IT Employment

Sys Admin job description has reader baffled

We've all seen IT job descriptions that are bizarre, like the ones that require the candidate to have 15 years experience in a technology that is only four years old. But this one is even odder.

We've all seen IT job descriptions that are bizarre, like the ones that require the candidate to have 15 years experience in a technology that is only four years old. But this one is even odder.

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A TechRepublic member recently e-mailed me a job description he found on Craigslist that perplexes him -- and me too now that I've read it. The job description is for a Sys Admin and part of the requirements are:

"Ability to work with mathematical concepts such as probability and statistical inference, and fundamentals of plane and solid geometry and trigonometry. Ability to apply concepts such as fractions, percentages, ratios, and proportions to practical situations."

The member says, "I have done a lot of IT sys admin type functions from mainframes, DEC VAX, Solaris to Linux, but have NEVER had to deal with geometry or trig (very rusty except for some home/shop/auto type projects). The stats I can see for performance modeling/tuning, but that's as far as I can makes sense of this, unless it is some kind of 'aptitude' test notion that devolved into something ridiculous."

Can anyone help us out with deciphering this one?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

255 comments
BryanYee7
BryanYee7

Maybe they had multiple people write the job description:

Person 1: Ability to work with mathematical concepts such as probability and statistical inference, and fundamentals of plane and solid geometry and trigonometry.

Person 2: 
Ability to apply concepts such as fractions, percentages, ratios, and proportions to practical situations.

zidamon
zidamon

Seems more like they are looking for a Mathteacher. No, wait! Math... geometry..., I got it! They need someone who can count the number of employees, divide it through a mass amount of water... and can poor coffee all day. :)

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

http://www.careerbuilder.com/JobSeeker/Jobs/JobDetails.aspx?IPath=ILKGV&ff=21&APath=2.31.21.0.0&job_did=J8H67L6VB3GZSSVD3CJ THIS POSITION REQUIRES CANDIDATES BE ELIGIBLE FOR A DOD SECURITY CLEARANCE AND MUST BE US CITIZENS. General Duties: * Develop Windows applications. * Develop and maintain program code specifications. * Develop or modify program code based on a set of requirements or pre-established designs. * Provide software development progress reports. * Support documentation preparation in conjunction with programming assignments and perform other related duties as assigned. Requirements software development engineer, software design engineer, software engineer, software developer, firmware, C++ programmer, C++ developer, programmer, programming, computer, computersSoftware Programmer Aptitude: Required strong problem solving and analytical skills. Must be a self-starter and personally motivated. Able to work individually or in a group. Must posses strong organizational skills and be able to author detailed documentation. Minimum Requirements: * Bachelor's degree in Computer Science or equivalent work experience in C/C++. * Experience in Windows application development using MFC. * Experience designing applications using accepted Object Oriented Design paradigms (OOA/OOD/OOP). * Experience with Visual Studio 2005/2008 a big plus. software development engineer, software design engineer, software engineer, software developer, firmware, C++ programmer, C++ developer, programmer, programming, computer, computers

reisen55
reisen55

No Kidding, this is a cut and paste. Be ready to laugh: Type: Permanent Position: Proj Manager Skills: zxff;lkdnmfldskfnsldkfnsdw Required Skills: --See job description-- Location: Brooklyn, NY Start Date: ASAP

.Martin.
.Martin.

they the Sys Admin had to be able to figure out the probability of someone doing something stupid.... or run bingo night...

ps.techrep
ps.techrep

Gee, all this was covered in my high school math classes. I wonder what's happened to our schools if this junk needs to be listed instead of "high school graduate" or a minimum ACT math score. Do you suppose the writer had experience with an admin who populated a rack off-U with cables running diagonally to reach the chassis connectors?

