How to Hire Outstanding IT Managers: 6 Skills to Look For

Jan 11, 2016 - Joe Matar

In our increasingly digital world, Information Technology (IT) help has moved from “nice to have” to “must have” at an alarming rate. In fact, Forbes lists “IT staff” as one of the 10 hardest jobs to fill in 2015.

Hiring for IT isn't as straightforward as it might seem. Since these employees will touch every aspect of your organization, you need to recruit someone with a broad range of skills beyond “tech” or “data.”

Wondering how to hire an IT manager who fits your organization's many needs? Make sure your ideal job description mentions the following:

Communicates Effectively

It might not be reflected in the job title, but communication is at the heart of an IT manager’s role. IT managers have to deal with disgruntled people over the phone and via email without matching their annoyance with aggression. A great IT manager can boil down complex processes into simple instructions. (And occasionally, yes, they will ask people to turn their machines off and on again.)

Being a good communicator is all about reactive listening and actually responding to people’s needs. Being friendly is always a good thing; IT support is no different.

Interview Question to Ask:

  • What do you think effective communication looks like?
  • Tell us about your favorite client interaction to date. Why do you think it was so successful?

Resolves Conflict Diplomatically

Once people’s blood gets pumping, there’s no saying what might come out of their mouths. We’ve all let out a choice four-letter word when faced with the Mac rainbow pinwheel or, even worse, the black screen of death. Your new IT manager will need to diffuse conflict, remain calm under pressure, and resist the urge to play the blame game. This is not a role for the faint of heart!

Interview Questions to Ask:

  • How would you go about resolving a challenging issue at work?
  • How do you approach conflict in your professional life?

Prioritizes Time Well

Staying organized is crucial. When the support requests start piling up, an IT manager will need to be a whizz at prioritization. It’s not enough to just implement systems and procedures; they must lead by example. They should be the first to know how the service is performing.

A successful IT manager is a great time-manager — someone who sees the bigger picture as well as the small details. You need someone who is flexible and able to cope with change, not just rigidly sticking to their comfort zone.

After the dust has settled, institute regular meetings with your IT department to evaluate how time is being spent.

Interview Questions to Ask:

  • What do you do to stay organized when you are busy?
  • What’s your approach to time management?

Displays Strong Leadership Skills

Assuming you have an IT help team rather than a sole person, you need someone who can lead this team successfully.

The IT helpdesk needs someone who can be the calm port in the storm and inspire confidence in the whole team. Working at the frontline of customer service can be stressful, so it puts an extra pressure on management to be calm, confident, and supportive.

Interview Questions to Ask:

  • What does an effective IT helpdesk look like?
  • How would you approach a team or career setback?

Advocates for the Customer

Customer service is the IT Helpdesk’s core operation, and you need the IT manager to be a customer advocate at all times. Look for someone who can inherently relate to people, who takes their needs into consideration, and who values and handles feedback well.

Interview Questions to Ask:

  • What are the three most important things in customer service?
  • Tell us about a time that you resolved a tricky customer situation.

Has Professional Presentation Skills

Gone are the days of the IT department being tucked away in the dingy “Never Never Land” of the basement. Now, companies are looking for IT Helpdesk Managers with great presentation skills. The IT department will need to give presentations on budget spending, performance reviews, infrastructure updates, and cyber security.

Presentations to senior managers and other departments require a confident presenter who will be an asset to your business. You want a healthy attitude to presenting — someone who can make spreadsheets, analytics, graphs, and ticketing systems interesting.

Interview Questions to Ask:

  • What professional presentation are you most proud of to-date?
  • Is there something you feel corporate presentations often under-deliver on?

More Time Now, Less Headaches Later

Recruiting for an IT Manager position can be time-consuming, but it’s worth investing the extra time in order to get the right candidate. As well as being clear on what you are looking for in an IT Manager, asking the right interview questions always helps.

What positions do you find challenging to hire for? Let us know in the comments!

Joseph O’Brien is a freelance blogger and writer who lives in Bristol, United Kingdom. He likes to blog about tech and careers. Inspiration for this post came from recent collaborative work he did with a Bristol IT training provider.

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