DevOps engineer: How to hire for IT's hottest title

DevOps engineers are in high demand. Use these hiring tips to identify and attract candidates with the right blend of human and technical skills for DevOps engineer roles
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Recruiting DevOps engineers is tough. While not everyone likes this job title, it has grown in popularity in recent years, making it challenging for CIOs to fill the role in their IT departments.

How challenging? In DevOps Institute's 2020 Upskilling: Enterprise DevOps Skills research, 58 percent of respondents say that finding skilled DevOps individuals is a huge challenge, and 48 percent say the retention of skilled DevOps individuals is a challenge. 

It will likely continue to be difficult for hiring managers and HR leaders to fill vacancies for this role, thanks in part to salaries running upward of $180,000 for experienced DevOps engineers and the current skill gap. Individuals who have the right skills and experience, and who are good salary negotiators, can certainly score big. 

[ Why is DevOps engineer an in-demand IT title that's here to stay? Eveline Oehrlich explains. ]

Organizations hiring DevOps engineers need to find the right human resource professionals who can initiate a recruiting campaign. The first step is to build positions and job descriptions that will attract the needed talent. 

How to hire a DevOps engineer

Here are a few tips to ensure you are able to attract and identify the right people for DevOps engineer roles.   

Look for specific people skills. The DevOps engineer needs skills in categories including human, functional, technical, process, and framework skills. Among the human skills you should seek for this role, prioritize critical thinking, leadership, collaboration, problem-solving, and communication.

Also, when you bring a DevOps engineer on board, the title signals to your organization that you’re focused on innovation. Accordingly, imagination and creativity are becoming increasingly important for this role. 

When you bring a DevOps engineer on board, the title signals to your organization that you're focused on innovation.

Your own IT operations team may be a good source of talent. When looking for a DevOps engineer, you may look for talent on your IT Operations teams. These teams have typically focused on problem-solving. Because of an increase in complexity and projects, people on these teams likely have had to juggle a lot of work with people who have diverse backgrounds. These folks are perfect DevOps engineers of the future because they often also have diverse backgrounds and knowledge. 

Meanwhile, development engineers can also make good candidates because they are equipped with technology literacy, creativity, and innovation, and they understand engineering principles. You’ll find that they can often share their creative mindset and focus on producing original ideas and collaboratively inventing new goods and services.  

[ Considering hiring a DevOps engineer? Here are key questions to ask during the interview process. ]

Don't get too hung up on role names. In the world of DevOps, role evolution will continue to happen and new related topics are being continually named. Keep in mind that all DevOps roles will continue to evolve, especially as new approaches and methodologies such as Holacracy and SRE are adopted into the world of software factories.

Additionally, new word combinations such as AIOps, ModelOps, GitOps, DataOps, FinOps, and NoOps (like them or not) are being used to describe work related to DevOps. People with this kind of experience have one thing in common that you should look for: The ability to adopt automation and collaborate across functions and roles.  

[ Want DevOps best practices? Watch the on-demand webinar: Lessons from The Phoenix project you can use today. ]

Don't hunt for unicorns with your job descriptions

It would be great to find that one "Human of DevOps" who can do everything you desire, but that’s highly unlikely. As you write job descriptions, here are three additional considerations to help you find the right person – and avoid scaring off the experts.   

Accurately describe the job duties within the job descriptions and delineate between requirements and preferences. The first step is to identify and spell out the responsibilities of this specific position. Ensure that you capture which duties, responsibilities, and required qualifications are necessary. This should be based on objective information obtained through job analysis, an understanding of the competencies and skills required to accomplish needed tasks, and the needs of the organization to achieve certain outcomes.

Avoid only identifying technical skills. A DevOps professional should be proficient in a variety of skill categories. We’re seeing the DevOps role transform from needing a T-shaped individual – someone with depth and breadth of knowledge – to an E-shaped individual: someone with a good balance of expertise, the willingness to explore, and a demonstrated ability to execute.

As mentioned above, you also want someone with the necessary process skills and knowledge, human skills, automation skills, and – of course – technical skills. For more details on breaking down the skill categories, have a look at the 2020 Upskilling: Enterprise DevOps Skills report.    

Ensure diversity and inclusion when writing your job description. Make sure your job descriptions are worded to be more inclusive. For example, insert the word “they,” which is non-binary, or replace words such as “aggressive” with “supportive.” For more details, check out the LinkedIn research on how language matters to gender diversity in job descriptions.   

[ How can automation free up more staff time for innovation? Get the free eBook: Managing IT with Automation. ] 

Eveline Oehrlich is an industry analyst, author, speaker and business advisor focused on digital transformation. Eveline is the Chief Research Director at DevOps Institute where she leads the research and analysis for the Upskilling: Enterprise DevOps Skills Report and other research projects.