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The Linux Foundation today posted their first ever Linux Jobs Report, created in conjunction with tech job site Dice.com. The report examines the current demand for Linux talent, and identifies a few interesting trends.

Of the 2,300 survey respondents, eight in ten said that hiring Linux talent is a priority in 2012, and more than half of firms surveyed said that they’re increasing Linux hires relative to jobs created in other skill areas.

To understand what is driving this demand, we asked what has changed in their organizations to prompt this hiring activity. The results paint an optimistic picture about company growth and the use of Linux to support it. Forty-nine percent say their company is growing, which is creating the need for additional Linux-focused team members, while another 48 percent say that they are increasing their use of Linux and need in-house talent to support it. And 30 percent say that Linux has become core to their business and they need to increase participation in the Linux community through new hires.

Of the firms surveyed for the report, 67% indicate that they’re looking for Linux developers, and 55% are looking for Linux system administrators. Most are looking for Linux talent with three to five years of experience.

According to the Linux Jobs Report, Linux professionals are reaping substantial rewards for their expertise. While the industry average salary raise for technology professionals was only 2%, “Linux professionals saw a five percent increase, year-over-year, in their pay.” Additionally, Linux pros are earning larger bonus payouts, too.

While Linux talent may be in demand, finding that talent is presenting no small challenge to companies. According to the report “85 percent say finding Linux talent is somewhat to very difficult, making Linux professionals some of the most sought talent in 2012.”

As a full-time Linux sysadmin and long-time member of the worldwide open source community, I’d like to share some suggestions with hiring managers and recruiters looking for Linux talent.

First and foremost, engage your local Linux community! There is almost certainly a Local User Group in your area. Reach out to them. Attend their meetings. Encourage your employees to attend their meetings. Offer to host their meetings in your conference rooms. As the organizer for my own LUG, I’m always looking for new venues for our meetings, and I warmly welcome presentation suggestions from local businesses using Linux. Your local LUG is a terrific source of knowledge and talent: build a meaningful relationship with them.

Second, get involved with regional conferences. Sponsor events like the Ohio LinuxFest, Northeast Linux Fest, or LinuxFest Northwest. Find one reasonably close to you, and provide financial sponsorship to them. Make it known that your organization uses Linux, and promote the relationship you previously established with your local LUG. Make it clear to the community that you’re not poaching talent, but rewarding skilled people with meaningful open source jobs.

Third, give back to the community. I know it’s hard for giant corporations to be willing to share much, but try to identify things that you do that you can share with the open source community. Whether it’s code you’ve developed in-house, or documentation on how you glue various open source projects together to solve problems: find a way to share it. It can be as simple as a giving a presentation to your LUG (or regional Linux conference) or setting up an open source blog at your organization.

Fourth, when considering people for Linux employment, look beyond their professional experience. There’s so much that can be done with Linux by people in their free time. Maybe your candidates don’t have much specific professional Linux experience listed on their resumes. Do they have a GitHub account, by chance? What sorts of projects have they forked, or better yet created? Do they cite presentations they’ve delivered to LUGs or conferences? Do you recognize their name from your LUG’s mailing list? There is so much more to open source skill development than traditional job experience.

And of course, all of the above matters for folks looking for jobs, too! Do you participate in your LUG? Do you help solve problems on the mailing list? Do you present on things you’ve done? Does your resume include a link to your GitHub account? Last fall I gave a presentation entitled “Real World Job Skills the Free Software Way” which looked at this very issue.

As a long-time Linux professional, I’m delighted to see that my technology preference is in strong demand.