Bob.Kerns
Bob.Kerns

I find it rather disturbing that the blogger and nearly all the respondents find these job requirements absurd. One person posited that they'd raise the possibility of LYING. Huh? Can anyone name an IT job that doesn't require a junior high school education? Yes, for EVERY SINGLE REQUIREMENT, you're expected to have at least the fundamentals BEFORE you enter high school. Most are elementary school topics! By the time you graduate high school, you should be able to apply plane geometry and trig, and figure out the floor area of an oddly-shaped server room, or solid geometry to find the volume of the server room, and how many CFM of HVAC air flow it would require to do a complete exchange every hour. Fractions? Ratios? LOGIC?????? Good grief, there is NO WAY I would knowingly hire someone deficient in ANY of these areas, for ANYTHING! Except maybe floor sweeper. I'd expect better of a full-fledged janitor, who might need to do the occasional spot of building maintenance! My uncle has an 8th-grade education. I've SEEN him do all of these tasks in his work. He's a farmer. Is this really TechRepublic.com? Or MathPhobia.org?

rbogar
rbogar

I've seen this sort of thing, mostly in government work. The preselected son-in-law/neighbor/crony of the manager happens to have that particular irrelevant skill.

stephen.shipley
stephen.shipley

Bad stuff and diamonds in the rough. How bout Google Earth? I've used my skills to build 3D simulator models as well as administer the tools to build.

jkool
jkool

If you can explain what graduates have learned in the education system has anything to do with the title or degree received, it wouldn't be necessary to give job applicants a basic math test

tc_ratcliff
tc_ratcliff

My favorite was an opening in the IT department at a gun manufacturer. Experience requirements included knowing how to load bullets into a gun.

1Cat2Many
1Cat2Many

Sounds like some idiot in HR came up with that one. I had some fool in HR interview me once for a position. She kept asking me about my "FORTRON" experience. Needless to say I couldn't get away from that place fast enough.

reisen55
reisen55

I sometimes believe that many job posting are just job fishing. Scenario: Fred in the DO department, a manager, has not been doing too well of late. So management feels they have an obligation to see about a replacement, post an advertisement and begin interviews. Old Fred knows nothing of this, the interviews are held off-site. Eventually, 3 candidates surface that are better qualified and younger ... that's the problem. NOW management has to decide, do we dump poor old Fred (17 years in, wife, kids in college and knows our procedures) - or hire the young kid who may cost less but who knows less and has to be trained on whatever Fred knows so we get six months of potential trouble anyway. Dump the interviews, send out the thanks-but-no thanks letters to the usual suspects and old Fred is happy.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Who can administer a Computer System. I'm supposing having a Fields Medal and a Nobel Prize for Mathematics would also be a lovely idea but I'm willing to believe that this place is unwilling to pay the money required to attract this kind of person. Though people like Robert Nash who may be qualified for the job if they knew how to use a computer system to perform this requirement may be a little too unstable for the Organization Advertising. :D Col

jzean
jzean

that's what they call multi-tasking haha...

perryashford
perryashford

This is typical for a company to post a position that no one can ever fill just to hire their family member or close friend. The posting is a smoke screen. The person they want to hire already has the job locked up

binarypc
binarypc

Hilarious! This basically sounds like someone who is good at using Excel!

jongoff
jongoff

I write resumes, and for the most part, they're for people in IT. My experience in the transition of going to work for an employer is that there are several people who vet the "requirements." There's the person who actually needs someone, who says to his boss, "I need someone who can help with the network." The boss, who probably has an MBA, but can't open a spreadsheet without a call to the help desk, then drafts a list of what he thinks the job needs. He then passes this along to HR, who may or may not edit the list, and then the advertisement is placed. It's a bizarre world, and when I write a resume for a client, I actually write two. One for HR, and one for the guy who will interview and actually knows what he needs and wants.

melekali
melekali

...that is bizzarre. Probably formulated by someone in HR...

enfield_john
enfield_john

The ones that drive me nuts are the ones that require a certain number of years of experience. Especially when those jobs are posted for months on end. You'd think at some point, they'd realize they need to lower their required experience and give some newer techs a chance. Just because a tech doesn't have five years of experience minimum in the position being advertised doesn't mean he's unable to do the job.

