IT Administrator: The 6 Most Difficult Job Interview Questions

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During your first interview for an IT position, having an idea of what to expect will somewhat lessen your discomfort. Here’s how to answer some difficult questions if you are not prepared.

All the companies use a wide variety of software to manage their business. However, it is the responsibility of the IT Operations Administrator to ensure that this “asset” is functioning properly and is available at all times.

Typically, IT administrators manage the deployment, maintenance, upgrade, up-keep, migration, backup, monitoring, and troubleshooting of important software platforms and underlying hardware systems. The extent of their responsibilities is therefore very broad, which can make this type of post challenging to catch.

We have compiled a list of topics that will help you deal with the toughest questions during your job interview for this position.

1 – Tell me about your training and certifications related to administration and IT operations

Many functions associated with IT operations are mainly focused on practical experience or know-how in certain areas, rather than on the actual studies. Administrators must have at least eight years of practical experience on Windows or Linux systems. These requirements, however, largely depend on the applications used by the company and the objectives of the latter.

For example, a director who is interviewed by NASA for climate simulation will require a technical degree at the Bac +3 level. For example in computer science, plus at least five years of experience in climatology, in climate model, and climate observation data.

There are levels of administration in the field of IT operations. Study in detail the types of applications that you will need to manage as part of your future functions. You must understand why and how the company uses this software.


2 – Describe your current role

Most of the questions asked in an interview for a position of administrator / operational manager are not only intended to assess your knowledge, but also to determine what tasks you perform on a daily basis. The conversation can be very diverse. But the precision of the questions generally varies according to the complexity of the position to be filled.

In most cases, basic or intermediate application administrators will need to describe common tasks, such as evaluating required software and performance, provisioning systems and storage, software deployment methods, configuration and application testing, security processes, change management models, and problem-solving.

Typical questions for this type of position may also relate to the candidate’s ability to understand and respect best practices.

It’s a safe bet that the employer will want to evaluate your technical knowledge. Thus, it will be able to ask you about the test and the deployment of applications to assess your knowledge and skills in virtualization platforms, load balancing, networks and TCP / IP, or your experience in Web technologies and HTTP protocols.

You will not be asked to be an expert in all these areas but you will need to prove that you can assume the basic responsibilities.

3 – What computer tools do you use?

IT administrators typically rely on a variety of tools for configuration, deployment, monitoring, and troubleshooting. Discussing your daily tasks can easily inform the employer about your use and knowledge of these various tools.

For example, questions asked during the interview might include your practice of tools such as Nagios or Cacti for network monitoring, HP OpenView for IT infrastructure, or HP SiteScope for applications. The candidate may also be asked to know Windows PowerShell, Linux Bash or other scripting tools, as well as technical support software such as Spiceworks or its open source equivalents (osTicket, among others).

Once again, you do not have to master all the tools used by your potential employer. But if you know some, it’s a definite plus.

4 – Describe your interactions with other operational divisions, including outside IT

With this type of question, the employer tries to determine your ability to interact with end-users and other operational divisions of the company, as well as your ability to respond to incidents, solve problems and keep informed all members of the team.

It is likely that you will have to deal with many issues simultaneously by working with multiple IT teams – for example with storage and network specialists – while complying with the procedures and standards in place.

Your ability to reconcile these different issues can make a strong impression during the interview.


5 – What are your practices in application security and disaster recovery?

The security and availability of applications are two very different aspects but equally important. Therefore, do not be surprised if, during your interview, you are asked about methods of implementing security or about disaster recovery procedures.

Questions about application security practices will most likely focus on system access or identity management, monitoring, analytics and patch management, and the strategies and procedures that are appropriate for these activities.

Any candidate for an IT Operations Administrator position must also know how to use specific tools to implement an appropriate disaster recovery method, perform and validate backups, test backups and recovery procedures, and maintain day documentation on the PRA for compliance.

6 – How do you solve the problems encountered in the datacentre?

Will you be able to withstand the pressure? What to do in case of an incident? The questions you will be asked during the interview about the most severe incidents you had to deal with in the data center are not meant to point out your mistakes. It is likely that the hiring manager will try to determine how you react in the event of an unexpected event.

Whether it’s to simplify a user’s access, boost application performance, apply latest patches, fix configuration errors, or troubleshoot underlying hardware, an administrator must excel in the art of troubleshooting and problem-solving.

The candidate will have to prove that he can test and evaluate new versions of a product, to anticipate possible problems of integration or compatibility and to record in writing the solutions or the means of circumventing certain problems.

Troubleshooting often involves the use of tools ranging from a simple Windows performance counter to advanced log analysis platforms.

Administrators are required to respond promptly to questions received by the technical assistance service, to resolve them following the strategies and procedures in force, and to know the methods for formal feedback.

IT operations team members must be proactive and monitor the application environment to anticipate potential bottlenecks or other performance issues and then resolve these issues before they impact users.

You probably will not have to take a test to prove your troubleshooting skills. However, expect to answer a number of questions about your problem detection and resolution method.

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