When describing Linux command line experience on a resume, what conveys a more professional image: Saying you have experience with "Linux" or "Unix"?

I know that there is a difference, but the fact is that the vast majority of employers are using Linux and care about Linux. A few may run other Unices like BSD, in which case either they're looking specifically for "BSD" on your resume, or they're hoping you can leverage your Linux skills to learn fast. In any case, this is irrelevant: I am expecting specifically for an applicant with Linux experience, applying to positions where Linux is used.

Granted, Linux and BSD for instance are different systems and not exactly the same. But technically saying "Linux" when you're not talking about kernels or drivers is nonsensical, the correct thing would be to say you have GNU (or GNU/Linux) experience. But given how clueless some HR people are, saying GNU instead of Linux runs the risk of getting your resume filtered out due to lacking keywords.

This question is about perceptions more than anything. Do senior technical people often care about "Linux experience"? Is there a widespread, pedantic prejudice against applicants who don't say "Unix experience" instead? Or is it accepted as a necessary evil of the modern job market?

Note: I am not asking for advice on how to describe *nix experience in detail. That is covered adequately by other questions. I'm asking what term is safer to use when an applicant needs to mention experience with mainstream Linux server/desktop distros, and there is not enough space to describe at length the particulars of the experience (due to more significant items taking up space).

  • 3
    How about *nix?
    – tweray
    Feb 20 '19 at 16:23
  • @tweray I also like that option. But I always wonder, is it common for people to not realize *nix means Linux, too?
    – SquiddleXO
    Feb 20 '19 at 16:24
  • @PascLeRasc I would welcome an answer explaining how it depends, if you believe one option is better than the other in certain contexts but not others. Also, I can't help but remark that it would be very abstruse to interpret "Linux experience" as specifically embedded Linux experience, rather than the obvious possibility of experience with mainstream server/desktop distros.
    – SquiddleXO
    Feb 20 '19 at 16:28
  • @SquiddleXO Linux is the very reason that term *nix is invented.
    – tweray
    Feb 20 '19 at 16:29
  • @tweray By "people", I mean "people who aren't knowledgeable about the history of the technology and are just looking for keywords".
    – SquiddleXO
    Feb 20 '19 at 16:34

In general, it probably doesn't matter too much. Unless someone is looking for a very low level kernel developer, the functional differences between the various flavors of Unix are small enough that it's rather easy for people to translate experience on one flavor to a different flavor. If you've been administering Solaris boxes for a decade, you're likely to have a pretty easy time moving over to linux (or vice versa).

Ideally, you would be tailoring your resume to the job you're applying for in which case you'd use whatever terms are appropriate for the job posting. If the job description talks about linux, use linux on your resume. If the job description talks about Unix, use Unix on your resume. If there is a keyword filter somewhere in HR-land, they're almost certainly using keywords that are in the job description. Following their convention simplifies the world.

  • following the job description seems the best idea
    – Kilisi
    Feb 20 '19 at 18:32
  • Great answer! A shame it won't be very visible because my question is apparently misunderstood by downvoters.
    – SquiddleXO
    Apr 4 '19 at 20:45

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