How to Hire the Right People for Your Service Desk


This is the second blog in our five-part series on “Delivering a World Class Service Desk.” In our last installment, we discussed five ways to deliver a great experience for users. This time, we’ll talk about how you can identify the people best able to deliver that experience—and ensure the best results for your users.

We’ve all had encounters with service desk professionals who look great on paper but are a nightmare to deal with in real life. How do you hire staff who’ll give business users the kind of help they need, while helping make IT as a whole look good to the business? It’s natural to focus first on a candidate’s technical skills, but honestly, anyone can be trained to the level needed to field level-one support calls. What really matters are the more personal factors.

Here are three traits to focus on as you evaluate candidates for your world-class service desk.


Bring in high-energy candidates only—the kind of people who project enthusiasm and drive to get things done every day they’re on the job. For each individual you consider, ask yourself:

  • Does the candidate demonstrate intellectual curiosity? Service desk professionals must be genuinely interested in finding solutions and improving experiences for their business customers. If they’re just putting in time and giving rote advice, it’ll show—and it’ll matter.
  • Has the candidate invested in professional development? If you take your job seriously, you want to keep getting better at it. The right hires will have taken the initiative to learn new skills, obtain certifications, and understand how the services they provide translate into user productivity. This also extends to languages; your staff must be able to speak fluently, courteously, and idiomatically with your business customers so they don’t have to repeat themselves or explain common expressions.
  • Is the candidate empathetic? Nothing is more frustrating than seeking assistance from someone who doesn’t seem to care about your problem. You can’t fake empathy—at least, not consistently. Hire people who convey a genuine sense that they understand and want to help.

Your IT organization has embraced a spirit and discipline of continual service improvement. Your service desk staff should take that mission to heart on an individual level. To make sure they’re not just paying lip service, check to see if they have the aptitude to actually achieve that improvement:

  • Does the candidate understand how improvement works? You can’t expect a newcomer to be an expert on your business operations on day one, but at a high level he or she should be able to clearly articulate the relationship between critical success factors, KPIs, and performance metrics, and know how they can be used to drive improvement for business customers.
  • Will the candidate build an architecture of improvement? Your service desk staff needs to understand that their role goes beyond handling tickets. They must also develop high-quality support documentation to contribute to a knowledge base that can enable user self-service and improve service desk efficiency. As they discover new ways to enhance productivity, they should train others to do the same, with an attitude that the organization as a whole improves and succeeds together.


For some people, it’s all about being right—or seeming to be—and receiving credit. Others have an inaccurate sense of their own competence, or feel like they have to fix everything on their level even when they’re in over their head. Don’t hire those people. What matters isn’t who fixes the problem; it’s getting the problem fixed, as quickly and effectively as possible. Here are a few ways to screen for people with the right mindset:

  • Does the candidate know what he or she doesn’t know? One of the most important things for a service desk professional to know is when to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” A can-do attitude is a wonderful thing, but guessing or faking expertise that you don’t really have doesn’t help anyone. If someone doesn’t know how to properly troubleshoot an issue, it’s time to bring in someone who does.
  • Can the candidate escalate? You’ve already defined parameters for when to escalate incidents or issues with unhappy customers. Will your new hire be comfortable applying them? The best way to find out during the interview is by presenting the candidate with a scenario that clearly calls for escalation, and seeing whether he or she recognizes the right time to engage additional assistance. Look for a “Goldilocks” moment: not too soon, not too late, but just right.
  • Is the candidate a know-it-all? An overqualified candidate might look like an all-star on paper—and an especially tempting hire when you’re desperate to fill a position—but beware. Boredom can quickly smother the kind of intellectual curiosity and drive for improvement we’ve discussed. And the last thing you’d want to do is perpetuate the (usually) unfair stereotype of the condescending support professional.

By focusing on these human characteristics, you can hire the kind of service desk professionals who are truly helpful to customers as well as to their own teammates, and project a positive image of IT to the business. To empower them to deliver outstanding technical support regardless of their prior level of sophistication, check out the highly intuitive, simple-to-use service desk tools provided in BMC ITSM platforms.  For my next blog, we’ll look at key performance indicators to gauge how well your service desk is earning its world-class status.

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