Mr.Bob51
Mr.Bob51

First application question is "What do women/men really want? (in 25 words or less)

asistemas
asistemas

C'on is not that bad, I know you probably would never need such concepts in that kind of job, but all we Systems Engineers saw that assignments in College, so, a quick review will do.

estcst
estcst

I don't find it an odd requirement at all. If this is a small enough of a shop/department than it could make perfect sense that the new hire would need to fill a couple of roles but administration being the most prevalent. Where I work I was once a system admin, I was expected to be able to do a number of tasks outside of the administrators role with some level of competency. One of the things that first got me in the door was that I was well versed at MS Access and Informix SQL. How much did I really use it? Maybe a couple hours a week but it's still needed. And yes, some moderately complex mathematics is associated with that end of the job's duties.

Tink!
Tink!

to explain why they think it necessary for all students to take Algebra, Geometry and Trig. Supposedly there are places in real life where we'd actually apply these learnings. Sure, some will, most won't.

cloyd42
cloyd42

Here's a thought: the requirements are real and you aren't qualified. We have an area in our company where this would be a legitimate requirement. That's why people put these things in the ads--so people without the correct skill sets don't apply.

psmith
psmith

Just another example of what happens when the basic skill levels of those assessing applicants itself falls beneath certain levels.

gijoemarine
gijoemarine

It is entirely possible that those skills are needed by the users and they want the Administrator to actually be able to help them with problems and to be able to make the system enhance their work, not just take care of the server and associated hardware.

abono
abono

I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone with the "right" resume waste the time of the IT dept(or worse), while someone who had the right aptitudes and education set came in and - with training - was a star. This question goes to the user's educational background and aptitudes, and it's weird, and probably intended to serve as a filter, but it's not invalid. In a day and age when people are showing up with "ITT" credentials instead of "MIT credentials" and calling them a "Bachelors" - seriously degrading the value of college degrees - it's becoming increasingly difficult for small and medium-sized businesses to differentiate real education from from expensive fluff. Unless we'd like to see IT jobs slip back into the world of DP and "administration" instead of engineering, I think our expectations of the math qualifications - as well as logic and science - need to come up. And yes, I mean that even for the help desk guys and gals. For those of you who have managed to be stars out there without the benefit of an education - you're awesome - just not as common as you think. And remember, it's never too late to get a diploma.

Jeff_T
Jeff_T

This could easily describe a 3D piping program administrator who does both admin level analysis of the program usage and production rates from the designers as well as system administration. In order to get to a admin level in this type of system you would also have to have been a designer at one point thus the requirements to produce innovative designs through the use of geometry and trig. Current pay rate is about $85.00 per hour for a staff employee.

jayohem
jayohem

It sounds as if someone had to post a number of job listings and mismatched the job description and category. Someone out there is looking for a mathematician.

russ
russ

I think whoever posted the job description has a student in junior high or high school and needs help doing his/her homework.

dshj
dshj

This is just a fancy way of asking for someone that has basic math skills and complex problem solving skills. I assume they're replacing someone that didn't have either, so they're trying to frighten away anyone that might not come close to what they desire.

blieffring
blieffring

Typical ad: Currrent Microsoft Architecture Certified, A+, CCIE, Oracle OCM, Linux OCM, Citrix, Exchange Server, and C# certifications and M.S.I.T degree required. Need good receptionist and janitorial skills. Starting pay up to 18k.

swcamper
swcamper

Yep. I have seen similar job descriptions for desktop support, mind you, positions or admin positions on craig's list and elseware. I think the situation is that, quite frankly, some human resource managers are not informed enough about IT positions to post an advertisement properly; ie; 15 years experience for a 4 year old technology, or post requirements that are far out of reach for a lot of IT professionals trying to get in the ball park, but can't even get in the stadium! As a result, a lot of candidates are screened out before they even get a chance for an interview! Something is wrong with this picture, and it needs to be fixed!

