LinkedIn is one social media outlet where you are likely to find pockets of DevOps engineers, as are local DevOps chapters and even DevOps conferences. When you are faced with competitive hiring pressures, there’s nothing better than a well-developed network of DevOps engineers that you can tap for hires.” – ZDNet.

Additionally, one of your best resources is the people you have already hired. People in similar professions often network with one another, and employee referrals can be an excellent way to gather new candidates.

4: Develop an Employment Pipeline

In some cases, you need a high-level, high-skill DevOps Engineer immediately. In others, you can afford to take the time to set up a hiring pipeline and “grow your own,” so to speak.

Build and foster relationships with educational institutions and certification agencies relevant to DevOps. Start working with students before they’ve even graduated, to groom their skills in the direction that is most beneficial to employment at your company. Offer paid internships to show them what they’ll need to know how to do in a professional environment before they’re facing down a real career decision.

When you build your DevOps team from the ground up, you get a highly customized group of employees. This can be a powerful resource, though you do run the risk of stagnation if you’re constantly drawing upon the same well. That’s why it’s best to establish these relationships with various institutions and continue to hire from outside.

5: Make Your Brand Attractive

Some companies have nothing going for them as employers of DevOps Engineers. Others, over time, develop a negative reputation and will find it harder and harder to attract the top candidates.

Your company should strive to avoid this as much as possible. How?

  1. Encourage adaptation, not adherence. DevOps are at the cutting edge of new technologies and methodologies; if you’re forcing them to stagnate, they’ll leave and be harder to replace.

  2. Offer competitive benefits. Salary alone isn’t necessarily the driving factor, particularly for younger applicants. Competitive benefits, including flexible hours, time off, remote work, and healthcare, can all be more significant.

  3. Have a plan for advancement. In tech-focused fields like DevOps, the stereotype is that you need to change companies to advance. By offering a path of advancement within the company, you can attract and keep talented DevOps engineers.

Unfortunately, some of this will take years to build up and circulate throughout the industry. Implementing such strategies isn’t a difficult matter, but it takes time to prove that you’re implementing them and get the word out amongst DevOps candidates.

6: Don’t Rely on Keyword Filtering

One of the biggest risks with DevOps hiring is using automated resume filtering based on keywords. That is because DevOps is both a widely varied and a fast-evolving field. The most relevant keywords today are different from the ones that were relevant even just a year ago. Moreover, DevOps encompasses such a wide variety of skills, abilities, and experiences that keyword filtering can miss a lot of what you want to see.

Keyword filtering can work fine for broader technology if you explicitly need familiarity with that technology. “Version control” is a better keyword to look for than “Git” because while familiarity with Git is good, a DevOps candidate who knows any version control software can learn any other with ease. Looking for “Cloud experience” is better than looking for “Azure experience” because experience with another cloud system, like AWS, is often “good enough” to put the candidate in a position to learn what you need them to know.

Automatic filtering is likely to throw out the resumes of excellent candidates because they don’t quite match and may promote candidates who match the keywords but not the overall ethos you want to get out of your candidates.

7: Keep Culture at the Forefront of Hiring

While skills, benefits, and advancement are all key to attracting a DevOps candidate, the key to keeping them around is culture. Your company culture is extremely important, and it needs to be expressed.

Moreover, you need to understand it well enough to be able to look for candidates who will fit in.

“Culture has a significant impact on employee satisfaction. Employees who don’t like a company’s culture are 24 percent more likely to leave within a year, which leads to churn, higher recruiting costs, and disappointment.” – Harrison Clarke.

One common disconnect is the difference between companies that value processes and structure over companies that value agility, creativity, and innovation. DevOps engineers who value one over the other may not find a home at a company that doesn’t match their ideals.

The key here is to be transparent and start discussing culture early – potentially even in the job posting. Don’t talk platitudes, either; be specific and open about your company culture. If you can’t spin it in a positive light, it might be a sign that you need to adjust your company culture to be successful in the future.

8: Consider Working with a Recruiter

IT staffing agencies, recruiters, recruitment firms, and other groups can be very beneficial for finding and vetting qualified DevOps candidates.

On the other hand, there are also a lot of recruiters out there who do the bare minimum of a LinkedIn keyword search, send out template-based direct messages, and put very little thought into it.

“However, if you ink an agreement for a specific period with an IT employment company, do not make this agreement an exclusive one. As time goes by, you’re also likely to discover your own channels into the DevOps engineer market. You don’t want to rely solely on your employment agency because this constrains your opportunities.” – ZDNet.

There are three important things to watch out for when working with a recruiter.

  1. Exclusivity agreements. Avoid these as much as possible; you want to have the ability to take advantage of every channel you can.

  2. Nuance. Look for recruiters who spend their initial discussions learning about your company, your teams, and your positions, so they know who to look for.

  3. Communication. A good recruiter will stay in constant communication with you to keep you updated and so you can keep them updated on your changing needs.

Bearing these in mind is a great way to use recruiters as a resource rather than rely on them.

9: Expand Your Horizons

DevOps engineering is not a geographically limited position. Talented, highly skilled engineers at all levels and stages of their careers can be found all over the world. A company limiting its search to people in a local geographic area – even if it’s state-wide – is still putting unnecessary restrictions on the candidates you can attract.

Two things go hand-in-hand with this. First, offer some form of relocation service or package to lessen the burden of hiring someone from across the country. You become more attractive to higher-quality candidates further afield when you make it easier for them to work with you.

Alternatively, offer fully remote work. After all, DevOps doesn’t necessarily need to be working directly with physical hardware in your office. Most DevOps engineers are digital natives intimately familiar with online communication tools. Why not take advantage of that to build a remote team?

Casting a wide net is the best way to get a broader and deeper candidate pool, which is a sure-fire way to have a higher-quality candidate list when all is said and done.

10: Refine Your Requirements

One of the biggest turn-offs of the hiring process is a company that lists 25 different items in the “must-have” category of skills. Not only can this suppress certain kinds of applications, but it is also almost always unnecessary.

Consider what skills are 100% necessary to success within your organization. The rest can either be trained or are optional benefits.

“DevOps focuses on modernizing teams before technologies. They should be flexible enough to move from one area of software construction to another, be it integration, testing, releasing, or deployment. A DevOps engineer must have flexible working skills and adapt to the changing code, technologies, and the client’s needs.” – EngineerBabu.

Because DevOps and DevSecOps are so variable, it’s difficult to pare down hard skills into hard requirements. More often, your requirements will be soft skills, perspectives, and ethics, while the hard skills are broad and generalized, like “experience with cloud platforms” and “familiarity with version control processes.” Everything else can get trained.

Do you have experience in hiring qualified DevOps engineers? If so, what are the most important aspects and tips of the hiring process you would give to others looking to do the same? Additionally, if you have any questions or concerns about the DevOps hiring process, please feel free to leave a comment down below, and we’ll get a conversation started. We’d love to assist you and your company however we can.


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