15 Questions You Need to Ask Help Desk Candidates

By Robert Half April 4, 2019 at 9:00am

As members of an elite group of public-facing IT workers, outstanding help desk analysts can be difficult to find. And since this is a customer service role, it’s crucial to choose individuals with the ideal blend of technical capabilities and soft skills needed to do the job right. 

According to the 2019 Robert Half Technology Salary Guide, help desk support professionals are among the most sought-after IT candidates out there, so the ones that apply for your position might come from a wide variety of technical backgrounds, giving you a lot to sift through.

Picking the right people is made even more challenging because help desk analysts can fall into one of three tiers: 

  • Tier 1 serves as the first point of contact for callers and offers basic technical support.
  • Tier 2 is less customer oriented, focusing more on resolving issues and closing tickets.
  • Tier 3 is comprised of senior technical staff who deal with complex issues, as well as strategy and reporting. 

Because the tiers vary so much, it’s imperative for help desk interview questions to address the abilities required for each different role. At the same time, you also need to consider factors like the products and services your new analysts will support, whether they’ll be fielding in-house or customer queries and whether they’ll offer assistance via phone, instant messaging or in person. 

Learn how to discern between good candidates and great ones — and help avoid the costs of a bad hire — with these 15 help desk interview questions, which we’ve divided into categories for the stages of your interviews.

Communication questions

Regardless of the tier, stellar communication is the most important skill needed in this role. 

1. Tell me about yourself. 

One excellent way to gauge communication skills is to give candidates an open-ended question and listen to them talk. Pay attention to clarity, focus, the kind of language used and whether applicants make an effort to ensure you’re engaged in the conversation. 

2. How would you describe a solution to someone with no technical ability? 

This can be one of the more challenging aspects of help desk work, as IT staff can sometimes struggle when communicating with nontechnical audiences. Look for someone who excels at translating tech speak so topics are easily understandable by everyone. 

3. How do you rate your writing skills?

Even phone-based positions require a significant amount of written communication, including logging calls and sending emails to senior technicians. Ask candidates for examples of their writing abilities — such as blog posts or college papers — to determine their proficiency.

Technical savvy questions

Though the level of technical knowledge required will be determined by the tier of the position, the following general-purpose help desk interview questions should be suitable in most instances.

4. Which tech sites do you regularly visit? 

Answers here may range from the general, such as Stack Overflow, The Verge and IT-related Reddit communities (also known as subreddits), to tech-specific blogs and social media feeds. This information can provide insight into candidates’ levels of engagement with the world of technology. 

5. How much do you know about our product or service? 

Naturally, this question shows if interviewees have done their homework and how interested they are in your company. However, it’s also a chance to measure their understanding of what you do. If you offer a cloud-based service, for instance, follow up by asking them to talk about how the cloud functions. 

6. How would you explain how ______________ works? 

Here again, you’re establishing a baseline level of applicants’ technical expertise. Simply insert a component your company works with. If you focus on networking, you can ask how TCP/IP works. If the role involves databases, ask the difference between SQL and NoSQL. 

Find out how much help desk professionals are paid in your area:

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Problem solving questions

Your ideal candidates should have strong analytical skills and an ability to approach problems methodically and systematically, so make certain to focus a few help desk interview questions on these areas. 

7. How would you solve ______________? 

Examine the five most common queries that are presented to your help desk, and try posing one of them to applicants. While they may not have the product or process knowledge to solve it, you’ll be able to get an idea of their aptitude for working through technical problems. 

8. You arrive for your shift and your PC won’t turn on. What do you do? 

This is a problem that doesn’t require any tech background at all — just a little critical thinking. In addition to showing a step-by-step approach to diagnosing the problem, such as checking the cables or power supply, the interviewee should arrive at a reasonable solution, like moving to another desk. 

9. How many windows are there in New York City? 

This is a classic interview brainteaser. Though the answer is irrelevant, the manner in which the query is addressed can tell you a lot about how a candidate’s mind works. Do they ask clarifying questions? Do they break the problem down into smaller, more solvable problems? Can they explain their thinking to you? 

Customer service questions

Whether internal or external, customers expect — and deserve — prompt and courteous service. Therefore, you’ll need to ask questions to establish that potential employees are capable of providing spectacular support. 

10. Tell me about a time when you experienced good customer service.

Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes good service. Some people prize efficiency, while others are more interested in friendliness and empathy. This question will help you identify candidates whose approach aligns with your organization’s values and the expectations of your customers. 

11. How would you deal with an angry caller? 

Frustrated callers are a major aspect of any customer service job. This is particularly true on the help desk, where most customer touches are related to a fault or system failure. Help desk staff, especially Tier 1 workers, need to be able to deal with unhappy people and diffuse difficult situations. 

12. Tell me about a time you went the extra mile. 

Top help desk analysts understand the importance of going above and beyond to ensure callers’ issues are fully resolved so tickets aren’t re-opened. Weigh candidates’ responses to see whether they’re doing the bare minimum or providing thoughtful and thorough service. 

Teamwork and fit with your corporate culture questions 

Help desk analysts must be able to function as part of your team, as they work with staff across all tiers and collaborate with members of other departments. 

13. Have you ever had to work with a difficult colleague? 

This question can be quite telling, as you’ll discover what traits an applicant considers difficult. Drill down here to learn more about the types of conflict the candidate may have experienced in the past and you’ll uncover a lot about their ability to mesh with your team. 

14. How do you handle criticism? 

Analysts work in high-pressure environments and are constantly receiving feedback from customers, engineers and other colleagues. Look for interviewees who demonstrate a capacity to learn from constructive criticism and move on to the next task rather than taking it personally. 

15. How flexible are you in terms of scheduling?

Many help desk roles require working nights and weekends, so you need to make sure top applicants are able to meet your scheduling demands. Set expectations about working hours and ask candidates outright if they can commit to those shift patterns. 

Help desk analyst jobs can have a high attrition rate, especially at the lower tiers. But if you refine your hiring process by asking the right help desk interview questions, you can build a long-lasting team that can tackle any problem while keeping customers satisfied. 
 

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