ServiceNow & ITSM as a Career?

Starting a career within a new IT niche can be risky, but the potential rewards can be outstanding.
Maybe you're just starting out your career in IT Service Management development/administration/architecture, or maybe you're a veteran of the industry and you're looking for a change. Either way, in this article, we're going to discuss ServiceNow, ITSM, ITBM, and ITOM as a career-path. We’re going to discuss:

  1. Some things you should consider when deciding on your career path

  2. Modules and specializations that are in high demand right now

  3. Building an ITSM-centric resume, and what to focus on

  4. ServiceNow certifications

  5. Interview Pro-Tips

  6. How to break into the industry without experience

  7. Salary negotiation and expectations

ServiceNow admins, developers, and architects are in extraordinary demand, due in large part to the fact that ServiceNow is the fastest growing IT platform in the market, with almost triple the share of its competitors. This, and the ludicrous speed with which ServiceNow has obtained this market-share, has resulted in a strong demand for ServiceNow technical experts.

Whether you're looking to begin your ServiceNow/ITSM, ITBM or ITOM career, or you're already an ITSM veteran just looking for a change, we've partnered with Michael Green, VP of Nelson Frank (one of the few staffing and recruitment firms that I personally trust), to put together some handy interview and resume tips to help you climb the career ladder.

Note: This article is a collaboration. It was not sponsored or paid for in any way.

Deciding on your ServiceNow career path

Before committing to ServiceNow and ITSM as a career path, you should think about the area you want to specialize in. The platform itself covers a vast array of IT (and non-IT!) processes, and is continuing to expand. This means that in addition to deciding on your role to start with (implementation, development, administration, architecture, etc.), you can also decide to specialize in a particular ServiceNow product or products.

It's important for every admin, developer, and architect, to have a solid grasp on the foundational concepts within the platform, so a specialty is usually picked up after building some core competencies within ServiceNow, and a fair understanding of how it works in general. However, when you're looking for a job, a specialty can be the thing that sets you apart from other applicants, and opens doors for you that would otherwise be closed.

ServiceNow has a list of products (sometimes called "modules") by category here, but here are a few of the main products to consider, as well as some advice about who would be most likely to pick them up quickly:

  • Security
    The security module consists of security operations, governance, risk and compliance, vulnerability management, etc.
    If you have an InfoSec background, this is an excellent module to specialize in, and – since it's one of the relatively newer modules in ServiceNow, this specialization is in especially high  demand right now.

  • CSM
    The Customer Service Management module, which works with the existing "task" infrastructure in ServiceNow, and allows you to work with users outside of your company.
    If you've worked with customer service applications before, this would be a great specialization to have, and is in fairly high demand. 

  • HR
    The HR Service Delivery module allows you to create HR services, easily integrate with HR applications (like WorkDay), create "centers of excellence" and HR specializations for your HR people to work in, and provides certain additional privacy controls for sensitive HR cases.
    If you've worked with HR previously in your career, this can be a great application to specialize in.

  • ITOM
    IT Operations Management consists of CMDB, discovery, orchestration, service mapping, and some other stuff. It is one of the most high-demand niches in the ServiceNow technical space, but can require a fair amount of additional expertise outside of ServiceNow, such as some basic networking and server admin knowledge.
    If you're coming to ServiceNow from a sysadmin or network admin background, ITOM can be a great specialization to have.

  • ITBM
    The IT Business Management module includes things like project portfolio management, demand management and ideation, application portfolio management, financial planning and reporting, etc.
    If you're coming from a project management or BA background, this might be a great module to specialize in.

  • Testing
    The "ATF" (Automated Testing Framework) module, and related modules in ServiceNow, are improving with every release, and demand for this specialty is growing. It's pretty easy to pick up and learn if you have an admin and light development background but you would benefit greatly from knowledge of software QA and testing practices.
    If you're coming from a QA/SQA background, this would be a great specialty for you to start out with.


Climbing the ServiceNow career ladder can be easy if you have the right technical knowledge and practical experience. The technology is still so niche that many businesses will be looking for accomplished hyper-nerds to fill the gaps within their team, and prop them up.

Do your research, find out which organizations are ServiceNow customers and users — they may have an opening in their development team which could be exactly the role you’re looking for. 

