What Systems Administrator Skills Should You Look for in Candidates?

An experienced systems administrator can be truly transformative for a company’s IT division. A top systems admin can help you leverage the latest, greatest technology in a way that propels your business to the front of the pack by improving productivity, increasing efficiency and boosting profit margins. But first, you need to actually find this talented tech professional and therein lies the challenge.

Unfortunately, many companies struggle with their IT staffing efforts because they are uncertain of what traits and skills to look for in a candidate. This is particularly true for systems administrators because their skillset tends to be rather broad. A systems admin’s responsibilities also vary a fair degree from company to company, adding more variables to the equation. This all begs the question: what systems administrators skills should you look for in a candidate? 

What Does a Systems Administrator Do? 

Before you consider what skills to look for in a systems administrator candidate, you must have a firm grasp on the nature of this position and what the role and responsibilities actually entail. 

System admins are responsible for the management and oversight of a company’s technology, including software and hardware. In cases where there is no network administrator on staff, sysadmins may also oversee the company’s network infrastructure. Their daily to-do list may include anything from investigating and troubleshooting software glitches, licensing new software, installing new hardware or updating software platforms. 

At a more granular level, a systems administrator may address the following tasks.

  • Overseeing and managing operating systems based in Linux, Unix, Windows, etc.
  • Selecting, licensing, installing, updating and maintaining enterprise software and third-party software platforms that the company utilizes. 
  • Establishing integrations between the company’s enterprise software and third-party systems. 
  • Providing basic training and tech support for users (primarily, employees. But it would not be unusual for a sysadmin to provide assistance in a case where a client or customer required tech support in an especially challenging situation.) 
  • Managing user permissions and user accounts on the company’s various software platforms. 
  • Consulting on the purchase and implementation of new software, hardware and other technology. 
  • Overseeing basic aspects of IT security, including intrusion monitoring, configuring security alerts, firewalls and cybersecurity measures. 
  • Configuring and maintaining networks to ensure good performance and security. 

As you can see, a system administrator’s role and responsibilities are many and varied. To complicate matters, their role will vary which makes it very challenging to achieve a true apples-to-apples comparison of candidates’ experience. This makes skill evaluation even more important. 

What Skills Should You Look for in a Systems Administrator Candidate? 

The ideal systems administrator skill set is going to vary according to your needs as a business. For example, a tech sector company may place little emphasis on a system admin’s ability to provide technical support and training to employees because everyone on staff is already very tech savvy. Conversely, a company with a complex network configuration may place a great deal of value on a sysadmin who has well-refined network management skills. 

Here is a look at some of the most sought-after skills for systems administrators candidates. 

Operating System Expertise – There are a number of different operating systems — from Unix and Linux, to Mac and Windows — and obviously, you should place the greatest emphasis on candidates who have experience in the OS that you are currently utilizing.  Although experience working with multiple operating systems is certainly advantageous because there is no guarantee that you will continue to use a specific platform forevermore. 

Programming Skills and Knowledge of Multiple Programming Languages – Systems admins will need to perform some light — or not-so-light, as the case may be — coding and development work. For this reason, it is prudent to seek a candidate who has plenty of coding experience with multiple coding languages, such as JavaScript, PHP and beyond. Coding skills will allow your systems administrator to make essential modifications, improving efficiency and allowing you to achieve new functionalities, such as a custom integration between two platforms. 

Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills – Your systems administrator is going to be confronted with challenges on a daily basis. You need someone who is a critical thinker and an adept problem solver with refined analytical skills. They need to be comfortable analyzing a situation and devising a solution that will bring maximum benefit to the company and its technology. An attention to detail is also vital because the smallest detail can have a tremendous impact in the world of technology. A good eye for strategy is also quite useful for this position. 

Good People Skills – It’s a given that your systems admin will need to have strong technical skills, but they also need strong people skills. They must be comfortable offering support and training to colleagues. They will need to interact regularly with other members of the company’s tech team. Effective communication skills are a must for maintaining a productive work environment. 

Evaluating Your Company’s Needs and a System Administrator’s Skills During the Hiring Process

Before you seriously consider any candidates for a systems administrator position, take the time to evaluate your company’s needs and priorities. The goal is to determine what skills and abilities are going to be most valuable to your company. 

Once you have a list of key skills and capabilities, rank them in order of importance or priority. This can serve as a very useful tool for evaluating candidates during the hiring process. You can even use this skill list as a score sheet of sorts. Assign a number value to each skill and the candidates with the highest scores may be the ones you choose to proceed to the next stage of the hiring process. 

Tech positions can make for a challenging hiring process. The current tech talent shortage compounds matters, making it even more difficult to hire systems administrators and other IT professionals. But that’s where RiseIT™ can help. RiseIT™ routinely matches the best and brightest tech talent with companies in all business sectors and industries. We know what it takes to find that needle in a haystack candidate who will drive your IT division toward success. Contact RiseIT™ today and put our talent acquisition experts to work finding top systems administrator candidates for your business.