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Hiring a System Administrator: Interview Questions and Recruitment

Before your company launches into the next ERP or CRM project, consider bringing on a superuser who can serve as a critical bridge between the user and all the other stakeholders.

Hiring a System Administrator: Interview Questions and Recruitment

When a software project fails, it can cast a long shadow of remorse across the organization. Unfortunately, for many companies, that failure is all-too-familiar.

In fact, a large fraction of enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and other software projects either completely bomb or don’t reach some of their objectives. According to a Deloitte white paper citing analyst firm Gartner’s data, between 55 percent and 75 percent of them fall flat.

With stats like this, is there any way to improve the chances of success on your next software project? The answer is yes and it starts with hiring a superuser (aka, system administrator or “sysadmin”). Fielding the right candidates, asking the right system administrator interview questions, and other strategies can help you find the right fit.

What a Superuser Can Add to Your Workforce

Complex software projects require a “superuser glue” to keep all the stakeholders on the same page and moving in the same direction. These superusers—typically business analysts or project managers who take on a liaison role with IT—can make all the difference between software project failure and success.

So how can you recruit and groom these kinds of folks? Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to building a talent pipeline of ERP superusers, according to Lisa Anderson, president of supply chain management consulting firm LMA Consulting Group, Inc.

As the experts below point out, building a superuser pipeline requires creativity and persistence. But those efforts will ultimately provide a significant payoff. After all, your superusers will serve as a critical bridge between the user and all the other stakeholders on an enterprise software implementation.

System Administrator Interview Questions: Probe Candidates’ Interests

A superuser can make the difference between a rocky release and a smooth one. Jan Meyer, global head of digital learning solutions at SAP, says sysadmins help them with roll-out, troubleshooting, and facilitation of product feedback.

Is the candidate up for the task of being the conduit? While it’s unrealistic to work with 10,000 end users, one or two superuser representatives in a handful of locations can make it work.

Open the Gates to Let Sysadmin Talent In

The next time you’re sourcing business analysts and program managers, include superuser aptitude in the target skill set in the job description. Szofer, CEO of software services firm SenecaGlobal, explains why.

Given the sophistication of Oracle, Salesforce, and SAP, quite a bit of knowledge is needed to configure them. Someone in the scheduling department of a large manufacturer who’s working on the capacity of machines producing goods for Costco, for example, presents a steep learning curve, Szofer says.

Attract Top Candidates With Your Employer Brand

If your company does peer interviews, be sure to include a superuser who can speak with candidates about the role. Or consider highlighting that employee in a video on your company career page.

There are different definitions of who superusers are and what they do, Meyer points out. Therefore, you want to codify what you need from your superusers and widely communicate the nature and importance of the role internally and in your recruitment communications.

Test the Candidate’s Ability to Speak up for a Peer Community

Superusers will be called upon to speak for their peer users, who will likely be less familiar with your organization’s enterprise software. Your system administrator interview questions should be able to assess this.

“The superuser takes on the role of speaking up for the naïve user,” Anderson says. Whether they’re business analysts or project or program managers, superusers need to empathize with newbies. Be sure to look for soft skills in the candidates you select.

Assess Candidates’ Ability to Aid in Software Training

Superusers are key components to training programs, Meyer says. They’ll spend their days on your ERP system, so look for people with experience in training, whether as training leaders or as peer trainers.

Superusers Want to Keep Learning

A great way to successfully recruit promising superuser candidates is to appeal to their ambition and understand that they typically are interested in the training, says Anderson. “They see that they could go somewhere else someday if they want to.”

Keeping ambitious people on the cutting edge of technology, even if they’re not technologists, helps boost retention as well.

Superusers Must Have a Gut Feeling for Process

These two key qualifications will enable you to recruit superusers: a knack for business processes and the ability to suss out new features.

In fact, Anderson says it doesn’t really matter whether you have experience in the system at hand. What’s more important is having someone like a business analyst with a good process understanding, someone who can figure out how to do additional things with the system without too much help.

Management Should Scout for Internal Superuser Talent

Beyond your external searches, leaders should keep their eye out for emerging superuser talent within the company. This would be someone who understands down-the-line impacts, is willing to speak up, and enjoys being a change agent, according to Anderson.

This means giving them opportunities while making sure to provide security in their day-to-day job responsibilities. Presenting the superuser role as a professional development opportunity will also help support employee retention.

Compensate Superusers for Their Above-and-Beyond Efforts

If you love your superusers, retain them by rewarding them for their industriousness. “It’s good to have financial rewards like a bonus at certain milestones,” says Anderson. And it’s good to keep those superusers in your employ—rather than lose them to the greener pastures of your competitors.

Put Your System Administrator Interview Questions to Work Today

With so much on the line for your company, having a skilled superuser on your team can not only protect your project investments, but can also speed up your project timelines. That means that you should have access to qualified candidates when you need them. At Monster, we can deliver. Find out more about how you can start connecting with candidates today by posting your next job with us for free.