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The Complete Guide to Effectively Interview Help Desk Technicians

What is the secret sauce to effectively interview and hire the best Help Desk Technicians? We’ve outlined our recruiter-backed tips and tricks in this blog.

Published on

March 17, 2023


Top notch Help Desk Technicians are an integral addition to every tech team. They’re a hot commodity and they don’t stay available on the open market for long. These roles are so in demand that they ranked #2 in 2022 on our list of most requested IT jobs in Canada.

What does that mean for hiring managers? It’s important to secure these talented professionals fast with a fast and straightforward approach. A slow hiring process will cost you good candidates who won’t wait around for you to fit them into your schedule. In addition, your interview process needs to be smooth and simple. If you try to make them jump through hoops, they will easily move on to the next company.

So, what is the secret sauce to effectively interview and hire the best Help Desk Technicians? We’ve outlined our recruiter-backed tips and tricks to consider when hiring top-quality Help Desk Technicians.

Getting prepared: Pre-interviews

Step 1: Know what level of Help Desk Technician you need

Based on your IT support and organizational structure, your Help Desk Technicians will be categorized into Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3.

Tier 1: These help desk technicians offer basic resolutions and delivery to solve usage issues and customer requests that involve IT. Typical Tier 1 Support calls can range from password resets, hardware repair, printer and Windows end-user support including Office 365 administration. If there is no easy solution to the problem, issues are escalated to the next level of help desk technician. These candidates may not have extensive IT backgrounds but are trained as problem-solvers who rely on scripts and follow processes.

Tier 2: These help desk technicians have more experience than the previous tier meaning they can offer more extensive technical support. With more in-depth knowledge of the product/service they can resolve more complex issues. Typical Tier 2 support requests could involve “light server” support, Active Directory, Office 365 administration and deployments. Although they have a stronger IT background than Tier 1, they are not able to create the product, or recreate issues from a programming perspective so there is still a knowledge gap of all the detailed ins and outs. Issues they cannot resolve will be escalated to Level 3 support.

Tier 3: These help desk technicians are considered experts and are more senior in their departments. They have the technical abilities to recreate issues if needed to try to uncover the reason and cause. Known to be excellent critical troubleshooters, Tier 3 Support is often involved in IT projects that include cloud migrations, routing and switching and security. Being highly skilled, they are usually the most senior architects and engineers who were big contributors to building the product or services. If new fixes are uncovered, they are documented to be used by Level 1 or Level 2 help desk technicians to resolve these issues in the future.

Step 2: Know the objectives that you are hiring for

In order to ensure the skills you are assessing align with the solutions you’re hoping to achieve, the objective that you are hiring for must be clear and must resonate throughout your hiring process including throughout interviews.

Some common external pain points Help Desk Technicians can address are:

  • The strategic needs of the customer
  • Ensuring a positive customer experience with support
  • Managing and resolving smaller technical issues in a timely manner
  • Creating a service level agreement and process to solve larger issues
  • Enhancing the value that customers derive from a product

You may also be hiring Help Desk Technicians internally for the following reason:

  • Ensuring employee productivity and satisfaction with your tech stack
  • Improve training and retention for employees
  • Process improvements
  • Support with innovation and technology adoption
  • Product/services development
“It’s always wise to keep an eye out for candidates with certifications in place (A+, Network+, CCNA) to make certain they have the high level of confidence and commitment to excel at their IT career.” - Walter Sima, Manager of National Partnerships in IT Services at Altis Recruitment

4 tips for interviewing Help Desk Technicians

1. Look for candidates who understand their impact

Tip: Look for candidates who understand just how important a positive experience with Help Desk is to the overall success of the company.

It is no secret that employees who feel they have an impact at work will stay longer with their companies. According to research by McKinsey, employees who live their purpose at work are 6.5 times more likely to report higher resilience, four times more likely to report better health, and six times more likely to want to stay at the company. Knowing the importance of their roles and how performance affects the company overall (by increasing brand loyalty, trust, and customer satisfaction) will ensure the successful candidate feels like they have meaning in their job.

2. Dive into their customer service experience

Tip: Candidates with customer service experience will understand how patience, empathy and influence can lead to positive outcomes

Help Desk Technicians require more than just technical abilities to help solve problems. As they are customer-facing, and often need to bring calm to frustrating situations, they need to be able to positively influence customer behaviour and attitudes. It is important to ensure you ask questions about their experiences to understand how they were able to put themselves into the customers’ shoes while problem-solving.

3. Prioritize problem-solving skills

Tip: Top-quality Help Desk Technicians look for long-term solutions to customer problems.

Look for candidates who take a consultative approach and proactively advise customers on what steps they could take to help resolve similar issues if they come up. Looking for this quality at the interview stage will land you talent that goes the extra mile beyond just getting the customer off the support line. Providing added value will help the overall brand and customer experience, which could lead to referrals or positive reviews.

