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Prep for these Exchange interview questions

Before Exchange admin candidates drive off to tackle their job interviews, here's how to review their job background and be ready for any question an interviewer throws at them.

Modern organizations rely on email for everyday operations; and Microsoft Exchange remains the platform of choice for corporate email. An Exchange administrator job takes great people skills and a range of technical expertise in security, data protection, database management, account support and more.

But before you head off to tackle an interview, it's best to be prepared for these Exchange interview questions a prospective employer could ask.

Tell me about your Exchange background. What kind of education or certifications do you have? What other IT roles have you held?

Once the interview gets rolling, the conversation usually starts with a review of educational background and experience. Many organizations look for an Exchange administrator with a bachelor's degree in computer science, information systems, engineering or other technical fields. They'll also look for post-degree certifications such as Microsoft Certified System Engineer or Microsoft Certified IT Professional with a specialty in Enterprise Messaging. In addition, prospective employers expect six or more years of experience in IT (not necessarily with Exchange), which could include both Exchange Server and Windows Server system administration, and support for email clients such as Outlook along with other business application administration such as SQL Server.

Pay attention to versions. For example, if a potential employer is using Windows Server 2012 R2 and Exchange Server 2013, be sure that you have a background there -- or at least have a sound explanation as to why you don't. For example, if you've only had six months of experience with Exchange Server 2013, that might be fine if you also managed a successful migration from Exchange Server 2010.

The hardest part of answering these kinds of Exchange interview questions is getting noticed. Remember that you're competing with other IT professionals for this job and the interviewer has already read your resume, so simply reciting a list of bullet points is a sure way to lose yourself in a crowd of mediocrity. Instead, discuss your education as a pathway toward an objective. Where do you intend to be and how did your education and certifications get you there? Employers want to see candidates who are focused and goal oriented.

In addition, try to discuss your experience as it relates to your potential employer. What problems did your previous experience help employers solve, for example, or what new capabilities did you enable? This perspective shows that you understand there is a business value and benefit to the work you're doing. So when the interviewer asks you why you're interested in this Exchange administrator role, you can tell her how you're ready to step up, move your career forward and provide more value to the business.

Familiarity is important when answering these Exchange interview questions, so be ready to talk about what you see happening with the product such as patches, updates and the new capabilities those updates will include, end-of-life support plans or new vendor support offerings.

Next Steps

Stay tuned for part two, which covers experience with Exchange environments and virtualization.

Eight Exchange skills admins should know
Five OWA tips for Exchange admins

This was last published in May 2015

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