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Why this matters:

System administrators can have wide-ranging backgrounds, certifications, and work experiences, so it’s important to learn more about the candidate’s abilities to be sure they align with your business needs. While some details might be resume fodder, this question reveals what personal skills and learning experiences the candidate perceives as most valuable.

What to listen for:

  • Areas of specialization, certification, training, or education
  • Past work experience in a technical environment
  • Demonstrated knowledge and skills that apply to the role and current needs

Why this matters:

System administrators must choose a storage medium, establish a backup schedule, document a disaster recovery plan, and maintain tools capable of retrieving lost or compromised system data. This question explores the candidate’s knowledge of standards for backup and recovery, which is crucial to the role.

What to listen for:

  • A well-structured plan for securing company information
  • Awareness of the importance of storing more than one copy of data
  • Experience managing and maintaining recovery files to aid in disaster planning

Why this matters:

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) is a concept a system administrator candidate should know and understand well. This question explores the candidate’s familiarity with newer network automation tools that have replaced manual IP address configuration and streamlined IP reassignment and planning across the organization.

What to listen for:

  • Demonstrated knowledge of what DHCP stands for and how it is applied
  • Previous training and experience in DHCP management software
  • Understanding the importance of streamlining system administration through automation

Why this matters:

From poor quality software and broken code to lack of storage space and internet connection failures, there is no shortage of issues a system administrator may be called upon to fix in a typical work day. This question explores a candidate’s past experience operating under pressure, as well as the approach taken to overcome frustration and resolve the issue.

What to listen for:

  • Experience troubleshooting and handling unexpected challenges
  • Demonstrated critical thinking skills and the ability to pitch solutions
  • Calm under pressure and resilience to try again until a solution is found

 

Why this matters:

System administrators must have excellent time management skills, as they are frequently called upon to attend meetings, assist colleagues, respond to emergencies, and work on strict deadlines. This question reveals how a candidate interacts with management, prioritizes tasks, maximizes time, and handles responsibility.

 

What to listen for:

  • Experience with fast-paced work and juggling multiple tasks, projects, and demands at once
  • Communication skills in setting boundaries and working well with others
  • A structured approach to prioritizing tasks and planning daily schedules

 

Why this matters:

With security breaches all too common, a good system administrator thinks proactively about protecting computer systems against criminal attacks and employee errors. This question explores a candidate’s familiarity with standard security breach prevention methods. Candidates can demonstrate their independence and leadership skills in handling important matters.

 

What to listen for:

  • A multifaceted approach to security that covers the entire computer ecosystem
  • Knowledge of encryption, password protection, and exception reviews
  • Comfort with accountability and commitment to proactive security monitoring

 

Why this matters:

Though their work supports teams, system administrators often work independently to set up systems, protect data, identify glitches, and resolve issues. Some system administrators split their time between remote telecommuting and field work, or travel to multiple corporate locations. This question shows how comfortable a candidate is with this type of work.

 

What to listen for:

  • Demonstrated initiative and the ability to work independently
  • Processes for self-starting and touching base routinely to identify areas of need
  • Discussion of traits like leadership and curiosity that are relevant to the role

Why this matters:

System administrators diagnose and fix a wide variety of computer issues. Asking this question gauges how candidates react to uncertainty and how resourceful they are. Having a process in place for gathering more information is essential to make the best use of time and keep systems performing efficiently.

What to listen for:

  • Problem-solving and verbal communication skills
  • The ability to acknowledge limitations and consult trusted sources for help
  • Appreciation for time management, teamwork as needed, and learning opportunities

Why this matters:

Understanding what support experiences a candidate finds meaningful can offer clues as to what value the candidate may bring to the position. Some system administrators may thrive on problem-solving at critical moments, while others love the hands-on aspects of building a new system or the professional development opportunities to specialize in a particular niche.

What to listen for:

  • Past contributions that have made a difference in people’s lives
  • Demonstrated listening, communication, and leadership skills
  • Interest in continuing education, skill acquisition, specialization, and development
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