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Return to October 2023 ChannelPro Digital Edition
October 19, 2023 | Esther Shein

Technician Interview Questions: What to Ask to Find the Right Candidate

Here are some tips for identifying soft skills, attitude, and personality traits alongside technical expertise.

As far as Erica Martinez-Rose is concerned, the most important trait an IT technician candidate can have is the ability to discuss performance metrics because that shows her someone will be really good at their job.

“We’ve had good success with that at our company,” says Martinez-Rose, CEO of Tech Rage IT, a managed service provider in central Florida. “Everything else they can learn. I can’t teach culture fit if they aren’t proud of what they’ve achieved.”

Her team is client-facing and individuals must be able to converse with someone “who is stressed out,” she explains. “So you have to have social skills and be able to talk to someone and have empathy.”

Knowing the key questions to ask when evaluating applicants can help MSPs sift through a candidate pool and choose a tech who will be successful.

Pre-interview Evaluations and Tests

Billy House, lead technical recruiter at Savannah, Ga.-based MSP Hire, has the advantage of also having worked as an IT technician. He performs a four-step screening process that culminates in a video interview. Based on his assessment, he forwards that video interview to clients to determine if they want to interview the candidate.

MSP Hire uses the Bryq Assessment, which measures basic cognitive skills and personality traits. House says the firm is mainly focused on the cognitive assessment. “We found through trial and error that people who score 50% and below don’t get offers or don’t last in the positions we get them hired into,” he notes.

Valeo Networks requires candidates who have been screened to have a more formal second interview with a hiring manager to whom they will likely be reporting, says Matt Hodson, co-founder and CIO of the Rockledge, Fla.-based MSP. Valeo averages one hire every six weeks.

Candidates are also required to take a technical test. “You can talk to two people who have worked in tech for 20 years and they may know different things, so it’s nice to throw out generic questions in different areas to see what they might know,” Hodson says.

If the interview and technical test go well, candidates are given a DiSC assessment, a 10-minute questionnaire that helps hiring managers determine a potential hire’s personality.

“Obviously, when you talk to someone, you get an idea if they are an extrovert or introvert, but this goes deeper and [focuses on] whether they’re appropriate for this role,” Hodson says.

The firm looks for “attitude and passion and the ability to communicate with customers,” he notes. “We like to set expectations. It’s not just about following a contract with the customer, it’s about meeting their expectations of your service.”

If a customer has a bad perception of your service, Hodson adds, they won’t see value in what you’re offering and they won’t remain your customer.

In some cases, for higher-level IT positions, Valeo may have a candidate interview with a senior engineer who asks more in-depth technical questions. This helps determine whether what someone put on their resume matches their experience, he says.

What to Ask

Like Martinez-Rose, Hodson says that when hiring for entry-level tech positions, he’s not as concerned about experience or certifications. Instead, he looks for “the right attitude and passion. Maybe they like tech, maybe they have their own home lab but haven’t worked in tech. I always say [the job is] half tech support and half human support.”

In addition to the work, IT technicians are conversing with the customer, and Hodson says it’s important that they have a good relationship with them. This requires being “empathetic and setting expectations because you want [the customer] to feel great.”

Since Martinez-Rose can’t interview every candidate, she uses a questionnaire that includes questions such as, “What do you see your responsibilities being in this position?” and “How does the position align with your career goal next steps?”

“I’m looking for people who put thought into the answers and passion,” she says. “It tells me how they will interact with clients and whether they’ll be methodical in their ticket notes.”

There are two questions that tell her how serious a candidate is. One is, “What can your employer do to keep you?” “That tells me if they’re using us for leverage for a raise or promotion,” Martinez-Rose says.

The other is, “How much time do you need to make a decision if we extend an offer?” Those who only need a day are committed, she says. If someone says they need several weeks, that makes her think they are waiting for other job offers.

One off-the-beaten-path question Hodson likes to ask is, “If you owned Disneyland, would you close the park at 5 or at midnight?” Some people will respond that they would stay open until midnight to increase revenue, while others will opt for 5p.m. so people can go home and be with their families.

“It’s interesting to see people’s thought processes when you don’t ask the usual questions,” he says. He’ll also ask candidates, “What’s your favorite song and movie, and why?” When people can’t come up with a response, he says, that means they can’t think on their feet.

Other questions Hodson says are important to ask:

• Why are you leaving your current job?

• Tell me about your current (or a previous) team you worked with. Who did you work well with and who did you have difficulty with?

• What is the most important accomplishment of your career, and what is your most embarrassing moment?

• Tell me about a project that you led from start to finish. How did it go?

• What direction do you think the IT industry is headed?

MSP Hire’s House favors behavior-based interview techniques rather than making candidates feel like they’re being quizzed. “I ask open ended questions about their background,” he says, such as, “Talk to me about one of the most challenging technical issues that you have ever encountered in your career.” That gives House “real insight into the technical challenges they faced and a peek into their thought process and how they approached the problem and found a resolution…so it’s a very telling question in my experience.”

If someone has had a high number of jobs in the past few years, House will also ask why. Conversely, “If they’re talking to me after only being at a company for three months, I’ll ask about that,” he says.

Responses That Indicate Potential— or Lack Thereof

Sometimes, Hodson will ask the same question in different ways, which he says allows the candidate to reveal more about themselves. For example: “Tell us about the last project you worked on with a team and what was the outcome?” or “What kind of people annoy you the most and how do you deal with them?”

If they say they have a temper but provide an example of how they’re working on that, that shows initiative. It’s also good to know if they are a team player or prefer to work alone, Hodson says. If asked about their goals and passions and where they see themselves in five years, a red flag response would be that the candidate only wants the job for a year, he notes.

House likes to give a brief scenario, such as a client calling in to inquire about a ticket that’s been open for two days and asking why this isn’t fixed yet and telling the technician they are costing the client money. He’ll ask the candidate, “How do you handle that situation and get to a resolution and leave them with a positive experience?”

“Most candidates I speak to say they’re calm and cool and won’t respond in kind and will try and stay on track and will escalate if needed, but they will do everything in their power to discuss the problem calmly and work toward a resolution.” That is the right type of response, he says.

“A negative response I’ve received is they escalate right away to their supervisor or manager. I’m looking for people who take the initiative.”

Return to October 2023 ChannelPro Digital Edition

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