How can you gauge whether or not applicants to work with your MSP will flourish or flounder working for you? Unfortunately, many MSPs are clueless when it comes to recruiting the best talent as not all people with IT experience will thrive in the hectic MSP environment. So how can you make sure someone will? 

If you want to figure out which applicants will excel in your MSP, you must focus not just on their experience and certificates, but you should give candidates a chance to show how clever and solution-oriented they are. You can do this by testing them with questions they haven’t seen before so that you can observe their problem-solving skills. Assessing written and verbal communication is also important so that you can tell whether or not a potential candidate will match the professionality and tone of your MSP.

It’s also important to find the right kind of people that can follow procedures and document their work. This can be tested with a holistic candidate screening process that looks out for the following characteristics:

  1.  Intelligence and a savviness to figure things out quickly. This MUST be prioritized over credentials and certifications. 
  2. An ability to produce results with workarounds. 
  3. An ability to follow MSP structures and procedures. 
  4. People skills as a well-rounded individual.

Experience is often overrated, so test for intelligence instead

If an applicant has technical experience, that doesn’t automatically mean they will excel in your MSP environment. The reason for this is that the range of tasks to be done for a managed service provider is much wider than those of a strictly technical environment. Therefore, the skills needed to complete them exceed the scope of solely technical knowledge. 

This is why you must prioritize testing applicants for how well they deal with new, unfamiliar or unexpected situations. Simply having a diploma or some certifications doesn’t ensure that  one has the ability to swim in the MSP’s testy waters. 

We always suggest throwing curveballs to candidates and seeing how fast they can react to them to assess how adaptable they are. Does this sound mean? It’s not!

Anything out of the ordinary that requires them to rely on their own intelligence and creativity will tell you a lot about the applicant. Extraordinary tasks, not the ones that are “just another day at the office,” make them consider the issue from different perspectives, such as the perspective of the client or the context of an emergency situation. 

This is all so important because technology stacks in an MSP are also very diverse and the range of clients from different industries can vary as well. So you should find out how well a candidate reacts to something they’ve never dealt with before. 

Here’s an example problem to present to an applicant:

A property management software presented the alert “Cannot find Excel 97.” 

Ask the candidate what they would do if they received this incident as a ticket. How would they escalate that to the vendor?

Another task you can give them is to have them set up something from scratch, particularly something that requires research and dwelling in the unknown. A good example of this is software that is freely available as a trial like Microsoft Office 365.

This will allow you to see how they work independently because you want people who actually know how to utilize workarounds while doing things properly. 

If you have a person that is not MSP experienced, there is a good chance they will learn everything they need to know in about two months due to their ability to:

  1. Work independently.
  2. Use their quick-thinking abilities.
  3. Be creative when looking for solutions.

Rely on results, not resumes

Testing based on results is something we rely on the most when looking for technicians to join us. An interview, resume or a CV will not tell you much about the applicant. It cannot provide the knowledge you need to know regarding how they will fit into your company’s culture and align with your values.

This is why actually testing out candidates, putting them on trials, and having them work on the support desk for a day with supervision is gold. This will give you the best sense of how well they deal with problems.

This has worked for us at Support Adventure with great results, as we’ve been filtering out the best candidates without missing out on great potential for 5 years now. We’ve helped over 30 MSPs hire the best staff by contracting technicians through us who have been put through our testing and training program!

Unfortunately, most MSPs hire a technician based on what they look like they are capable of based on their resume. That approach is not optimal. The main thing you want to accomplish is to get a first hand experience of how they deal with problems they are presented with. 

We recommend devising a three part test that will allow you to get a feel for how they will fit into your environment. This test should be made up of the following assessements:

Technical assignments:Solving issuesSetting things up from scratch
Written test:Communication with customersInternal communication (ticket writing and escalation)
Video interview:Get to know their personalityObserve their tone of voice and mannerisms

These tests will bypass the data they’ve stated in their resumes. Some less experienced techs will have a chance to demonstrate their extraordinary skills, matching your MSP environment.
Some, however, will fail to present in practice the qualities they’ve listed in their CVs. That there is always more than meets the eye is also shown in the way applicants follow or do not follow structures.

Potential candidates must show commitment to procedures

A lot of MSP techs are not the best at following instructions and systems. They can be quite disorganized despite their intelligence. 

Being smart enough to solve any problem using a piece of software they’ve never seen before is a highly valuable skill. However, they need to be able to commit to working within the structure and the rules of an MSP as well. 

In practice, this means they have to commit to:

  • Writing good ticket notes. 
  • Keeping up with documentation.
  • Making sure everything is up-to-date, including tickets and documentation. 
  • Escalating the right way.

As an employer, you want to be sure that this is the case with the applicant for your MSP help desk, and you can use the tests mentioned above to discover their capability to follow instructions and respect your structure.

A good example is writing ticket notes correctly. We have a system for this that has proven the most useful. You can test their understanding of ticket statuses and notes by having them complete problems like the ones below:

  • Change ticket status to “In Progress” when _______ happens.
  • Change ticket status to “Resolved” when ________. 
  • Escalate ticket to (person) when a technician can not resolve a ticket within __ minutes.
  • Include either a) NEXT STEPS ________, b) WAITING FOR ________, c) ESCALATION REQUIRED or d) TICKET RESOLVED as the last line of each ticket note.
  • Always schedule any necessary follow-ups or next steps forward on the calendar, so there is always a future event scheduled for each ticket.
  • Only send internal notes to a client on a ticket when ___________.

If you need more insight about the best practices with ticket notes, download our ticket writing template here!

One of the great bonuses of having a ticketing system like Freshdesk in place is that it makes techs accountable for their actions. It creates an ownership-based system and supports consistency in practice. And consistency is truly one of the most important traits of a successful MSP.

Scaling your MSP above 5 technicians is impossible without a consistent structure. It keeps the MSP coordinated and responsibilities are delegated in a way that creates a productive environment.This requires everybody to do their part and chip into a culture that functions like clockwork.

You want to know that your technicians can rise to the level of consistency you’ve implemented and support you in keeping your promise of great service to your clients.

Look for soft communication skills and empathy

The final but equally important trait you want to test applicants for is people skills.

Providing great customer service is a must for any MSP that wants to keep their existing customers and gain new ones. Simply solving tickets is not enough. Well-rounded individuals who have the ability to be concise and empathetic at the same time are the best candidates for your MSP.

Be sure to engage in conversation with your applicants while avoiding the interrogation style interview approach. You should allow them to be their natural selves if you truly want to get the most realistic picture of their character and abilities.

Even with this advice, we’ve seen MSPs dwell in the dark about where to actually look for these individuals. If this is the case for you, we’ve got your back! If you are ready to start hiring the best technicians for your MSP or need help desk consultation to implement the best scalable practices, check out our MSP staffing services page for more information! 

Kristina @ Support Adventure

Hi there! I'm Kristina Antic, the voice behind the articles you've been enjoying on the Support Adventure blog.Welcome to the crossroads of travel, transformative career advice, and all things MSP!Since joining the team in 2020, I've been weaving my experiences from traveling across Europe and Asia into stories that resonate with tech enthusiasts and wanderlust-filled souls alike.From the world of translating and IT customer service to teaching, I’ve worn many hats, all of which I now bring together to help you navigate the exciting remote landscape.Whether you’re looking to kickstart your career in tech, dreaming of digital nomad life, or seeking the best MSP practices and staff, I’m here to share what I’ve learned in a way that feels like we’re just chatting over coffee.See you on the blog!


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