But if you can’t find a role using that technique, you might consider the services of a recruiter who can match your skills with new ServiceNow job openings. Choosing to go down this path could also help land you a lucrative position for either long, or short-term employment, contracts, or even consulting gigs. That said, it's important to vet the recruiting company you work with though, as many use a sort of "spray-and-pray" approach with resumes. I can't tell you the number of times that I've felt like little more than resume-fodder for some recruitment mill.

What should be included on your ServiceNow resume?

The ServiceNow ecosystem is filled with numerous roles, all needing different skills and expertise to operate successfully within them; so tailoring your resume to suit the role you’re applying for should be the first thing you do.

Many roles can require a candidate to have specific experience. If you’re applying for a role as developer, listing which programming languages and web technologies you’re familiar with, and what applications you’ve used them to create, should be a top priority.

Note: I will be posting a "how to learn ServiceNow development/administration" article that'll cover the specific languages and technologies you should be learning about soon, so be sure to subscribe and keep an eye out for that!

On the other hand, if you’d prefer to work as a ServiceNow admin, listing whether you’ve had experience with system configuration and management, and knowledge of testing workflows and approval flow, configuring lists and forms, building and customizing new and existing database tables and columns, could all take you one step closer to your ideal role.

Certifications

Most consultants who work with ServiceNow partners (consulting companies) will need at least the basic Certified ServiceNow Administrator certification to work on projects. Unfortunately, ServiceNow has recently changed things up so that you have to pay for a (quite expensive) training course before you can even take that certification test. If you have the certification, that's awesome! Otherwise, if you’ve already completed a training course, mentioning it on your resume should make it an attractive prospect for any employer. If you don't have either, and don't want to drop the money on the "official" training course, mentioning that you're happy to take the certification in an interview might also bolster your position.

Aside from the Certified ServiceNow Administrator (CSA) certification, one other cert that seems to be both in high demand, and frankly extremely useful, is the ITIL V3 Foundations certification. You can learn ITIL in a week or two from a book or YouTube videos, and the certification is relatively cheap to take (and fairly easy to pass if you've studied).


ServiceNow Interview Pro-Tips

Now that you’ve landed yourself an interview, you’ll need to prepare for the questions you’re likely to face when meeting a hiring manager.

First, it's a good idea to figure out who's going to be interviewing you. Is it a technical person, or a non-technical person? If they're technical, are they specifically a ServiceNow developer or administrator, or do they focus on some other technology? Your recruiter or company contact will usually be able to get you this information if you ask for it, and these answers can tell you a lot about what to expect, and what to study up on prior to the interview. 

If you're applying for a more mid-level or senior-level position (not a Jr. developer/admin), most businesses will ask about your experience implementing ServiceNow products. Employers want to see evidence you have practical, hands-on expertise working with the technology and that all your knowledge doesn’t come from a textbook. If you're applying for a more junior-level role though, this is less of an issue. It's important to have some hands-on experience, no matter what role you're applying for though, but since ServiceNow graciously provides free personal developer instances (PDIs) to anyone who wants one, this hands-on experience is easy to get even before you've landed your first development job!

Note: For example: my book, Learning ServiceNow, walks you through setting up your PDI, and then through several hands-on exercises which you can follow along with in your PDI!

Be ready to list the major projects you’ve worked on during your previous role. Tell the interviewer if they had a positive outcome and, if they failed, explain how you fixed the mistakes to get the project back on track. These don't have to just be ServiceNow-related projects; much of your experience in the business world will translate to a job like this, so feel free to draw on your past experiences, even if the job you did wasn't extremely relevant to the job you're applying for!

That said, giving real-life examples of how you’ve used ServiceNow or introduced the technology can provide an interviewer with a deeper understanding of your knowledge of the platform, so be ready to open up about the different workflows and technologies you’ve worked with, even if it's just while you were learning.

If you’ve previously worked with ServiceNow, an interviewer may also ask you to list the areas of the products you specialize in, and how you can work with them to make their business operate more successfully. If you haven't chosen a specialization or you just like working with the core platform, it's okay to say, "Core platform development" or "The core ITIL modules (Incident, Problem, Change, Knowledge, Catalog) and core platform development".

The ServiceNow industry offers so many growth opportunities for developers and admins looking to break into the sector. While the process of searching for a role can be daunting, remember there is light at the end of the tunnel, and sticking with the process can help you land your ideal role.


Getting Experience so you can Get Experience

"But if I don't have any experience, nobody will hire me! How am I supposed to ever get experience, if I need experience to get it!"

