Top 15 System Administrator Interview Questions (Example Answers Included)

By Mike Simpson

Overall, there are around 374,000 system administrators in the United States today. If you want to join their ranks or move up into a better position, there’s one thing you’ll have to do: face off against system administrator interview questions.

Does that mean you should panic? Of course not. We’ve got your back. If you want to make sure your ready to tackle the system administrator job interview questions, here’s what you need to know.

How to Answer System Administrator Interview Questions

Alright, before we dig into the system administrator interview questions and example answers, let’s take a second to talk about how to answer these questions. Why? Well, for a couple of reasons.

One, if you’re like 92 percent of Americans, interviewing probably gives you some anxiety. By learning how to answer system administrator interview questions, you can put some of those fears to bed. You’ll be prepared to handle what’s coming, and that can make a real difference.

Two, by learning how to face off against interview questions, you can develop a winning strategy. After all, you can’t predict everything the hiring manager might ask.

There’s a good chance the hiring manager will cover something you weren’t expecting, which is what makes having a strategy so important. You’ll be able to roll with the punches, juking and jiving your way to interview success.

When it comes to the kinds of questions you’ll encounter, there will typically be a mix of classic job interview questions and job-specific ones. Classics include favorites like:

Those kinds of questions can apply to any job on the planet. But that doesn’t mean hiring managers don’t see them as important, so it’s good to be ready for them.

Job-specific ones will focus on skills and experience that relate directly to the system administrator role. These will usually have some technical aspects but can also discuss relevant traits that support your success.

So, how do you get ready for all of that? First, by getting to know the Tailoring Method. The Tailoring Method helps you focus on relevance. It gives you insights to drill down into that particular hiring manager and job’s needs. That way, you can pick stellar accomplishments that align with that one role.

If you’re dealing with behavioral interview questions, then you want to add a healthy dose of the STAR Method. With the STAR Method, you can turn overviews of your achievements into incredibly compelling stories. Your answers will be ridiculously engaging, and that can help you stand out from the competition.

Alright, but what skills should you talk about? Well, you’re going to want to tap on a range of relevant hard skills and soft skills. You need to discuss your technical capabilities, as those are crucial for the job. The exact ones you’ll want to include depend on the specifics of the job, so use the Tailoring Method to figure that out.

However, you should also work in key traits that support your overall success. Soft skills like communication, attention to detail, time management, accountability… those all matter, too.

In some cases, the job ad will give you clues about the soft skills you want to cover, so use that as a starting point. If you don’t see enough there, dig into the company a bit. Learn about its mission, values, and culture. Often, you’ll come away with a ton of useful tidbits you can work into the conversation.

Finally, if you want outstanding answers, quantify the details whenever you can. Numbers are so very powerful, as they give a sense of scale to your responses. It’s that little dash of secret sauce that can turn a good answer into a great way, so sprinkle in those digits when you get the opportunity.

In fact we we wanted to let you know that we created an amazing free cheat sheet that will give you word-for-word answers for some of the toughest interview questions you are going to face in your upcoming interview. After all, hiring managers will often ask you more generalized interview questions!

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Top 3 System Administrator Interview Questions

Okay, you probably have a pretty solid idea about what it takes to answer system administrator interview questions. So, now it’s time to move onto some example questions and answers.

These samples showcase the kinds of questions you might face. It helps you see how to approach them, making it easier to come up with your own answers.

So, without further ado, here are the top three system administrator interview questions and example responses:

1. What is DHCP, and why is it important?

This question tests your general knowledge. Usually, hiring managers asks this question (and ones like it) to assess your level of expertise, allowing them to ensure you have the proper knowledge base for the role.

MIKE'S TIP: Questions like this one also do more than dig into your technical prowess; they also help the hiring manager learn more about critical soft skills. It’s a chance for the hiring manager to gauge your communication capabilities, particularly when it comes to explaining technical concepts to someone who may be less familiar. When you answer, keep your language simple regardless of whether the hiring manager has a technical background. That way, you can put more crucial skills on display.


“DHCP stands for dynamic host configuration protocol. It’s a method for assigning dynamic internet protocol, or IP, addresses to devices that are connected to the network. New IP addresses are assigned every time a device is reintroduced to the network automatically, reducing the need for manual IP address configuration.

The main benefits of DHCP are workload reduction and improved efficiency. System administrators don’t have to assign IP addresses through manual configuration, streamlining critical functions.

Additionally, it can simplify IP addressing across the organization. Any unused address becomes available for re-assignment, optimizing planning.”

