Guerilla Guide to Sysadmin Interviewing?? : LUSENET : Joel on Software : One Thread

I've just been reading Joel's excellent article on interviwing and I think it makes alot of sense. I was wondering if anyone has any tips on interviewing sysadmins/network managers, as this type of job requires someone with a different set of skills and qualities.

I reckon the most important qualities for this type of position are:

Do you agree that this is what is needed in a manager of a small IT team? (I've got next to no experience in this field, so I'd really appreciate any views/links) If so, what interview questions would differentiate the dream candidate from the average one?

Cheers, Alex

-- Anonymous, March 30, 2001


You have to decide what qualities matter more.

> People skills vs Empathy for computers

Good luck finding someone who rates highly in both these categories. Normally these are opposing personality traits. A person good at one will typically be terrible at the other. Find a balance, someone who knows computers well enough but can at least carry on a coherent conversation with another human. Those who know every nut and bolt in the server room will usually be able to communicate with other people almost, but not quite as well as the machines do.

> Methodical-ness

I've been in this game since 1978. System administration is almost entirely interrupt driven. Application of your most critical skills is required when things are NOT running according to plan. Routine tasks, i.e. changing backup tapes, monitoring system logs, etc. take up about 15% of a sysadmin job. The other 85% requires someone who can multi-task, trouble-shoot and think on his/her feet. Look for a problem solver, not a production worker.

-- Anonymous, March 30, 2001

Be careful not to confuse system administration with the help desk role. These are mutually opposing roles! The SysAdmin role does have some interrupt driven component but not nearly as much as the help desk role.

In my experience the SysAdmin will spend a about 40% of the time verifying that things are and have been working as they should and another 40% of the time improving the infrastructure (updates, upgrades and the like). The remainder of the time is consumed in assisting/training the people that are in the help desk role. Much of what the SysAdmin does will require periods of concentration not unlike programmers.

As for help desk personnel, their job is almost entirely made up of interruptions, but of a somewhat routine type. Here again the 80/20 rule rears its head. While the help desk person cannot plan what the next task will be it will most likely be something which has been addressed before.

You should identify the tasks that you need to hire out and try to classify them into SysAdmin or help desk responsibilities.

Two different roles, two different personalities!

-- Anonymous, April 02, 2001

For me, you've left out one of the most important, if not the most important quality: must be a quick study with an ability to use resources.

You can get anyone to rote-learn troubleshooting. That's easy, but it is not what makes a good sysadmin. For me, the defining attribute of a good sysadmin is that they aren't phased by new problems because they know how to research and absorb new information to solve an unforseen disaster.

-- Anonymous, April 02, 2001

In fact, here is a link to the System Administrators Guild job descriptions page. It lists job qualifications from novice to advanced.

-- Anonymous, April 03, 2001

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