I have been a part-time Junior SysAdmin at a college for 5 years now. I am now looking for a full-time position as a Linux SysAdmin. I believe I am very capable and have made it to several 2nd---even 3rd round---interviews. However, I keep getting rejected on the fact that I "lack experience".

How is one suppose to gain or make up for this "experience"?

I know there are similar question on SF but they do not address my issue.

Previous questions

Gaining SysAdmin skills

I've taken the technical tests that hiring managers have administered to me and have done fairly well. In fact, last week, the person administrating the exam said I was correct on a couple of questions that neither the previous candidates nor most of the already-employed team answered correctly. However, today, I get a call from the manager that they went with someone with more experience. So it is not a question about skills.

Gaining SysAdmin experience

I run a small network at home that includes everything from a custom iptables firewall to Samba shares. Despite being only a part-time Junior SysAdmin in the past, I've played crucial roles in countless projects; right aside Senior SysAdmins. I could confidently say I've held my own.

So my questions...

  • How do I go about gaining this "experience"? Perhaps receive certifications?

  • Maybe Junior SysAdmin wasn't the proper entry-level job?

  • Should I be looking for something else?

  • Are these just lame excuses not to hire me and maybe I'm putting too much value on it?

Any hiring managers that want to chime in: PLEASE do.

Come on my SF people. Cheer me up here by giving me hope. I've heard the "lack of experience" reason 3 times already and it's admittedly eating at my confidence.

  • Should be community wiki
    – pauska
    Nov 3, 2010 at 22:23
  • Be really helpful on online forums like serverfault.com? You can point to your rep as reflecting your level of experience?
    – Zoredache
    Nov 3, 2010 at 23:36
  • 1
    @Zoredache: I try to find unanswered questions where I could be helpful. However, usually, someone gets to the question before me. And quite honestly, many end up being more knowledgeable in the subject. But nevertheless, good suggestion. Nov 3, 2010 at 23:56
  • @Zoredache: Uh, I'm not so sure that would be of any help, actually.
    – Ernie
    Nov 4, 2010 at 21:42

2 Answers 2


I am in a position that hires people.

Did you speak to the people who interviewed you and they were the ones that told you you "lacked experience"? A part-time admin for 5 years translates into roughly 2 years of full-time experience. That isn't a LOT of experience and you may never get a "real" reason since it seems that too many people are afraid of getting sued, but I digress.

Do you have any letters of reference? We have no idea what your resume looks like. Are you dressing appropriately for interviews? Are you attentive during interviews and asking questions? There are so many variables that could be coming into play here.

Just keep plugging away at your skill set. When I hire people, several things are extremely important to me. Ambition, drive, motivation, problem solving abilities, people skills, a sense of humor, and attitude. VERY seldom is number of years of experience an important factor to me.

I cannot emphasize this enough either....dress like you want the job.

  • I have a glowing recommendation from my current lead sysadmin. I am dressing in shirt, tie and suit. What is considered appropriate for a sysadmin role? And I am attentive and usually have answers to questions but I am honest when I cannot recall specific details. My memory is imperfect but that is why I am an avid believer of documentation. Nov 3, 2010 at 22:43
  • 2
    Well it sounds like you're dressing the part. Keep that up. Don't be discouraged by the rejections. I haven't researched your location but times are tough everywhere right now. Don't take the rejections personally and just keep plugging away at it. Sooner or later, you'll land your dream job.
    – GregD
    Nov 3, 2010 at 22:49
  • 1
    Thank you @GregD. I've seen many candidates dress in a shirt and tie; no suit. Is it possible I could be over-dressing? Although I wouldn't think that would be a reason not to hire sysadmins since they usually don't have to abide to strict dress codes but I could be wrong. Nov 3, 2010 at 23:58
  • IMHO, it is NEVER possible to over dress and ALWAYS possible to under dress. You are right that most sysadmin jobs do not require a strict dress code, but too many do not take that seriously enough when job hunting. I would like to reiterate that PEOPLE SKILLS are extremely important to me also. Be honest with yourself about your ability to deal with other people (particularly end-users). If you think you come up short in that regard, work on honing those skills.
    – GregD
    Nov 4, 2010 at 13:41
  • 1
    "dress like you want the job." Well sure, but I stopped wearing a suit to interviews when noone who was interviewing me was wearing anything dressier than a sweater and khakis. It annoys me to no end when I make an effort to do something like that, and someone sits down with me who's wearing jeans and sneakers. That tells me that I've just totally blown the "I fit into the culture of this company" portion of the interview. I will on the other hand, dress "professionally" in a shirt and Denver Hayes.
    – Ernie
    Nov 4, 2010 at 23:26

It probably just means that while you were in the top 5 of the people they were interviewing, some other guy was just as good, but had 5 or 10 years experience.

When the economy is down, you'll be competing with a lot of people like that. That's just the way it goes.

  • I know for a fact that I was top 3 in the last job interview. Thanks. I see your point. What do you think would help me stand out from the crowd. Nov 3, 2010 at 22:49
  • A sense of humor AND PEOPLE SKILLS.
    – GregD
    Nov 3, 2010 at 22:50
  • 1
    I've read every XKCD strip! ...my girlfriend thinks it has ruined my sense of humor. Nov 3, 2010 at 22:59
  • That's okay, because half the time they just flip a coin anyway, or go with some intangible quality.
    – Ernie
    Nov 4, 2010 at 21:41

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