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System Administrator Interview Questions

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System Administrator Interview Questions

System administrators, often shorthanded as “sysadmins,” keep computer operations, systems, and servers running smoothly. They are responsible for server maintenance and the security of interactions between a company’s servers and client networks.

In some workplaces, sysadmins also determine IT policy and purchase hardware, software, platforms, and computing services. They also configure how computer systems are networked—how they connect and interact with one another. They back up and, when possible, recover data, and upgrade and install applications.

The best candidates have a rare combination of technical knowledge and interpersonal skills. They should be excellent communicators, able to explain how your workplace computing systems and platforms work, and good listeners, able to understand users’ computing needs and their frustrations. A systems administrator with impressive technical skills who hoards information or dismisses users’ feedback will ultimately be an obstacle to efficient operations.

Once you’ve written an effective system administrator job description, you’ll need to script an effective interview that will allow you to gauge a candidates’ technical aptitude. But how do you select the sysadmin with the necessary balance of hard and soft skills, especially if you are not familiar with the technical knowledge the role requires? The system administrator interview questions below are designed to help you make an offer to a candidate with all the skills essential to the role.

Questions that Build Rapport

Nearly everyone is nervous when they interview for a new job. Ice-breaker questions help to ease tensions, allowing candidate to feel less self-conscious and more open to sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge. Employing a few questions at the outset of the interview that allow your candidates to talk about the elements of work they most enjoy will give you a better sense of who they are. System administrator interview questions that can help build rapport might include the following:

  • Can you tell me a little bit about your technical background and training?
  • How do you deal with on-the-job pressures such as multiple simultaneous deadlines?
  • What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of in your career (or course of study) as a system administrator?

Questions that Explore Experience

During the next phase of the interview, encourage your candidate to talk about their past experiences and how they might be applied to the role in question. Again, at this relatively early stage of the interview, focusing on a candidate’s past employment experience allows them to talk about something they are familiar with. The best candidates will likely be excited to tell you about some of their past career highlights, including problems they solved and efficiencies that they helped to implement. System administrator interview questions that explore experience might be phrased as follows:

  • What is the most difficult technical issue you’ve faced, and how did you solve it?
  • Describe a problem you faced that you didn’t have an immediate answer for. What did you do to solve the problem?

Questions that Reveal Process

One way to help reveal an applicant’s working style as well as their technical knowledge is to ask them to walk you through how they anticipate spending their time on the job and accomplishing typical tasks. The following system analyst interview questions can help you learn about a candidate’s working style:

  • Describe a typical day as a system administrator: What do you do first, next, and last?
  • How do you keep yourself motivated when you work independently?
  • You suspect there is a virus in the network. What process would you detect and eradicate the threat in way that would be most likely to protect data?

Questions that Test Technical Knowledge

Now that your candidate is at ease, it’s time to test their technical knowledge of systems and networking. The following system administrator interview questions should help you gauge your candidate’s depth of technical knowledge:

  • How do you stay informed on the latest innovations in system operations?
  • What is the difference between a router and a gateway?
  • What are some ways you might protect a system from hackers?
  • How do you determine server capacity and what are some methods you would use to optimize it?

Questions that Gauge Interpersonal Skills

Though sysadmin is often viewed as purely technical role, it requires a number of soft skills, including interpersonal and communications skills, as well as the ability to work with vendors and other technical and nontechnical colleagues. Here are a few system administrator interview questions designed to determine whether candidates have the soft skills needed to work smoothly with users, colleagues, and vendors:

  • What do you do when a user contacts you because they are having a difficult time using a program or component of the network and they’re up against a deadline?
  • Tell us about a time when you accomplished something as part of a team. What role is most comfortable for you when you work with other technical and nontechnical colleagues?
  • When working with vendors, how do you approach negotiations? After the deal is signed, how do you develop and maintain vendor relationships?
  • A remote employee is having trouble joining a video call. How would you troubleshoot the situation?

Ask System Administrator Interview Questions to Top Applicants with a Free Job Post

Now that you know the right questions to ask, how do you reach the top candidates in the field? A free job listing with Monster can help you entice the savviest systems experts to your workplace.