How to spot a DevOps faker

How to spot a DevOps faker

IT leaders share 7 tips on weeding out DevOps job candidates who may be more hype than substance. Whether you're a job seeker or a hiring manager, heed these lessons

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Speaking of tools, watch out for these warning signs

Berent-Spillson also pauses when he sees a laundry list of tools and platforms on someone’s resume that’s short on corresponding specifics.

“If someone has used a particular toolset, I expect to see project experience to back that up – not just a description of what the tool does,” he says.

He also keeps an eye out for “exotic” tools that few people have experience with; they may be legit, but they may also be a calculated attempt to pad the resume.

“Sometimes I’ve seen people list obscure tooling because they know no one will actually ask them a question on it,” Berent-Spillson explains.

Beware claims of sweeping DevOps expertise

DevOps "ninjas" deserve special scrutiny.

Tread cautiously with people who regale you with tales of their all-encompassing DevOps knowledge. In the grand history of IT, DevOps is relatively young. Logically, we’re not far into the DevOps age: Not many people have 360-degree knowledge.

“First off, there aren’t many overall DevOps experts,” Berent-Spillson says. “It’s more typical that someone would be skilled in particular tools and platforms.”

We asked the experts we connected with for this a simple (if leading) question: Should we be skeptical of people who describe themselves as “DevOps ninjas,” “DevOps gurus,” or in similarly lofty terms?

The short answers: “Almost certainly, yes” (Wallgren); “Absolutely” (Berent-Spillson); and, “Yes.” (Reeves).

“The most ignorant believe they are the most competent,” Reeves says, pointing to the four stages of competence for further wisdom. “I’ve been doing software release management for 20 years, and I am still an idiot. But knowing my shortcomings helps me mitigate them.”

“I’m skeptical of anyone who’s that self-promoting,” Berent-Spillson says. “The best people are often very humble, and they will talk about specific areas of expertise and areas of deficiency.” 

This kind of self-characterization is also antithetical to the kind of teamwork and healthy culture commonly found in high-functioning DevOps shops.

“This sort of labeling has enabled toxic behavior in technology, and it simply needs to go,” Reeves says.

Remember, skepticism can be healthy

There’s admittedly something a tad cynical about our headline: It assumes that fakers exist, for starters. But how about we swap out cynicism for skepticism: The latter, properly moderated, is actually healthy. (Because, yeah, fakers do exist.)

“Skepticism by definition doesn't imply automatic and instant rejection,” Wallgren points out. 

Even in that scenario where someone does self-anoint themselves into DevOps sainthood or otherwise seems possibly too good to be true, it’s OK to move a little farther into the process. You don’t have to immediately rule them out or worry that you’re just being a grouch. Hiring is ultimately a human process.

“If you like other aspects of the resume or individual, have a conversation with them, and you'll probably figure out pretty quickly if it's bluster or not,” Wallgren says.

[ Are you a DevOps job seeker or hiring manager? Get our free resource: The Ultimate DevOps Hiring Guide. ]

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