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Tips to ace your next Exchange admin job interview

Planning for a job interview? Be ready to detail your experience in Exchange Server, including environments you've worked in, tools and virtualization.

Email is essential in nearly all organizations. Exchange administrators have a vital role in making sure email is continuously reliable for an organization's end users -- and potential employers know that.

If you're an Exchange administrator looking to ace your next job interview, be prepared to answer questions about your technical expertise in a number of areas. Here are some example questions and tips for how Exchange admin job candidates can highlight their backgrounds as answers to potential questions.

Q. Tell me about a day in your life as an Exchange administrator. What's your Exchange environment like? What other tools or Windows services are you familiar with?

At this point in the Exchange admin job interview, the conversation reveals how closely you actually match and fit into your potential employer's environment and practices.

There is no one right answer to this question. Every organization and Exchange admin role can be different. The idea here isn't to nail a perfect match, but rather to show a potential employer that you can handle the essentials.

An Exchange admin performs a number of tasks, most commonly user account management and support for managing public folders and distribution lists. Admins need tight reins on their Exchange environment, so daily tasks usually include routine checks of Exchange servers to gauge storage quotas and address end users who go over their send or size limits. This makes user interaction and customer support important for Exchange professionals. Management tasks are often handled through Exchange Management Shell or even PowerShell, where scripting and knowledge of tools such as Visual Basic can be an advantage -- Exchange ActiveSync experience is a plus for mobile mailbox policy control. Talk about how you handle spam filtering and transport rules, which shows potential employers that you can keep unwanted email to a minimum while effectively moving meaningful message traffic.

An Exchange admin may work with other platforms in the data center, including Active Directory, Terminal Server, SQL Server and Windows security systems. Knowledgeable Exchange admins should have a working familiarity with these areas.

If there's time, mention special projects or initiatives that highlight your Exchange expertise. For example, Exchange upgrades show employers the potential for a future successful migration to a new Exchange Server version. Message recovery or legal discovery projects underscore an admin's knowledge of disaster recovery and data retention processes.

This isn't a good place to embellish. Stay with what you really know because interviewers will almost certainly stop you and delve a bit deeper when you mention an area of particular interest.

Q. Have you virtualized Exchange Server? How did you handle it? How would you approach it here?

Exchange Server 2010 and Exchange Server 2013 deployments are increasingly virtualized, improving server resource use, Exchange Server protection and migration or recovery tasks in the event of problems. Prospective employers want Exchange administrators who know Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware vSphere to support virtualized deployments. Even if a prospective employer's Exchange deployment isn't yet virtualized, finding a candidate with virtualization expertise can be an essential part of the Chief Technology Officer's overall virtualization strategy for the data center and part of an Exchange admin job description.

Talk about your background in virtualization, including hypervisors you've worked with. If you've already virtualized Exchange Server, focus on the process you used to approach the task, such as testing and evaluation. Talk about the actual steps you performed and discuss any performance measurements and optimizations you performed afterward. Talk about any subsequent virtualization-related tasks, such as monitoring resources to each virtualized Exchange component or taking snapshots. And don't forget to frame the discussion in terms of business benefits -- what did virtualizing Exchange enable the business to do?

If the interviewer is planning to virtualize Exchange or other workloads in the business, your demonstrated expertise with Hyper-V or vSphere might go a long way toward cinching a job offer.

Next Steps

Take a look at the Exchange 2016 Preview

Do you have the hands-on Exchange security experience you need?

Prep for the Exchange admin job interview before conversation happens

How well do you know Office 365 vs. Exchange 2013?

This was last published in June 2015

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