Whether you’re just beginning your career or possess years of experience, network and system administrators are in high demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for these professionals is projected to grow at a steady rate of at least 6 percent between 2016 and 2026, with the total number of system administrators reaching more than 415,000 by 2026. Some information technology fields (such as cloud and healthcare IT, for example) might grow as much as 20 percent.
There’s certainly no shortage of available jobs today. A simple search on SimplyHired yielded more than 46,000 job postings for system administrators and over 142,000 openings for network administrators. There were an additional 57,000 job postings from employers seeking IT professionals for cloud system administrators and related roles. The job titles in the postings varied, as shown in these examples:
- A South Carolina company seeks a Red Hat system administrator
- A Texas aviation company is looking for a Windows system administrator who can manage and design customized scripts and administer enterprise-level virtual servers
- A company in Virginia requires a Linux system administrator
As in many fields, candidates are likely to encounter stiff competition when trying to snag that coveted job. A well-crafted resume and top-notch cover letter (yes, you still need a cover letter!) will go a long way toward setting you apart and establishing you as the best candidate for the job. The key, of course, is knowing how to write a killer system administrator resume that will cause the hiring manager to put you at the top of their short list of candidates to interview.
Here, we’ll take a closer look at some general resume tips and explore some of the differences between resumes for experienced system administrators versus fledgling professionals just beginning their careers, as well as provide links to resources where you can find great system administrator sample resumes.
Network and System Administrators – Roles and Responsibilities
In general, network and computer system administrators ensure that the infrastructures they are responsible for operate as designed on a daily basis. Though the specific tasks vary, they often install and implement systems; support local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), intranets, network segments and systems designed for data communications; and maintain applications. They also work with subject matter experts (SMEs) to troubleshoot issues, plan for disaster recovery, train other users on hardware and software, maintain network security systems, install network hardware and software, and perform repairs and upgrades.
To accomplish these tasks, network and system administrators need a sound understanding of server environments such as Microsoft Windows Server, great communication skills, the ability to multitask, and keen analytical and problem-solving skills. A degree in computer science, information technology or a related-field is helpful (and often required). Employers typically want to see work or school experience with computer hardware or computer equipment, computer programming, and system design. Advanced knowledge of PowerShell can also be helpful with many tasks, from system configuration to change monitoring.
Resume Tips for Experienced System Administrators
Experienced system administrators can shine as candidates by following these best practices when crafting their resumes:
- First and foremost, you are experience Your resume is your opportunity to toot your own horn; they key is to not only showcase your skills and contributions but map them directly to the job description.
- Include a resume summary instead of a resume objective. It should be short (2–4 sentences). It should tie information about your experience to what you can do for the prospective employer (based on the job description), backed up by at least two concrete accomplishments or contributions that relate to the job you are applying for.
Example: Results-driven system administrator with 10 years of experience and proven skills seeks to automate notification systems for X-Company. Saved $100,000 annually with automated notifications systems at Y-Company. Created customer-facing automatic notification system resulting in 25 percent fewer calls to tech support.
- While you should include details about your education and training, this information is not as critical for experienced system administrators as it is for junior-level candidates. The emphasis should be on your experience, contributions and accomplishments.
- Map your key contributions and accomplishments to the results achieved.
Example: Created a best practices training module that standardized practices for the organization, resulting in standardized practices, continuity of training and less downtime, saving the company $2,000 per employee per year.
Resume Tips for Entry-Level System Administrators
Because entry-level candidates have limited real-world work experience, the challenge is finding a way to draw attention to the skills you do possess and show how they translate to the skills needed to be an effective system administrator. Here are some useful tips:
- Entry-level system administrators should include an objective in their resume rather than a summary. A good objective states what you can do for the prospective employer — automate systems, streamline maintenance, improve performance and so forth (always map to the job description) — followed by one or two examples of successful projects that you have worked on as an administrative intern or volunteer, or even in home networks.
Example: Goal-oriented system administrator seeks to automate notification systems for X-Company. Interned at Y-Company installing and maintaining automated notification systems for hardware and cloud. Volunteered and Installed network system for non-profit community outreach program; system was installed two weeks early and within five percent of the established budget.
- Include all relevant experience, such as internships (paid and unpaid); volunteer work; freelance, contract or temporary work; help desk or tech support experience; and maintenance of home networks.