It's helpful to have some experiences that you can draw on and talk about in an interview, and have a portfolio that you can point to, to show the contributions you've made, and the work you've done in the past. This may sound impossible before you've even had your first job, but it's actually not as daunting as it seems - and you can learn a lot while you do!

For starters, you can scour the ServiceNow Community forums and ServiceNow dev Slack or Discord, looking for questions, getting ideas for applications or tools you can write, and publishing the tools you write on ServiceNow Share. This way, you'll be helping out the community, building a name for yourself, and perhaps most importantly, building a portfolio of work that you can proudly point to and say, "I made that!"


Salary expectations

Everyone, at some point in their career, will wonder: “What sort of salary should I be expecting?” There are a lot of right and wrong answers, and a lot of answers that are in-between.

Here are a few disclaimers to get us started:

  • In this section, I’m going to share my personal opinion.

    • That opinion is informed by years of personal experience with my own salary (obviously), but also that of my partner, the more-than-a-dozen other people who I’ve helped land jobs in the ServiceNow/ITSM space, and the many developers I’ve vetted, interviewed, and hired during my ITSM career - but it is still just my opinion.

  • These numbers are in US dollars ($) for people working in the United States.

    • If you have some experience with salary ranges in other regions, please share in the comments!

  • These are based on 100% remote work, or low-to-moderate cost of living areas, so if you're in a high CoL area and/or do on-site work, you may potentially expect a little more than I’ve indicated.

  • You can almost definitely find people to do any of these jobs for less money than I've listed, but in my opinion, you’ll often end up with someone who's either not good, or not happy, because they will probably be getting offers for more much more money in the very near future.

    • The numbers I’ve listed are ranges which I expect to not only attract, but to retain talent for at least a year or two.

With that in mind, here are the numbers:

  • Administrator: $65k - $85k

    • 0-3 years experience

    • No-code or very low-code

    • ITIL certification recommended early-on, but often not required.

  • Jr. Developer: $75k - $100k

    • 0-3 years experience

    • Low-code

    • Some training availability is expected, as is availability of a more senior dev to answer questions

      • If a company is hiring you as a “junior dev” and they don’t have or plan to hire a “senior dev”, do not take it.

  • Developer: $85k - $140k

    • 2-5 years experience

    • Moderate to high code skill

    • One or more module specialties

  • Sr. Developer: $125k - $175k

    • 3+ years experience [though you'd be wise to base this more on talent than number of years experience]

    • At least a couple of module specialties

    • Maybe a certification or two, though this is only really important if you’re working for a consulting company

  • Architect+: $150k - $300k

    • 4/5+ years experience (though again, talent trumps experience)

    • High code skill

    • Should be able to train others and provide feedback in a productive way

    • Multiple module specializations

    • Good technical writing and communication skills

    • Strong sense of "best-practice", and all that good stuff


Just to reiterate one more time: These ranges are my opinion, and are based on my own experience. That said, there was a fair amount of agreement when this topic was discussed in the community. A job that makes you happy can be worth a fair amount of money - especially if it's building experience that leads to something that both pays better, and makes you happy down the line.

Here's what I tell people who aren't sure whether to leave a job for more money:

Take the pay of the other hypothetical job (say, $150k) and subtract your current salary (say, $120k) to get the delta ($30k).
Imagine that you're already making the higher amount of money, and already working that other job.
Do your best to feel a sense of how you might feel about your team and that work and that job after a couple of months of getting to know people and getting into the groove of things (based on what you know about the new team).

Now, imagine that you are given the opportunity to pay the delta ($30k) every year, to go back to your old job.
Would you pay that amount?

If the answer is no, you wouldn’t pay that amount every year to have your old job, then it might be wise to consider taking the new one. Either way though, you should probably keep your ear to the ground, and be available for whatever new opportunities may come your way. That doesn’t mean seeking out new jobs you don’t really want to take; just being generally open to what might come across your desk.

One more thing I often tell people who are struggling with the idea of leaving a comfortable job for a massive pay-increase:

No company in the history of man, has ever given one single damn, about a single one of its employees.
Corporations don't care about you.
Your manager probably does; and your team. But not the company.
Your manager and your team, if they're worth staying with, would probably be excited for you, to see you go - as long as it was for an exciting gig and a really good pay bump.
Everyone who cares about you enough to matter, would probably be happy for you.

I’m in no way suggesting that you should abandon ship at the first whiff of a pay-bump. What I am saying, is that it should be a decision that you make primarily based on what’s best for you.