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IT Help Desk Staffing: How to Hire Top Talent

Man shaking hands with new hires and blog post title - IT Help Desk Staffing: How to Hire Top Talent

Being an IT help desk agent isn’t easy – and it’s not a job that just anybody can do well.

Some agents try their best, but their lack of expertise is frustrating. Other agents may know their stuff, but their customer service skills … don’t exactly leave people happy.

Why is it so difficult to hire great talent for your IT help desk?

The good news is that once you find great talent, keeping them around has become slightly easier: According to Service Desk Institute’s Service Desk Benchmark Report, staff retention among service desk analysts has been improving. In 2017, only 35% of respondents said average length of service was over 3 years. In 2019, that number climbed to 40%, suggesting analysts are staying at the service desk longer. As well, when companies do experience employee turnover at the help desk, it is more internal turnover than losing talent to another company.

However, this highlights how important it is to hire well. Companies have an opportunity to play the long game: Hire and train skilled, empathetic help desk agents who will spend a couple of years learning the ropes and will then bring that training and expertise into other IT and leadership roles. The result? An organization with top-tier IT support at all levels.

Sounds good. But … how do you hire the right people for your IT help desk?

Hire Hard, Manage Easy

In today’s age of constantly increasing digitization, IT workers provide an important backbone for many companies’ operations. It therefore makes sense to adopt the maxim of “hire hard, manage easy” when recruiting IT professionals. We know it can be tempting to move quickly when shorthanded, but this often causes more problems than it solves. Instead, set up a hiring process that covers all the bases and looks at the candidate from all angles.

At Global Help Desk Services, Inc. (GHDSi), this philosophy shapes all our recruitment activities. Our rigorous hiring process incorporates the multiple steps outlined below.

How we approach IT help desk staffing:

  1. Choose where to post your job opening.
  2. Review and filter the top candidates.
  3. Screen the top candidates’ technical skills.
  4. Conduct an in-person HR interview.
  5. Conduct an executive-level interview.
  6. Assess the candidate’s emotional intelligence.
  7. Assess the candidate’s WHIM.

Borrow any (or all!) of these steps to make your own hiring process as mistake-proof as possible.

1. Choose where to post your job opening.

Social media sites are among the most popular job-posting platforms. LinkedIn and Facebook, for example, enable you to increase your job post visibility among viable candidates and screen for particular certifications or skills.

Other platforms to explore include job posting sites that allow you to view candidates’ CVs. Since working at an IT help desk is a specialized job, you can vet all candidates to make sure their qualifications match your requirements.

If your help desk needs are particularly niche, you may run up against a shortage of viable candidates. Solving this problem may involve posting job ads to various online and offline avenues, including technical school job boards. A referral program can also be a good way to find qualified candidates.

2. Review and filter the top candidates.

Take the time to review candidates with your colleagues in human resources and categorize them according to their qualifications and hiring feasibility. By filtering candidates, you ensure that only employees that you’re reasonably confident make it through to later hiring processes, thereby streamlining the process.

3. Screen the top candidates’ technical skills.

Technical screening incorporates either standardized online tests or in-person questions with industry experts for candidates you have approved after reviewing their resumes.

Some candidates will be experts at navigating technical support for cloud systems. Others will have detailed knowledge of applied cybersecurity. Screening your candidates helps you understand their specific skill set and how well they can apply their learning to your help desk.

4. Conduct an in-person HR interview.

Every company conducts HR interviews for potential employees. However, GHDSi’s in-person interviews are much more detailed than the average HR recruitment step. The questions you ask should determine the candidate’s strengths, weaknesses, and ability to handle the role.

5. Conduct an executive-level interview.

During GHDSi’s hiring process, as the CEO I join every candidate for a sit-down interview. I’m specifically looking to evaluate whether the candidate will bring unity or division to the company’s environment. If your CEO isn’t able to take on this task, find another big-picture member of your leadership team and ask them to join you during an interview to ask some probing questions and get a read on who the candidate is as a person.

6. Assess the candidate’s emotional intelligence.

This part of the hiring process is based on the psychological theory of emotional intelligence developed by John Mayer and Peter Salovey. The interview determines where the candidate stands on Daniel Goleman’s Five Components of Emotional Intelligence.

These components include:

  • Self-awareness. The candidate should have a realistic sense of self and a good level of self-confidence. Self-awareness enables people to monitor their emotional states and properly identify the emotions they’re feeling.
  • Self-regulation. An evolved individual can redirect and control their impulsiveness and moods. They prefer to think before acting.
  • Internal motivation. Instead of relying on external gratification, such as status and money, the ideal candidate is internally motivated by their curiosity, joy, persistence, and drive to achieve their goals. Highly motivated people are driven by their desire to succeed and are optimistic and organized through good times and bad.
  • Empathy. Being sensitive to other people’s emotions and backgrounds is important in business settings. Empathetic individuals display intense cross-cultural sensitivity and are excellent at providing services to customers and clients.
  • Social skills. People with good social skills are adept at building and managing relationships. IT help desk professionals require social skills to find common ground with clients and customers, and to adapt to and implement change.

7. Assess the candidate’s WHIM.

The last step in finalizing a potential employee is understanding whether they display the qualities that Garett Miller identifies as integral in his book, Hire on a WHIM. The acronym “WHIM” stands for “Work Ethic, Humility, Integrity, and Maturity.” Throughout the many stages of the employment process, GHDSi’ s interviewers determine the extent to which candidates display these qualities.

The Key Qualities of Good Help Desk Candidates

The IT sector has stiff employment competition due to its steady growth and constant evolution. To stand apart, IT professionals need to have qualities that set them apart from the rest of the workforce.

The most important qualities when staffing help desk employees are the following:

  • Communication skills. Help desk employees must interact continuously with clients and be ready to assist them with whatever they require.
  • Technical knowledge. Candidates must have the requisite technical skills for the job. Ask candidates task-based questions about web development, software programming, network engineering, or computer systems analysis.
  • Taking the initiative. You can judge a candidate’s initiative by their previous roles of leadership. This ability enables help desk employees to take charge of critical IT emergencies.
  • Emotional intelligence. Candidates should have a high level of self-awareness, empathy, and internal motivation to be successful in a help desk’s people-facing, demanding environment.

IT Help Desk Staffing, Simplified

If you’re thinking, “This is … a lot,” you’re not wrong. Recruiting and hiring the right IT help desk talent, when done right, is an extensive process.

What if you just don’t have the time for it all?

Outsourcing is a viable alternative to spending all the time and money you’ll need to hire an IT help desk professional. At Global Help Desk Services, we provide professional help desk outsourcing services to small and medium enterprises. We become the initial point of contact to help your customers and employees resolve technical issues. This enables your company to dedicate attention to core services and competencies, while providing your remote staff and customers with a satisfying, pleasant IT help desk experience.

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