It’s one thing answering calls and helping clients troubleshoot their devices, and a completely different one managing employees in the service desk. Because when you are responsible just for your station, the one customer you have on the call, you do not care much what’s going on in the service desk department. Whether your colleagues came to work, if someone else just wastes time on the phone, whether others work effectively, whether the place isn’t understaffed, and so on, and so forth. Service Desk Manager is responsible for these things, and we will have a look at the interview process for this position right now.

First of all, notice the word manager in the job title. Managing a team of service desk employees, you do not need outstanding technical skills. And you typically won’t deal with any tricky technical questions in this interview… What you need, however, are organizational and management skills, and right attitude to various tricky situations that can happen in the service desk department. That’s what they will inquire about, and now we will have a look at the questions.

 

Why do you want to work as a help desk manager?

Just do not say that you simply deserve it, after years of working as a help desk assistant or technician. The fact that you excel in helping people on the call to solve their technical problems does not make from you a good candidate for the managerial role…

It can help though, because you know the job of the employees you’ll manage inside out. You know the challenges they may face, the low times, high times, you can spot early when someone struggles with motivation. But it’s not enough. Try to focus on your excellent management skills, and other things that make from you a good candidate. Perhaps you are an excellent motivator, help your people grow and become the best technicians they can be.

Or you have years of managerial experience under your belt, and what you learned in your past roles prepared you perfectly for this one. These are the things you want to bring onboard–not the things you want to take, such as an excellent salary. Hiring managers want to hear primarily about them, though you can also mention what the job will bring to your life–good salary, professional recognition, opportunity to change something big in the company, etc…

 

Imagine that we hire you for this job. What will be the first thing you do?

Best managers make data-driven decisions. And unless you apply for a job in a company that is just starting their service desk (which is unlikely), they will have some data, such as:

  • number of employees on various shifts
  • number of phone calls/emails addressed each day
  • average response time
  • average rating of the customers, and whether they left rating
  • ….

Looking into data, you will try to identify immediate areas for improvement. You can also suggest having a one on one with all service desk workers, just to understand who you will manage, what they expect from you, and what you can expect from them. That’s definitely a good start.

Another alternative is talking to the executives first, the top management. They certainly have their reports, and their goals for the help desk department (shortening response times, cutting expenses, etc). Once you know what’s on their mind, you can start your work from there.

 

What will you do to improve the productivity of service desk agents?

Once again, you have different options here. First one is having one on one with each agent, doing some role plays with them, understanding their strengths and weaknesses, places where they struggle. Then you can address each weakness individually, either with a training or internal relocation of the employee.

Another alternative is redesigning the processes in the service desk department. The call forwarding, the way people handle support tickets, the allocation of people on shifts, or even their quotas for each day–the minimum number of tickets that have to address and resolve.

Ensure the hiring managers that improving productivity of your subordinates will be one of your major goals, and you have some ideas how to achieve this goal.

Your goal is to hire five new agents for the service desk department. Tell us how you will proceed.

The key is to describe the process step by step. Do not talk about posting job ads and leading interview straight away. Because that’s not the first step. Start with working on an ideal candidate profile, and clearly defining the placement–what the people will do, what you expect them to know or have. Once you know this you will think about possible sourcing methods–job boards, LinkedIn, internal recruitment, staffing agencies, outsourcing the process, etc.

Once you decided about your methods, you will proceed with posting your offers, collecting applications, leading interviews, and so on. Everything in an organized way, with a clear goal on your mind. That’s how you will proceed, until you eventually have the five new employees.

Of course you may experience some roadblocks along the way. Maybe the sourcing method you chose does not bring in enough job applications. But that’s not an issue, because you have a plan B, and will proceed with it. Show the interviewers that you can think, plan, and act as a manager.

 

How do you plan to deal with a crisis of motivation in your team?

You can talk about two types of crisis, especially if they do not specify what crisis you should tackle. First one is easier–when an individual employee loses motivation. In such a case you’ll have one on one with them, talk openly, understand what’s wrong, and try to address the problem individually.

If it’s not possible to address it, to solve the issue, you may consider relocating the employee, or even terminating their contract. Of course what you do exactly depends on the situation in the service desk department. If you are understaffed already, you won’t fire anyone, regardless of their performance…

The second type of a crisis is more tricky–when the entire department struggles with motivation. More radical moves have to be done, and, what’s true in many cases, they may struggle because they do not like the management–your management!

Anyway, say that you will try to come up with some incentives, or mix people on the shifts, or try some other changes to uplift the mood in the workplace. At the end of the day, everything is about communication. When the employees are under-performing, there must be a reason. You will do your best to discover the reason, and will try to address it.

 

How will you monitor the performance of individual agents?

They probably have some system in place already, with anonymous ratings from the customers, and with tracking the number of calls, emails, and everything. Anyway, you can suggest setting up such a system–for the case they do not have it in place yet.

You can also suggest setting realistic and tangible goals for the agents–based on the performance tables from the past, and monitor their success in achieving these goals on a weekly basis. Another thing you can add is a regular weekly or bi-weekly one on one with each team member (can be a short one), just to identify any problems early, before they grow into some serious issue.

In any case, you should ensure your interviewers that you do not plan to rely on luck or guesses. You will collect data about the employees, monitor their performance, and decide accordingly…

 

Other questions you may face in your help desk manager interview

  • Imagine that one of your team members cannot solve the technical issue, forwards it to another team member but they also struggle. What will you do in this case? Will you intervene and try to solve the issue on your own?
  • It’s Monday morning, 9am, start of the morning shift. But two out of five employees did not come to work, without explanation. And you cannot reach them on the phone. What will you do?
  • Tell us about the time when you had to make a decision without knowing all important information.
  • Describe a situation when you demonstrated leadership at work.
  • How is your previous experience relevant to the position of a help desk manager?
  • What do you consider your greatest strength as a manager, and your biggest weakness?
  • How would you describe your work style?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • Describe in detail your definition of an outstanding customer service.

 

Conclusion, next steps

Interview for a help desk manager belongs to difficult job interviews. Just like with most managerial jobs, you can expect to compete with many other applicants for the position. It can be six, ten, but also fifty, depending on the salary offer, and the name of the company.

What’s more, they will ask you many situational and behavioral questions, trying to understand how you’d address some tricky situations in the workplace. When you remain silent once, you can still get the job. But if you answer two of their questions with silence, you can forget about this job opportunity…

I sincerely hope you will manage to prepare, and wish you best of luck!

Matthew

May also help you:

  • Interview success package – Brilliant answers to all tricky interview questions. Get ready for every possible question and avoid negative surprises on the big day.
  • Salary negotiation tips – Learn how to get as much as you deserve at the end of your interview. Or even more…
Matthew Chulaw
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