4. Look for an ability to process feedback constructively

Tip: Be sure to ask situational questions to understand how candidates perceive and respond to feedback. Those who are responsive to feedback will be more committed to personal and professional growth.

Working under pressure, IT teams and their employers means Help Desk Technicians receive regular feedback from various sources. Being able to listen, process, learn and implement solutions based on feedback is an important and necessary skill for this work. Look for examples of when they were able to use feedback to improve their performance moving forward.

A collection of Interview Questions for Help Desk Technicians

Help Desk and Technical Support positions are unique in that they require a strong foundation of technical skills coupled with customer service expertise. Whether supporting internal or external clients, being tech-savvy and having strong interpersonal skills are necessary.

“Always look for those candidates with a positive, “end-user first” approach to their work to guarantee the highest level of customer service for your user. In the interview, assess whether they can provide clear examples of their “critical troubleshooting” skills that prove they have a systematic approach to solving end-user issues.” - Walter Sima, Manager of National Partnerships in IT Services at Altis Recruitment

Remember that every technical environment is different. Some Help Desk professionals take five calls a day but solve problems from start to finish. Others may receive 100 calls a day, but the issue is referred elsewhere for resolution. Asking the right interview questions is the key to ensuring a candidate will thrive at your workplace.

Initial Questions (beyond the basics):

  • In previous roles, were you supporting customers of another firm, customers of the same firm, or was your internal support to the company’s direct employees?
  • Have you provided remote access support or repairs?
  • What was your average resolution time for customer support?
  • How do you prioritize clients’ requests? How would you deal with two high priority requests simultaneously?
  • Have you ever informed management about recurring incidents? How would you go about reporting the issue? What were the outcomes?
  • What hardware or software certifications have you completed (A+, MTA, MCSA, MCSE, CCNA, CCNP, etc.)?
  • In your last position, what type of issues arose that required you to do research? How did you conduct your research?
  • Describe a technical issue that was not an easy fix. What did you do to understand and resolve the issue?

Questions for Help Desk Tier 1

  • What customer issues were addressed at a Tier 1 level?
  • How was information recorded or tracked? What type of reporting systems have you used?
  • When troubleshooting, what types of procedures were you expected to use (screenshots, step by step documentation, etc.)?
  • How did you provide client support (phone, email, remote assistance, in person, or other)?
  • How have you handled a language barrier when trying to solve a problem over the phone?
  • Have you configured hardware? If so, please explain.
  • What commercial (COTS) desktop or web applications have you supported?
  • Have you supported proprietary desktop and/or web applications? If so, what type? What resources were available to help you troubleshoot them?
  • What type of issues did you encounter that were more complex and needed to be escalated?
  • What types of products have you supported (software, hardware, mobile phones, phones, printers, modems, webcams, etc.)?

Questions for Help Desk Tier 2

  • Have you provided onsite support to resolve issues pertaining to: software, hardware, mobile phones, landline phones, printers, etc.?
  • Which vendor’s networking equipment are you most familiar with (Cisco, Juniper, HP, etc.)?
  • What types of advanced troubleshooting were required most often and were most of these issues escalated from Tier 1?
  • Did you do diagnostic testing as part of monitoring systems?
  • Have you supported or configured servers? Do you have experience with mirroring or backup systems?
  • Were you required to run System Diagnostic Reports as part of monitoring systems?
  • Have you worked on an exchange server, SMTP, or other email system? Which ones?
  • Have you used disk imaging and deployment software?
  • Have you supported network connectivity issues (LAN, Wifi, VPN, firewalls)?
  • Did you work with Secure File Transfer System (SFTS) or Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP)?

Questions for Help Desk Tier 3

  • What expertise have you acquired to achieve the expert-level support role?
  • How did you go about resolving problems? What issues did you need to research?
  • In the event you could not find a solution, what were you expected to do? Did you have access to developers that could help with an in-depth analysis?
  • Were you supervising Tier 1 and 2 tech support team members?
  • Have you created (official or unofficial) documentation or procedures to increase productivity of your team or step-by-step information for assisting clients?
  • Were you able to do site-specific enhancements with costs to fix an issue?
  • Were you able to participate in projects that uncovered preventive steps or measures for previously known issues?
  • Have you used deployment software such as SCCM/SMS?
  • What types of deployment and migration projects have you led or been involved with?
  • Were you required to run System Diagnostic Reports as part of monitoring systems?
  • Do you have experience with network configuration and maintenance (VLANs, Routing, Wifi, VPN, firewalls)? Which vendor’s networking equipment are you most familiar with? (Cisco, Juniper, HP, etc.)
  • Are you an LRA or have supported encryption / authentication certificates? (LRA = Local Registration Authority, someone who processes/verifies requests for digital certificates)
  • Have you set up or configured servers? Do you have experience with mirroring or backup systems?
  • Did you work with vendors or manufacturers to troubleshoot issues that could not be resolved any other way?

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