14 Help Desk Interview Questions to Ask Your Top Candidates

By Robert Half on March 25, 2022 at 11:45am

Help desk and desktop support professionals were called upon like never before when a huge swath of the workforce was forced to stay home after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This talent was already difficult to find, but once workers and employers had to depend on technology to maintain their livelihoods and revenues, support staff became indispensable. Now that companies need to hire to take advantage of growth opportunities, they face a labor market where help desk professionals are even more in demand.

The search, however, must go on, and much of your success depends on being extraordinarily clear in your job posting and interviews what skills you need these individuals to have. Otherwise, you’ll quickly lose the interest of the best talent.

Tailor your description to the tier of technical support the person in this position will offer. Help desk analysts generally fall into one of three tiers, and each of these tiers requires a different level of IT expertise:

  • Tier 1 serves as the first point of contact for callers and offers basic technical support. Candidates for this position may have a limited IT background.
  • Tier 2 is less customer-oriented, focusing more on resolving issues and closing tickets. Candidates at this level will need a good all-round knowledge of common IT issues.
  • Tier 3 comprises senior technical staff who deal with complex issues, as well as strategy and reporting. They will require a strong IT background and excellent problem-solving abilities.

Keep this in mind when planning your help desk interview questions. If you're recruiting for a Tier 1 position, for example, you might choose to focus mainly on soft skills like communication and calmness under pressure.

What are the best help desk interview questions to ask? Here are some examples that will help you sort out suitable candidates from great ones.

Communication questions

Stellar communication is an essential skill needed in help desk roles. Support staff have to work with callers to learn as much as possible about the problem and then walk those callers through step-by-step solutions. They may also have to complete detailed escalation reports so that senior support staff understand the precise nature of the problem.

1. Tell me about a time when you had to talk someone with no computer knowledge through an IT problem?

This can be one of the more challenging aspects of help desk work, as IT staff can sometimes struggle when communicating with non-technical audiences. Ask the interviewee to explain their process for tackling this kind of conversation. How did they break things down for the person they were helping? What kind of additional questions came up, and how did they deal with them? How did they ensure that the other person understood?

2. Tell me about a time you had to deal with someone who was angry?

IT problems can be particularly stressful to people are not technically inclined, which means that callers might be upset when reaching out to a support professional. Candidates should demonstrate to you that they understand the principles of active listening: listen without intervening; empathize; confirm understanding of the problem; offer an appropriate solution; ensure that the caller has understood the solution. And they should never just read from a script!

3. Do you prefer communicating by phone or text? Why?

Most help desk positions involve a substantial amount of written communication. This includes internal channels, such as ticket initiation and escalation, and external ones, such as email and IM support. Verbal communication is of course essential as well if you offer a phone-based support service. Strong candidates will use this question to talk about the pros and cons of different communication methods while assuring you that they're comfortable using a range of channels.

Technology questions

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

4. What 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. What interests you about our product or service?

This help desk interview question tests how well the candidate prepped for the interview and gauges their enthusiasm for your company's mission. You can follow up by asking candidates to describe your typical target customer and perhaps even what they see as alternative use cases for your product.

6. How would you explain a concept such as cybersecurity or cloud technology to a non-tech person?

A question like this can yield insights into the candidate's tech knowledge. Do they just use buzz words, or do they have a large enough grasp of the concept they can explain it thoroughly but succinctly?

Help desk interview questions for remote work

Remote work is increasingly popular, and help desk professionals may be called upon to assist colleagues or clients working from home.

7. Tell me about your experience with remote support.

A lot of help desk support requires remote access to the user's device. Your candidate may have some experience of working with remote access systems, such as RemotePC or Zoho Support.

8. What other tools have you used when supporting colleagues remotely?

Ask candidates about what ticketing systems and remote login tools they've used. You might also inquire if they've had to use any system or network monitoring applications and what application tools they prefer.

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Problem-solving questions

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

9. How would you solve ______________?

Fill in the blank with the most common queries presented to your help desk and try posing one of them to applicants. You'll be able to get an idea of their aptitude for working through problems.

Customer service questions

Whether internal or external, customers expect prompt and courteous service. Include some help desk interview questions that assess soft skills like patience and empathy.

10. Tell me about a time when you experienced good customer service from a company, not necessarily a tech company.

Everyone has a different idea of what good service means. Some people prize efficiency, while others are more interested in friendliness. This question will help you identify candidates whose approach aligns with your organizational culture and your customers' expectations.

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

Top help desk analysts go above and beyond to ensure callers' issues are fully resolved so that tickets aren't reopened. The tone and content of a candidate's response to this question may give you a hint as to whether they do the bare minimum or provide thoughtful and thorough service.

Teamwork and organizational culture questions

Help desk analysts must function as part of an extended team, partnering with colleagues across all tiers and collaborating with members of other departments.

12. What are the qualities that make you a good team player?

A suitable candidate will answer this question by listing relevant soft skills like active listening and a collaborative mindset. A great candidate will throw in examples of when and how they've used these skills to solve real-world challenges, such as meeting a tight deadline or resolving conflict with a difficult colleague.

13. How do you handle criticism?

Analysts work in high-pressure environments and may have to field criticism and complaints from customers and colleagues, so you don’t want to hire someone with a thin skin. Look for interviewees who demonstrate a capacity to learn from peer criticism and customer complaints rather than taking them personally.

14. 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 can meet your scheduling demands. Set expectations about working hours and confirm candidates are amenable to non-standard work schedules.

Providing top-notch help desk services has never been more critical. Internal users need support to do their jobs, and external customers expect great support as part of your service. By asking the right help desk interview questions, you can build a team that’s as efficient as they are customer-centric.

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