This may be a bit subjective but surely there is a consensus on must-have's?

For example, what certifications that will really help part me from the average resume?

Experiences that interviewers are likely to be interested on?

Does programming-related jobs / experience are of great help?

  • 2
    Why has this been voted down so severely? I think it's one of the few subjective questions that are relevant - there are tonnes of programmer-equivalent career / resume-related questions on StackOverflow that have been happily accepted. May 3, 2009 at 20:58
  • 1
    Agreed. While it is subjective folks here could testify to what certs they've found useful in the job market (A+, MCSE, etc.). I think one thing that needs clarification is what type of sysadmin job you'd be interested in. For instance, an Adobe CF certification won't mean much if you're trying to be an EMC storage engineer.
    – Milner
    May 6, 2009 at 15:23
  • community wiki, perhaps?
    – Mikeage
    May 7, 2009 at 3:59
  • 2
    People need to chill with these rules. This place seems more like DMV than an "online community". May 17, 2009 at 16:30
  • It would be fairly nice if the question was more clear as to whether this is for the seeker or the interviewer...
    – James Cape
    May 17, 2009 at 17:55

8 Answers 8


interviewers are interested in your experience with their systems, or systems like theirs

so, tailor the resume to the prospective employer's needs, e.g. do some research, find out what equipment/systems they have, and emphasize the relevant parts of your experience

for example, if the prospective employer uses a web-server farm for asp.net and a failover cluster for ms sql and other critical servers, experience with such systems should figure prominently (and hopefully recently) on your resume

if you don't have experience with MS farms and clusters but with some other kind of farms and clusters, emphasize those and bone up on the differences for the interview

a resume is a sales brochure; you are the product. There are no magic certifications just as there are no sure-fire features for selling any other kind of products: it's all about matching needs and abilities

good luck!

  • 7
    My CV had a section called 'Buzzword compliance', but I took it out as recruitment firms have no sense of humor. It's now called 'Skills Matrix' May 17, 2009 at 12:43

Your biggest goal in hiring a sysadmin should be to avoid a charlatan. A sysadmin's work product is a set of interacting systems that isn't falling apart, which can be accomplished by never touching it, or by being good at your job, so a charlatan can skate without ever really having to touch anything for some months if they try hard to avoid having to actually do anything. When pushed, however, they will fail, and you're stuck with broken shit to fix.

Think of a developer who fails to check in their code for the first couple months on the job: is it a simple case of bad/anti-social coding practices, or are they hiding the fact that they suck? Sysadmins are in a similar position, except there's rarely ever the degree of change control there is for coding. Systems programming tools like puppet are good for fixing this because (if they are used as the only means of systems administration) they can treat the system configuration as a software project, and you use all the same auditing tools you would with coders (e.g. commits mails).

In my experience, certs are irrelevant at best, and misleading at worst. Never, ever, ever hire someone based on the strengths of their certifications. Of all the resumes I've seen, the best technical people do not stick cert logos, when they have them, on a resume---it's a big dangling sign that someone is depending more on their pedigree than their actual skills. Written-test certs are multiple-guess questions based on specific verbiage from the textbook they are based off of. I'm confident that I understand RFC4601, have designed and implemented a secure, global, interdomain multicast system, and got a 67% the last time I took a CCNA practice exam. Meanwhile, my second-level-certified subordinate can't grok that there's no functional difference between RFC1918 and public addresses...

Contrary to what others have said, longer resumes are better than shorter ones: they give you more specific questions to research and ask in the attempt to dodge charlatans. Do multi-level phone interviews if you have to: use the first one to tease out what they were actually doing, and the second one after you've figured out what the right questions to ask for the given technologies are.

Your second biggest goal should be to find someone who's got experience on systems you're using already. Find someone who has dealt with the issues that you are experiencing now or can forsee experiencing in the future (build systems and deployment methods, monitoring systems, security, scaling). Look to hire someone who has worked in similar business situations to what you have now, and is prepared to deal with the problems inherent in your situation. An engineer with an MS in networking who's used to having an unlimited budget, purchasing department, and year-long project cycles is not going to work out in a startup. Conversely, the Linux anarchist isn't going to fare well when he's asked to suffer the ActiveDirectory change-control procedure in your Fortune 50.

If you need to build a department as you grow, don't hire someone who hasn't hired anyone before; if you need to deal with 20TB of highly available data, don't hire someone who hasn't used a SAN before, etc.


I think the best Resume Advice for anyone, including technical people, comes from Manager Tools. They have several podcasts on interviewing and resumes but the ones that I would start with are:

Your Resume Stinks

Resume Update 2008

If you sign up for a free account you can get:

Accomplishments - Connecting Resumes and Interviews

Manager Tools and Career Tools have a ton of great stuff, especially for anyone who leads a team of any kind. I highly recommend them.


Certs are optional if you can prove you have experience. Same goes for degrees, unless you plan to move into a job where you wear a tie and make pie charts all day.

Be specific on the technologies you're familiar with. Tailor your knows to the company - for example, if they have alot of webservices, capitalize on your IIS/Clustering/Web farm experience.


I have one bit of advice for technical resumes:

If you put it on your resume without qualifications you'd better have supported it in production and know it inside and out:

Production experience in: Apache, PHP, Linux

If you don't know it inside and outside, say so:

Familiar with: python, erlang, ruby

In most places you'd like to work ignorance isn't nearly as bad as faked knowledge.


Some general advice cribbed from the the Manager Tools guys (also pointed to by @CanyonR)

General Resume stuff

  • Keep your resume short (they recommend a one page.. but 1-4 is a good start)
  • List Job Title and dates of employment and describe responsibilities (ie: what you were supposed to do)
  • List Achievements (ie: some of the highlights of the things you did)

Other things to highlight

  • Highlight your work with international teams, or even remote stakeholders
  • Highlight your work with costs control and budgets. This is important during these times, did you work against a budget? did you complete a job for a startlingly small amount of money?
  • Metrics and performance measurement. Increasingly you'll have to prove the worth of your systems to the company you work for.

Sysadmin specific

  • Personally i don't rate certs too highly
  • I like to see a broad range of skills in OS's and an understanding of the hardware
  • Please know at least one scripting language well, and hopefully a few others. Anything like Perl, python, ruby, good shell scripting. You wont be coding but you will be putting together maintenance scripts and automation jobs.
  • Have some DBA experience. Have a basic understanding of performance and a DB like Oracle, MS SQL, MySQL etc. You probably won't be a DBA.. but DBA's seems to be a disappearing role.
  • Have experience in Webservers and hopefully some sort of high end application. Webmaster and app specific sysadmins are also thankfully disappearing.
  • Be able to demonstrate a good knowledge of security and some current issues.

Lastly be interested in computers generally, and be able to demonstrate some sort of commitment to customer service and support. Sysadmin who don't understand their role as technical support and value it are a waste of time.

Oh and good luck :)


At the risk of quoting myself... I have a lot of suggestions on format and content on this blog post:

Sysadmin Resume Writing Tips


Answer for "How resume must look like"

Europass is standard CV for Eurounion just fill it with relevant skills.

  • This template is for EU but I've used it in my country and it worked. May 3, 2009 at 19:46

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