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The Unconventional Guide to Work

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Hiring the Best People on your IT Support Team

Your IT support team is often the public face of your brand. They may be the only human contact a client has with your company. How they handle each ticket is a reflection of the values your company retains.

Unfortunately, the support team has often been seen by management as a prime target for cost-cutting. The best candidates are often passed over in favour of those willing to work for less pay. Outsourcing to cheaper countries without properly training candidates is an extreme example of this. But after too many customer service horror stories from the IT industry, more and more companies are realising how vital a talented, experienced support team can be.

So have do you find these awesome support people? Here are a few tips for recruiting your company’s IT support dream team:

Step 1: Understand and Identify What You Want

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So what makes the best customer service reps? A combination of the below 3 elements:

  • The Personality: For me, this is tops. You can teach skills, but you can’t transplant personalities. Customer service isn’t suited to everyone. The best customer support reps are passionate about helping people, outgoing, friendly, and empathetic. They have a wicked sense of humour and are great at explaining technical things in simple terms.
  • The Skills & Experience: Understanding the way customers behave and how to diffuse hostile situations, and also knowing the product you’re providing support for inside and out.
  • The Culture Fit: Are they going to be a good fit in the team? Do they work well with others, or are they a bit of a maverick? Do they pick things up quickly, or do they need lots of hand-holding? Can they work well on their own if they’re doing single shifts? Do they uphold company values?

Step 2: Write the Perfect Job Ad

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Now you understand what you want in a support person, you’ve got to craft an ad that will appeal to that person. Here are a few tips:

  • go through old job ads for previous IT support positions - see if there’s any aspects you can reuse.
  • look at the job ads for support positions at similar companies - this will give you idea what others are highlighting.
  • talk to current IT support staff about what are the biggest perks of their job, and what type of person would fit in their team.
  • once you’ve got an ad you’re happy with, think about where you’re going to post it. Look for IT-specific sites and places where you’re likely to attract top talent. Remember, your goal isn’t to attract hundreds of candidates - it’s to attract the RIGHT candidates.
  • Think about other ways to get the word out about your position. Perhaps, if the job would be a good fit for someone just finishing a degree, you could contact local learning institutions and ask them to send out the ad to their students. Someone just finished a degree is usually eager to prove themselves on the job market.

Step 3: Enlist Current Employees

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Get your current staff invested in thinking about recruitment. Talented people usually hang out with other talented people, so encourage all staff to share your job on their networks and encourage qualified friends or acquaintances to apply.

Introducing recruitment incentives - such as referral bonuses - can be a great way to inspire staff to hunt out qualified candidates.

Step 4: The Recruitment Process

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Now that you’ve got a few applicants for the position, it’s time to narrow down the pool to the best candidates. Here are a few tips for assessing the resumes and interview candidates:

  • does the resume demonstrate interest or experience in your industry? For example, if you’re a cloud-based firm, has the candidate worked with other cloud products?
  • can you see any spelling or grammar mistakes in the resume? This is a sign the candidate either a) doesn’t care enough about the job to check their resume, or b) doesn’t have good enough written communication skills to spot mistakes. Either way, they probably aren’t the candidate for you.
  • look for lists of specific skills and results. Many candidates will list their responsibilities, which doesn’t tell you anything. Look for skills like fluency in different computer programs and software, and results such as decreasing complaint escalations or numbers of tickets resolved. This gives you a much better idea of a candidate’s ability.
  • get your HR department to screen candidates via a short phone interview. This helps weed out those candidates that aren’t serious about the job. Do they have a good phone manner? Do they demonstrate enthusiasm and personality? What do they know about your company?
  • the interview is your chance to ask more questions about a candidate’s skills and experience. But more importantly, it’s the time to figure out if the candidate is a good fit for your support team. Keep questions precise and probing - ask them to give examples, instead of talking hypothetically. Add your own comments and talk a little about yourself, so the interview is more like a conversation than an interrogation.
  • part of the interview process should be a practical test. Give the candidate 2-3 tickets to answer. Make these real tickets - the kind of support questions they’d be required to answer on the job. Each ticket should require the candidate to employ different skills - so one might contain glowing feedback about your company, another might be kind of neutral, and another might be from an irate customer. Have the candidate write the responses to these tickets, and then go through with them and critique their responses.
  • with this exercise, look at both the responses the candidate has written, and also, how they handle your feedback. Would you feel comfortable giving them feedback on a regular basis? Do you feel as if they’ve taken your feedback on board? Do your criticisms agitate them?
  • if you’ve got a few strong candidates, it can often be difficult to choose between them. One method that can help is to create a rating system - list 6-10 different attributes (experience in industry, personality, CS experience, practical test) and rank each candidate out of 5 for each attribute. Add up the scores, and you may find a clear winner emerges.
  • if you’re not 100% sure a candidate is right for the company, then don’t hire them. Go back to market and look again - top customer service talent is out there - it just might take you a couple of tries to hunt it down.
Your support team is the heart of your company, because without support, even the best products will flounder on the market. As your support teams grows, new team members will add their own strengths and personalities to create a living, breathing culture. What do you want your support culture to be? How will new support staff add to this?

Have you been recruiting new IT support staff lately? What tips can you give?