5 Systems Administrator Interview Questions and Answers

Whether you are preparing to interview a candidate or applying for a job, review our list of top Systems Administrator interview questions and answers.

Let's say a website is listed as down but you are able to telnet to the port where it originates. How might you fix it?

A systems administrator might be responsible for managing your company's various web portals and making sure they are active. This question tests the potential hire's basic understanding of HTTP protocols and their problem-solving skills at the same time. You should get some insight into how they work and what they can do to make sure your pages are loading properly. What to look for in an answer:

  • Ability to identify problems independently
  • Methods for figuring out why something is happening
  • Basic and advanced troubleshooting skills

Example: "I would first check to see if the page really is down. If it happens to be up, I would check the monitor for issues and see if it is being overloaded. The problem may be preventable in the future."

Our office uses a system of passwords to protect individual user accounts and information. What might you do if these security measures are not working?

You need to know that your potential hire is not afraid of failure or of trying new ways to do things that benefit the company. This question can help an interviewer see how adaptable a potential systems administrator might be and what skills they could use to take care of various tech issues. What to look for in an answer:

  • Basic but proven strategies instead of random guesses
  • Ability to walk you through the process
  • Willingness to make multiple attempts

Example: "In my experience, it is rare that the first attempt at something like this is successful. I always try to plan for at least two backup scenarios as necessary. If the initial try is unsuccessful, I will check the share settings for network credentials or add a credential protocol to the manager."

Can you tell me a bit about what a DC is, why it is important and when you should or should not restore it?

This question helps an interviewer test the basic knowledge of the potential candidate. A good systems administrator should know already what a DC is, how it functions and when backups should be avoided. Answers to this query should give you some insight into the hire's thought processes and theoretical knowledge of how networked electronics systems operate. What to look for in an answer:

  • Use of specific technical jargon as needed
  • Knowledge of DCs and their functions
  • Understanding of how to handle these things

Example: "The DC is the domain controller. Backing up an outmoded version of it could make problems down the road. In general, if you restore a DC that is over seven months old, you might run into lingering objects that create inconsistent or error-prone data points."

We are looking for a candidate with a strong background and some previous experience in technology. Can you tell me a bit about your work?

This question gives you some basic insight into the potential candidate's academic training, job experience or prior history within the systems administrator field. You can use the query to gauge how well the hire might fit in with your company, what they bring to the table and where they might do the most good. What to look for in an answer:

  • Specific academic courses related to systems administrators
  • Any prior relevant job experience
  • Willingness to learn more

Example: "I received a computer science degree about two years ago. After that, I worked to become certified in CompTIA. This allowed me to work closely with various computer systems and learn about them as I repaired them. In addition, I can handle customer service queries."

Our company is looking to expand our systems while increasing efficiency and minimizing downtime simultaneously. How could you help us do this?

A competent systems administrator should have some strategies for making your company's network more streamlined or efficient. This tests the candidate's knowledge of the kinds of things that slow down computers and how one might avoid these issues. What to look for in an answer:

  • Detailed knowledge of various operating systems
  • Methods for speeding up computer networks
  • Ideas for maximizing productivity and efficiency

Example: "In my previous work, I developed some strategies to make a networked system more efficient. A series of computers maintaining high availability makes the flow of data more streamlined and cuts down on waste while data is processing. I can also program things like PowerShell to automate certain tasks."

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