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Hiring support engineers - a comprehensive guide

Technical support engineers are responsible for providing troubleshooting and technical support services to a diverse range of internal and external clients across multiple industries, such as telecom, healthcare, and financial services.

Nearly all large companies have their own IT department, which primarily functions to offer technical support. In medium- and large-sized companies, technical support is often divided into two distinct areas: engineers who assist internal departments and employees, and representatives who directly engage with customers who have called or initiated a live chat seeking assistance.

What is the difference between support engineers and customer support?

Technical support and customer support are both essential parts of a company's overall customer service strategy but are often confused as one. While they may have some similarities, there are significant differences between the two.

Technical support is focused on resolving technical issues related to a product or service. Technical support engineers are responsible for diagnosing and resolving problems with software, hardware, or other technical aspects of a product. They may also provide guidance and instructions on how to use the product, troubleshoot issues, and implement solutions. Technical support is typically provided by a specialized team of experts who have a deep understanding of the product or service.

On the other hand, customer support is focused on providing assistance and guidance to customers with any issues related to a company's products or services. Customer support representatives are responsible for addressing any customer concerns or inquiries, whether technical or not. They may handle billing inquiries, product returns, and complaints, as well as providing technical support. Customer support is typically provided by a broader team of representatives who may not have the same level of technical expertise as technical support engineers.

In summary, technical support is focused on resolving technical issues related to a product, while customer support provides broader assistance to customers with any inquiries or concerns they may have. Both are critical to ensuring a positive customer experience and building customer loyalty.

What are the Roles and responsibilities of Support Engineers?

Technical Support Engineers are responsible for providing assistance and guidance to customers, clients or internal employees in regards to their technical issues or inquiries. Their roles and responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Troubleshooting technical issues: The main responsibility of technical support engineers is to diagnose and resolve technical problems that customers or clients may encounter.
  • Providing customer service: Technical support engineers must also provide customer service in a professional and courteous manner. They also instruct customers on system operation and maintenance.
  • Documenting customer interactions: Technical support engineers must document all customer interactions to ensure that issues are resolved quickly and efficiently. This includes documenting, upgrading, maintaining or replacing hardware and software systems. They also assist higher tier engineering staff with problem research and documentation.
  • Escalating complex issues: If an issue is too complex to be resolved by a technical support engineer, they must escalate it to a higher level of support. They work with customers to provide configuration changes or deploy product enhancements.
  • Installing and configuring software and hardware: Technical support engineers may also be responsible for installing and configuring software and hardware for customers or clients.
  • Maintaining knowledge base: Technical support engineers must continually update their knowledge base to ensure they are up-to-date on new technology and software. 
  • Collaborating with other teams: Technical support engineers may need to collaborate with other teams including internal teams or vendors within the organization to resolve complex issues and execute projects. They also act as support leader throughout the larger organization and regularly collaborate on cross-team planning.
  • Providing training: Technical support engineers may provide training to customers or clients on how to use software or hardware. They also train and mentor other technical support staff on technical and procedural matters.
  • Testing and quality assurance: Technical support engineers may also be responsible for testing and quality assurance of new software or hardware releases. They Identify potential system improvements and changes to present to IT management for consideration and implementation.
  • Developing and improving processes: Technical support engineers are responsible for developing and improving processes to ensure that technical support is delivered efficiently and effectively. They Automate manual tasks and create/improve small tools to enhance team operations' efficiency. They also ensure infrastructure networking and computing systems remain available during production hours.

What skills do Support Engineers have?

Many organizations rely on their technical support team to be a source of technical knowledge and information. Typically, this knowledge is acquired through hands-on experience and professional development rather than purely academic learning. While the technical information that technical support engineers receive is often riddled with jargon, it is crucial for them to be able to effectively communicate this information to individuals with less technical expertise.

Skills needed: Companies look for certain competencies and the most important is technical knowledge. A strong basis in computer science is the first step. From there, companies will look for skills that match their enterprise needs. These may include knowledge of the following:

  • Network security
  • Broad knowledge of virtual environments
  • Experience with specific enterprise software
  • VPN technology and redundancy, other security measures
  • In-depth knowledge of Windows, Linux, and Mac OS environments.
  • Understanding source code
  • Experience with applicable software and systems including MCSD, MCSE, and SQL
  • A bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, or similar.
  • Proficiency in remote desktop and helpdesk software, such as Vmware and Zendesk.
  • Advanced knowledge of IT software, hardware, and network setup.
  • Exceptional ability to prioritize and diagnose IT problems.
  • Extensive experience in resolving customer IT queries.
  • Proficiency in documenting processes and monitoring performance metrics.
  • Ability to relay important application feedback to IT developers
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills.
  • Writing commands and workflow processes
  • Using monitoring software
  • Comfortable with different types of applications (Web, PET, etc.)
  • Proven experience with troubleshooting and diagnosing problems
  • Enterprise hardware expertise

What tools and technologies do Support Engineers know and use?

