4 ways to spot DevOps stars

Struggling to hire the right DevOps talent for your team? Consider this advice
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In today’s business environment, speed is a competitive advantage when delivering quality software products to the market: The faster companies can meet evolving needs, the better the overall customer experience. That’s one reason why the use of DevOps teams has grown in popularity. Organizations know that when software development and operations teams work together, they can innovate faster, bring applications to market more quickly, and grow their businesses.

The current global technical talent crunch makes it difficult to recruit DevOps talent. But that doesn’t mean you should employ just anybody that presents a resume loaded with technology experience. Hiring technical talent that isn’t a good fit for your team can set back your efforts in the long run. It’s important to get it right the first time.

4 qualities to look for in DevOps hires

So, what do you look for when searching for your next DevOps stars? Here are four tips to help you find exceptional talent. Look for:

1. Technical expertise

DevOps professionals need to have two separate skill sets to be successful. On the one hand, candidates should possess experience and an understanding of software development and the many languages and tools programmers used to code. On the other hand, it’s equally important that your DevOps team have a strong understanding of IT operations. People who can support internal and external customers, all while making sure the network remains up and running, are vital to the success of this role.

[ Want more advice on IT hiring? Read IT hiring: 5 tips to move past the "ideal candidate" trap. ]

Pro tip: When reviewing resumes, look for candidates with work experience in software development and IT infrastructure. Ensuring that your new hire understands different languages such as Java, Python, and cloud technologies should take precedent when evaluating development skills. Even if your company isn’t using cloud technologies much today, it likely will be in the future, so that kind of expertise will ensure employees can scale with your business as it continues to grow.

2. Desire to learn

The likelihood that you’ll find the perfect candidate who checks all the boxes is unrealistic due to the current hiring shortage. The key is to find applicants with a work history or education in programming and IT operations with a willingness to learn. Candidates who value learning and professional development will serve you better in the long run as they will be most flexible to grow as the business needs evolve. 

Candidates who value learning and professional development will serve you better in the long run as they will be most flexible to grow as the business needs evolve.

Pro tip: Before beginning the hiring process, understand all the training and development programs your company offers to enhance employees’ skillsets over time. Just because a candidate doesn’t match 100 percent today, those who are open to ongoing professional development may still be a good fit because they want to grow their careers.

3. Innovative mindset

DevOps teams generally operate in an agile environment filled with quick sprints to develop features that rapidly move to production. Recruiting someone adept at managing fast-paced environments that also finds satisfaction with incremental progress is key. Long-term plans and goal setting will keep projects on track. However, a person who is easily distracted is unlikely to make the incremental progress needed to move the needle forward.

Pro tip: Use a behavioral interview style to ask open-ended questions that gauge how well candidates can think on their feet. Hearing clear examples of when they adjusted on the fly will give you a good understanding of their approach to overcoming various challenges and issues that may arise.

4. Cultural fit

Filling an open headcount is a daunting task. It’s a time investment not just for the hiring manager but for the team as well. You’ll spend hours reviewing resumes from a diverse applicant pool and exchange many emails with your recruiting team to whittle down the list to the few who will get an interview.

Interviewing to understand candidates’ skill sets is simple. Work history, education, and direct questions can help determine if a person has the technical expertise to do the job. Interviewing for cultural fit is different.

[ Here's how to hire for "culture add" . ]

As a hiring manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure the people you bring in not only possess the technical skills for the job and the personality traits that make them compatible with the team. There are several ways you can gauge for cultural fit; have candidates interview with a variety of team members, learn about their hobbies and interests, and if available, look at their LinkedIn pages to see what or how they react to posts and news. As much as you can, build a holistic profile of your top candidate(s), so you have a complete picture when making your final decision.

Pro tip: A person who works well with other people is essential when hiring for a DevOps role. Because this position straddles both the development and operations side of the fence, a strong cultural fit, quick thinker, and innovative mindset should be your top priorities when recruiting for this role.

Hiring a new employee can be complicated, requiring managers and team members to understand the gaps and needs they are looking to fill. Take the time to figure out what makes your team tick, then look for candidates whose experience and personality complement your group’s existing members.

Don’t rush to judge based on what you see in a resume. If candidates are a close enough match to your position, take the time to learn more about their outside interests and passions because they may be a 100 percent match to what you want soon enough.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Mike O'Malley
Mike O'Malley is the SVP of strategy at SenecaGlobal, a leading software development as a service company specializing in digital transformation. He has been in product development for 20+ years leading development, product management, marketing, and M&A in the tech space.