- Since you have limited job experience, your educational accomplishments are very important. Include the name of your school, course of study and year of graduation (or month and year of expected graduation). Mention any coursework that applies directly to network or system administration. If your GPA was particularly high, then you can choose to include it.
Example: John Smith University
Master’s Degree in Computer Information Systems
Graduated summa cum laude May 2018
- President of Future IT Professionals of America
- Completed more than 15 advanced hours of system administration, plus 15 hours of system design
- Master’s thesis focused on system administration principals and best practices
General Resume Tips
- Map your skills to the job description. A good resume ties your skills, key contributions and accomplishments directly to the job description, so always read the job title and job description carefully and tailor your resume for each opportunity.
- Write to your audience. Remember, while your ultimate audience is the hiring manager, in some cases (especially at larger companies), resumes are prescreened by HR team members, admins or other support personnel, who pass on only the resumes that most closely match the particular job requirements. Your job is to provide the reviewer with the information they need to choose you. If you’re applying for a Windows System administrator position, the hiring manager won’t be overly interested in your history as a Linux system administrator. Showcase the relevant skills.
- Presentation matters. If you want to stand out from the competition, your resume needs to be easy to read and visually appealing, with key information highlighted. You might be the most qualified candidate for the job, but if the hiring manager can’t quickly find the information they’re looking for on your resume, they will likely to move on to the next resume in the pile. Make good use of fonts, formatting, sections and the like to draw attention to key information.
- Put your best foot forward. If you think about it, a resume is really an advertisement — you are trying to convince a hiring manager that you possess the features and functionality they need in a team member to meet their company’s technical needs. So, sell yourself! Include your accomplishments and contributions early in your resume. Be sure to list the most recent events first. Even if you saved a past employer $26 million dollars 10 years ago, the hiring manager will be most impressed by the value you are delivering today.
- Keep it clean and simple. As a hiring manager, I’m short staffed — that’s why I’m looking to hire someone. Now I have to go through dozens (or hundreds) of resumes and pick the top five to interview. If you send me a five-page resume, chances are good that I won’t get past page two. Keep your resume clean, clear and concise. The goal should be to capture the important information in a single page, if possible, and no more than two.
At a minimum, your resume should include the following:
- Contact information: Include your name, address, email and phone at the beginning of your resume. Including a link to a professional profile (such as LinkedIn) is fine, since it provides the hiring manager with additional information, such as online recommendations, about the breadth of your skills. Avoid including links to social medial like Facebook; the hiring manager does not need to know that you were the beer bong champion three years running in college. Do hiring managers really look at social media? Yes, they do. I personally know someone whose job offer was withdrawn after the company reviewed her Facebook page because her political positions were not compatible with their corporate culture.
- Resume summary or objective. Experienced system administrators should include a resume summary while entry-level system administrators should include a resume objective.
- Always include your most recent work experience first. Provide the employer’s name, your positions, the dates of employment, and 2–4 bullets that highlight your key contributions and accomplishments. Remember, map these back to the job description!
- Hard skills and soft skills. It’s not uncommon for technical resumes to include a section highlighting hard skills (scripting, network design, security, automation) and soft skills (communication, problem solving).
- Include the name of the university you attended, the degree awarded and the year you graduated. If your GPA was particularly high, you can include it. Entry-level candidates should also highlight relevant courses or activities.
- Certifications matter and often are required for more senior roles. Include all applicable certifications.
- Additional training, activities or information. Here, you can describe any additional activities that support your candidacy as a system administrator. Examples can include conferences or seminars where you were a featured speaker (include name and date of conference and subject matter), publications you have authored or co-authored, and awards. Additional personal activities may also be included here but only if they map directly to the job role. For example, while playing in a rock band may be your favorite outside the office, it probably will not help you land the job. However, a hiring manager will notice if you volunteer twice a month at a local non-profit to maintain and upgrade their systems, and have installed and configured any relevant solutions, for example, Active Directory.
Sources of Free Resume Guidance for System Administrators
There are hundreds of websites that offer free sample resumes and templates for system administrators, including the following:
- Indeed Career Guide — Resume builder and sample templates for 3-year and 15-year resumes
- JobHero.com — Sample resumes, resume builders, cover letters and additional resources
- Kickresume.com — Editable temples, cover letters, resume builders and more
- Monster.com — A resume example for an experienced systems administrator
- VelvetJobs.com — Multiple IT system administrator resume samples, a guide to tailoring resumes and a resume builder