Interviewing for a Service Desk Manager

Commentator Rob asks for some suggestions for things to discuss in a forthcoming interview for a Service Desk Manager role. It was such an interesting topic I could not resist.

I recall an interview I had back in the 1990’s with a London bank, for the role of IT Service Delivery manager. It started off badly – I arrived promptly, but then the interviewer turned up 30 minutes later and did not apologise for his tardiness.

Almost immediately the interview turned into an ITIL/ITSM question and answer session, along these lines. My qualifications were on my CV, and the actual award documents were in my briefcase – he never asked to see them.

‘What is a CMDB’ he asked, starting almost as soon as I had sat down.

I gave what I though was a good answer in my own words, explaining the role it plays for activities such as Change Management. He then started to split hairs, and something became apparent: he had learned to recite a lot of the text from the Service Support book like a parrot, and allowed no interpretation except for his own very literal view.

I had just finished (successfully) a large ITSM project, but this hardly featured in the interview. I left pitying the poor person who would get the job.

To come back to the point of this post, and to Rob’s question, avoid this scenario at all costs. Check the qualifications of your candidates carefully, and then assume they understand the relationship between the CMDB and Change Management. Surely what you are interested in is how they can use this kind of knowledge to deliver business benefits.

I recall another interview at a now-defunct manufacturing company. The person doing the interview here was someone who turned out to be a very capable boss. At the end of the interview I asked what he had thought of some of my answers, to which he replied ‘I was much more interested in how your reasoning process worked, and how well you could communicate with me’.

Some of the things he asked in the interview were topics I’ve touched on in this blog in recent months. I can remember the questions clearly because after 2 years I moved to another post, and participated in the interviews for my replacement.

‘You’ve got 30 IT staff, and I’m going to tell you some are wonderful and some are.. not wonderful. How do you find out which is which?’

‘Once you’ve sorted the ‘not wonderful’ into a group, what do you do?’ (His favourite response to this was from a guy who said ‘make them walk the plank, of course’).

‘The expectations of the business are not being met, where do you start?’

‘We’ve got 1000 open tickets. What would your action plan be?’

‘Your service teams have a culture of blame and recrimination. Tell me would you would do over 6 months to improve this situation.’ (On this one, I can tell you he was not looking for anything along the lines of nights-out in the pub, or fatuous team-building exercises).

‘You have been asked to produce an IT management summary report for our esteemed proprietor. What would you include?’