papeirce
papeirce

Oh my word... If ever there was evidence that we truly live in a "Dilbert" world (with apologies and respect to Mr. Scott Adams). In this forum we have discussed unrealistic expectations, silly three question tests, cruel "Catbert" HR people, Pointy-Haired Bosses, and the Hapless Engineers trying to get things done. What we have not yet discussed is... "WWDD" "What would 'Dogbert' do?"

brian
brian

Mayhaps the math stuff is a business requirement thang. In order to understand the application and the specs you need to be able to calculate the exact surface area of your cube.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

That's the title of my current job. What does it entail? Primary business administration of the the ACS:MIDAS+ Database application. (It's a user interface that sits on top of a database that is a subset of the main hospital information system and is used for quality analysis and reporting of patient care, doctor's performance, complaints, safety and security for the facility, as well as reporting to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Joint Commission.) - Maintenance of database dictionary tables. - Monitoring of interface transactions between the hospital information system and the MIDAS database. - User access control. - Organization Helpdesk-level resolution of user problems. - User Training. - Application software testing and upgrade. - Coordination with ACS:MIDAS+ technical representatives for testing, upgrades, and higher level problem resolution. (Note: I do NOT get full DBA access to the database, which occasionally is a royal PITA.) - Initiate, recommend sources, and monitor server hardware and OS upgrades as required. That's the standard stuff that is usually expected of a sys admin. But wait, there's more! - Write SQL queries to extract data from the MIDAS+ system for periodic and ad hoc reports. (response times range from "I need it in a couple of weeks" to "I need it in the next 5 minutes.") - Write SQL queries that merge data sources from multiple databases. - Create and maintain tables and graphs from reports. - Provide statistical analysis and reporting. - Provide breifings on quality issues to employees, managers, C-level executives, and Board of Trustees of the company. Notice, there is no supervisory or managerial requirements attached to the task list. My B.S. is in Computer Information Systems Management; I'm a Novell Netware Manager, an Oracle DBA, and an A+ computer technician, who also has 20+ years as an AF statistical analyst and manager. And for what it's worth, I do this on $60K a year in southern NH.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

No comment just some questions ... Has anyone noticed that the list of responses to this item is now 4 times longer than the original (admittedly short) entry? Has anyone (else) noticed that this type of insanity seems to be getting worse? Has anyone (else) noticed that it seemed to appear immediately following the "right sizing" craze of the 90s and that it hit critical mass with the appearance of Monster & Workopolis? Has anyone noticed that the media is finally beginning to notice (i.e. multiple articles starting to appear)?

jasonaclark
jasonaclark

I can't believe the number of people here who seem to be intimidated by a requirement to have a high school grasp of basic mathematics, and speculate that the position might relate to some complex technical requirement. This doesn't even cover calculus or number theory, which are components of most undergraduate CS programs and therefore a requirement for the majority of sysadmin positions. In fact, I would argue that other than having the word 'computer' in it, possession of a CS degree is a less meaningful prerequisite than this basic math requirement. In 16 years of network management, I've never had to convert a regular expression to a fixed-state machine, or determine the big-O efficiency of anything. My MS in CS looks good on a resume, but really serves no practical purpose.

reisen55
reisen55

Headhunter called with a question: how long on Windows Server 2003? I said 3 or 4 years. Client wants five years. PERIOD. END OF DISCUSSION, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. Oh, should have said seven years on Windows Server 2003 - think about it......... ***** Another headhunter: How long have you supported Windows? (Read my resume idiot). Should have said: Ever since OS/2. F'crissake.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Do you think that they are Desperate? Much more likely though that they are not a great place to work and everyone in their area knows this and is avoiding them like the Plague. :D Col

