How to hire the right Zendesk admin. Part 2

Written by
Jude Kriwald
Zendesk Consultant
August 22, 2023
min read

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In Part 1 of this series we talked about finding and interviewing seasoned Zendesk admins. Today, I want to share my tips on hiring for the same role a professional with indirect but applicable experience.


Zendesk is an all-in-one customer service tool that companies often transition to when juggling separate tools like Gmail, Outlook, WhatsApp, Twitter and telephony systems becomes too much. Contacts can be missed and it becomes impossible for agents to have a holistic view of their customers’ experiences.

This transition often happens at a time when a company is growing quickly. Due to this, it’s not always the best option, or even possible, to hire an experienced Zendesk administrator, as we talked about in our previous article. Additionally, the workload required to manage Zendesk might not require 40 hours a week from the offset.

Because of this, it can often be beneficial to look for a staff member, either already in your company or as a new hire, who can take control of your Zendesk instance whilst also working on other objectives in the rest of their working week. This person needn’t have previous direct experience of managing Zendesk, as for many these skills can be learned on the job, as we’ll talk about below.

Instead, our challenge is to hire someone that we are confident will be able to quickly pick up the required skills, based on applicable experience of similar tools or ways of thinking.

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Applicable Experience

Hiring a candidate with no prior experience is a great option if you have other work in your team that you need help with, and if you don’t believe the Zendesk work is enough to fill a full time role on its own. That other work could be to do with operations, customer experience, or anything else that you think relates back to the work undertaken in Zendesk.

When hiring a candidate with applicable experience, what we’re really looking for is proof of their ability to learn new skills quickly and show initiative. The candidate may have no direct experience so, instead, we’re going to look for someone who we think can learn their way around Zendesk quickly and then take the reins. So we’re looking for inquisitiveness, quick learners, and those able to think systematically.

Previous experience of working as a Zendesk agent might lend itself to having a small headstart over some candidates, but only if you are able to ascertain that the candidate was chomping at the bit to get more involved in Zendesk at that time (e.g. suggesting new macros, requesting for views to be improved etc.). Simply having experience answering tickets is not, in itself, enough relevant experience to make a candidate stand out.

Here are some questions I’d ask a candidate with applicable experience who was interested in stepping into a role that includes administering Zendesk:

  • Tell me of a time when you administered software. I’m particularly interested in how you learned it and the improvements you made.

This is a basic question to understand if they have the skills required to quickly pick up new tools, get to grips with them, then start using them to your company’s advantage. A candidate who has never touched Zendesk but has administered HubSpot, NetSuite, Salesforce or other similarly involved tools is likely technically-minded enough to administer Zendesk.

You could also follow up this question by asking what their Excel/Sheets skills are like. Being able to craft complex formulas and create interactive, functional spreadsheets requires a similar technical and logical skillset to that required when thinking both holistically and on a micro level about Zendesk processes.

  • What appeals to you about administering customer service software?

Although this might sound a bit dry, it’s an important question for exactly that reason. Like any job, there are plenty of people who have little interest in learning the skills required to do it. With this question, you’re looking for someone who lights up when talking about balancing customer needs, agent experience and system improvements. If your candidate doesn’t seem that excited about helping create the best service for your customers by utilising their brain power, they might not be the right candidate for you!

  • How do you like to learn new skills?

Whilst there are a plethora of ways to learn new skills, none of which are necessarily objectively better than others, the aim of this question is to weed out those who aren’t genuinely excited by learning, as this is a key requirement for a newbie Zendesk admin.

  • What do you think is more important, a quick response to the customer, or a quality response to the customer?

This is obviously a bit of a trick/silly question, as both are really important. The aim of the question isn’t to catch out the candidate. Instead, the aim is to get them talking about, and demonstrate an understanding of, the merits of both. Even if they’ve had limited customer service experience, it’s essential to see that your Zendesk admin-to-be has the ability to consider the various elements of great customer service.

It’s somewhat practical too, as customer service managers and thus Zendesk administrators do often find themselves having to balance response times with response quality. This can initiate a useful conversation about SLAs vs CSAT. That’s Service Level Agreements (time-based targets for responding to tickets and Customer SATisfaction surveys. Simply put, it’s quantity vs quality.

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Can you imagine these questions being helpful to you in a potential interview for a Zendesk administrator? Take time to think about what other questions you want to add as you know the role requirements for your company better than anyone else. In terms of technical abilities, place an emphasis on ability and desire to learn new skills, and you’ll be on the right path for hiring your first Zendesk administrator.

Written by
Jude Kriwald

Jude Kriwald first learned to administer Zendesk in 2015 and has been helping businesses improve their customer operations as a freelance consultant since 2018. Offline, he can be found making maps, paragliding or exploring remote places.

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