2. What three traits make you an exceptional systems administrator?

Hiring managers prefer candidates with traits that help them excel in the role. This question is an opportunity to showcase soft skills that allow you to thrive.

Ideally, you want to focus on traits that are particularly relevant to this hiring manager. If certain soft skills are mentioned in the job ad, they could be great candidates. However, if you don’t find enough of those examples, focus on ones that genuinely drive your success, as you’ll have an easier time explaining how they are beneficial.


“If I had to narrow it down to three traits, I would say that my diligence, curiosity, and attention to detail are what make me an exceptional systems administrator. Thanks to my diligence, I’m not deterred when a problem is difficult to solve. I appreciate the challenge, particularly the moment when I overcome it.

My curiosity drives me to look deeper into issues. When issues arise, I’m not just looking for an immediate solution; I also want to discover how problems like those can be avoided in the future. This helps my advocate for meaningful change to eliminate obstacles or hardships before they impact the company once again.

As with all things technical, attention to detail is essential. A single wrong selection in a system can wreak havoc on an organization. As a detail-oriented individual, I take the time to evaluate my work to identify any potential errors, allowing me to correct them before they have any impact on the company.”

3. Imagine that you discovered a system issue but can’t determine the cause. How would you go about finding a solution?

The hiring manager asks this question to learn more about the steps you’ll take to identify a solution. In many cases, system administrators spend a significant amount of time working independently, so it’s wise to talk about the steps you’d take on your own if you can’t immediately determine the cause of a problem.

However, there are situations where you’ll need to reach out to colleagues to find answers. As a result, it’s wise to tap on that too when you answer this kind of question.


“If I discovered a system issue and couldn’t immediately determine a cause, my first step would be to research the nature of the problem. I make it a priority to track resources that can assist with problem diagnosis, allowing me to quickly explore the situation through a trusted source to discover a swift solution. Not only is this efficient, but it also improves my knowledge, allowing me to apply what I’ve learned in the future.

If I am still unable to determine the cause of an issue, I find that collaborating with colleagues is the best next step. I’ll reach out to other team members, explain what I do know about the situation – such as the impact it’s having on the affected system – and request guidance.

Often, a colleague will have an idea I may have yet to explore. Again, this leads to a quick resolution while introducing me to new information that I can use to the company’s benefit moving forward.

In cases where that doesn’t lead to a solution, reaching out to the system manufacturer or producer can also be a logical step. The exact approach may vary depending on whether a support agreement is in place. However, I’ve typically found that this can be quite effective, particularly for niche systems that aren’t as widely used.”

12 More System Administrator Interview Questions

Here are 12 more system administrator interview questions you may encounter:

    1. Why did you become a system administrator? What about the work intrigued you?
    2. Can you describe your experience with end-user support?
    3. What is WDS, and how does it impact your daily activities?
    4. Tell me about your experience with Active Directory.
    5. What are the benefits of using RAID?
    6. What is the difference between a router and a gateway?
    7. If you were assisting a user group with a password issue and the solution you initially attempt fails, what would you do next?
    8. What is the importance of using both firewalls and antimalware solutions?
    9. Do you have any relevant certifications?
    10. If you were asked to restore a DC that was last backed up 10 months ago, would you move forward? Why or why not?
    11. What is a lingering object and, if you identify one, do you feel it needs addressing? If so, how do you go about it?
    12. IP spoofing is a major concern. What steps do you take to prevent it?

5 Good Questions to Ask at the End of a System Administrator Interview

As your wrap up answering the system administrator interview questions, you’ll usually get a chance to ask the hiring manager a few questions of your own. By having a handful in your back pocket, you’ll be ready to go when that moment comes.

Why do you want to be ready? Because asking questions makes you look engaged and interested. You’ll seem more enthusiastic about the opportunity, and that can be a real difference-maker.

If you aren’t sure what to ask, here are five good questions for the end of a system administrator interview:

    1. What does the typical daily routine of a system administrator look like in your company?
    2. How did this job become available? Was there someone previously in the role, or is it a new position?
    3. What qualities do your top system administrators have in common?
    4. Are there any major new implementations on the horizon? If so, what role will system administrators play in their success?
    5. What is the biggest challenge system administrators face in your organization?

Putting It All Together

At this point, you should have an excellent idea of how to answer system administrator interview questions. Use every tidbit above to your advantage. Cultivate great responses to the questions above, and tweak each answer to make sure it’s as relevant as possible.

If you do all of that and commit to a bit of practice, you’re setting yourself up for success. Your answers will be thorough and compelling, ensuring you can showcase yourself as the right candidate for the job.

Good luck!

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About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.