Darkpawn5
Darkpawn5

I would say yes, sometimes HR writes/C&P job descriptions. I saw one once and we have all seen them. Where the company hiring wants someone with a laundry list of programming languages & experience, yet they forget if said individual existed why would they be looking for a job? Said individual would probably be up the chain at his own company in a very handsome position/salary and only have another few years before retirement or retire early. I know this engineer friend who worked at Digital then HP for years, he is now retired but, he once went for a job interview and they asked him if he had 15 years experience with a certain technology. His reply was yes, I do I have 10 years however that techology has only been around for 11 years. Obviously they didn't know anything about the technology or how long it has been around.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I've worked in Fortune 100/500, small businesses, and government. I've never seen interviews where they were not looking to hire. Now sometimes, and this has happened to me, they interview before they have formal written approval, and when head office finds out they kill the job. Usually when that happens they beg the candidate to wait till they can make it right, but thats never easy. Now I do believe that IT recruiters fish all the time. But interviewing and reviewing is a time intensive process, and you don't do it lightly. James

jakcap
jakcap

Could be...good ole American nepotism!!

tuomo
tuomo

Maybe because your title is "Systems Programmer" - heh! The best title I ever had, covers all and everything. Unfortunately companies changed it to Analyst, Architect, whatever - the tasks always same. Seriously, it seems that companies today are looking labor, not someone who gets results? The "skill" requirement lists are like this tool or that toy, nothing of the job itself? What is the problem they are looking a solution? Are they looking solutions or have they already solved all the problems and just need someone to assemble whatever? Or just to push a button? A disaster if you ask me, seen that too many times and not just in IT! Now, there may be needs for many "skills". As a "Systems Programmer" or whatever the title has been, I have needed more than I can think for creating anything between hardware drivers to global infrastructures and application environments. It's unbelievable what skills you have to have or to learn when working for a total solution vendor building new data centers and delivering or at least managing the new network / application environments for big companies. Yes, job descriptions have gone down the tubes! Many have already referenced to their experiences - I have had the same, many times! "Seems that you don't know C?" - from a big corporate development manager who had absolutely no idea of any languages? "Seems that you don't know SQL(?)" - the question was is SAN or NAS better, of course no explanation of their big, actually distributed environment? Capacity planning (we all have seen results lately, big networks and systems down a long time!) - have to know this tool or toy and able to make daily powerpoint presentations - planning, what's that? And security skill requirements are probably the worst - tools and toys, who cares what kind of problems they cause, do they even work in that environment, how do you manage those, how they match with corporate security, blah, blah - I'm not at all amazed of all the security problems companies have, knowing a tool is not security - period! So - companies are asking how long and which vendor hammer you have used, not what you have built? How well it came, how well it works, etc?

ceruleanspiral
ceruleanspiral

Trig and geometry are not basic math. Basic trig and geometry are learned in high school- but you don't have to take both depending on the credits in the school you're in. Statistical inference and probability are definitely not basic math either. I didn't get into that stuff until college.

jelabarre
jelabarre

I think the issue was the *relevance* if the requirements to the position.  The impression was that the job requirement was slapped together without much thought to the job.  Now, granted, not having seen the complete original listing, or knowing who the job was for, you don't know if it was an industry that needed such skills, but it seems that in such a case the IT skills were likely the *secondary* needs, and the listing was therefore miscategorized as IT in the first place.


john.wang
john.wang

I consider geometry and trig to be basic math skills. If you don't have trig by the time you get to University, you have to take the remedial makeup course. Besides we did trig in grade 10.

Bob.Kerns
Bob.Kerns

Including probability, but not (unfortunately) statistics. Statistics is unfortunately considered an "extra" rather than a basic life skill, essential for an informed electorate. That, I *tutored* while in high school, my daughter *took* in high school. And is an obvious requirement for the job -- a basic skill for IT, however you acquire it. In California, you cannot graduate from High School without meeting at least their watered-down "Algebra I" standards, which you're supposed to be taught in 8th grade. You can't get into a public college here (UC or CSU) without Algebra II (most of which I was taught in 8th grade in rural Iowa in the 1960's), and Geometry If you don't have these, you won't get in. No remediation, except to go to a local community college, and apply as a transfer student after you've met the minimum requirements. For UC, you'd better have trigonometry and probably calculus I as well. Why should a hiring manager be less picky about these skills than an undergraduate computer science program? These are all topics that are available in most high schools, and most that someone hoping to embark on a technical career should be expecting to learn thoroughly while in high school.