What Rackspace Looks for in Job Candidates

Based in a converted shopping mall in San Antonio, Rackspace strives to maintain a culture based on “mutual respect and transparency” as it continues its rapid growth. A leading provider of managed hosting, cloud hosting and cloud-based email and applications, the company supports 180,000 business customers and manages more than 82,000 servers. In part, it’s built its workforce of 4,300 “Rackers” by promising an environment that encourages communication and team-building as its focuses on “fanatical support.”

Director of Recruiting Tim James is definitely in hiring mode. “In the third quarter we’ll add about 150 new U.S. employees and are planning to do the same in Q4,” he says. “We’ve already hired about 600 people so far this year.”

Who is James looking for? Software developers; QE engineers; product marketing managers; and Linux, Windows and network security administrators. “We also need DevOps engineers, a new role that’s emerged in just the past nine months or so,” he says. As the title suggests, it’s a hybrid position combining development and operations — in other words a systems engineer who also has the ability to script and code.

When James hires, nothing is more important than a candidate’s technical acuity. Beyond that, though, he looks for people who will be a good cultural fit, and who have potential to grow. “It’s no secret that these days we’re in a war for talent, and if we set out to hire only Level 3 and Level 4 developers we’d lose. We have to be flexible and seek out people who can evolve after they’re hired.”

“Candidates who really stand out are the ones who have that good mix of technological and interpersonal skills that lets them provide fanatical support to our internal and external customers.”

When approaching Rackspace, the biggest mistake a candidate can make is to prepare a vague or underwhelming resume. “We want to see well-written resumes that do a good job of highlighting skills, projects and key accomplishments. It’s hard for us to dig in and get a good feel when we’re looking at hundreds of resumes a day.” It’s obvious but true: recruiters need to be dazzled.

Looking for Linux

The competition to find talent is most fierce in the Linux arena, and it’s an urgent issue at Rackspace, where Linux is critical to operations. “There are far more Linux jobs available in the U.S. than there are candidates to fill them,” James says. “We do research to seek out the cities where we can most successfully recruit from. We look at locations that have the highest number of Linux candidates with the fewest number of jobs and opportunities.”

College Grad Advice

James believes computer science and engineering students and recent grads are in a great position. “Companies on the west coast are scouting CS and engineering students in their freshman and sophomore years for internships in their junior and senior years. That’s how competitive it’s gotten.” Students should focus on finding meaningful internships, he says. “Instead of just doing maintenance work or patching code, they should work on making real accomplishments and pushing through projects under the guidance of strong mentors.”

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