Technical Support Engineers typically possess a broad range of technical skills and expertise that they leverage to help customers resolve technical issues. Here are some of the tools and technologies that Support Engineers must be familiar with: 

Communication Tools - Support teams are the link between customers and the rest of the company, so it’s vital that they have the tools to collaborate with colleagues from the support team and other departments. Some of communication tools examples are:

  1. JIRA
  2. Asana
  3. Trello
  4. Slack 
  5. Hackpad

Reporting & Training Tools - Training is an opportunity to expand the knowledge of all team members. A training program allows support engineers to strengthen skills that each team member needs to improve. And with the help of reporting tools, support engineers gauge if the team is on the right track. Some of the reporting tools are:

  1. Google Analytics
  2. Grovo
  3. Typeform

Email Tools - Email is the number one communication tool for support teams. It’s the primary way support engineers connect with customers, their colleagues, and the team (apart from Slack of course!). But email has its limits. Some of the best email tools are:

  1. Dropbox
  2. Grammarly
  3. TechSmith 
  4. Hemmingway app

Diagnostic Tools - They help technical support engineers to trace and fix technical queries and issues – the things that customers need your help with most of the time. Some of the diagnostic tools are:

  1. LT-Debug
  2. Airbrake
  3. EditPlus
  4. TeamViewer

Overall, Support Engineers are typically skilled in a range of technologies and tools that allow them to provide effective support and solve complex technical problems mentioned above. 

What is the compensation range for Support Engineers?

According to Comparably. the average Support Engineer in the US makes $78,923. The average bonus is $3,207 which represents 4% of their salary, with 45% of people reporting that they receive a bonus each year. IT Support Engineers make the most in San Francisco at $90,639, averaging total compensation 15% greater than the US average.

Boolean search for finding Support Engineers

A generic boolean search string around terms looks like:

  • -job -jobs -sample -examples, to exclude irrelevant results
  • (intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) to discover candidates’ online resumes or CVs
  • (“support engineers” OR “support specialists”) to cover variations of the same job title

Here’s an example of a simple string to find resumes:

(intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) (“support engineers” OR “support specialists”) -job -jobs -sample -templates

With this search string, the words “resume” or “CV” have to appear in the page title. Adding variations of sales engineering job roles provides a larger number of relevant results. And, excluding more terms will reduce false positives.

Let’s look at what a final Boolean search looks like using the following fields:

  • Job title: (“Support Engineer” OR “Support Specialist” OR “Technical Support Engineer” OR “IT Support Specialist”) AND (“Senior” OR “Lead” OR “Team Lead”)
  • Sector: (“Telecom” OR “Healthcare”)
  • Tech Stack: Linux, MCSD, MCSE, VPN

The Boolean search string that can be created using the the knowledge we have gained and the aforementioned fields, applicable to any job board, would resemble the following:

(“Support Engineer” OR “Support Specialist” OR “Technical Support Engineer” OR “IT Support Specialist”) AND (“Senior” OR “Lead” OR “Team Lead”) AND (“Telecom” OR “Healthcare”) AND (“MCSD” OR “MCSE” AND “Linux” AND “VPN”) 

Similarly, some of the complete boolean strings to find Technical Support Engineers in a particular location, with specific skills etc. are:

  • Location  -  ("Support Engineer" OR "Technical Support Engineer" OR "Customer Engineer") AND ("MCSD" OR “MCSE”) AND (“Los Angeles” OR “Dallas” OR “Boulder”) NOT (“Junior”)
  • Helpdesk Support - (“helpdesk” OR “support” OR “technician” OR “help desk” OR “service desk”) AND (“OSX” OR “JDE” OR “iSeries” OR “virtual” OR “virtualization” OR “vmware”) AND (“AD” OR “Active Directory”) AND “DHCP” AND “DNS” AND (“network” OR “networking”) AND (“switches” OR “switching” OR “routers” OR “routing”) AND (“firewalls” OR “security”)
  • Support Engineer with Hadoop ecosystem experience - (“Support” OR “Administrator” OR “Admin”) AND (“Engineer” OR “Engineering” OR “Tech” OR “Technician”) (“Hadoop” OR “CDH” OR “Ambari” OR “HDFS” OR “MapReduce” OR “Yarn” OR “Kerberos” OR “Hive” OR “HBase” OR “Spark” OR “Oozie” OR “Tez” OR “SVN” OR “Git” OR “CVS”)

By using Boolean search as shown above in combination with other research methods, you can greatly increase your chances of finding the right person for your team and project.

Sample Interview Questions for Support Engineers

Hard Skills

  1. What exactly is the Windows Recovery Environment (WRE)? How do you gain access to it?
  2. What is DHCP, and explain the use of DHCP? 
  3. Is it possible to reach a client from a place other than the server?
  4. What exactly is a "Blue Screen of Death"? How do you fix it?
  5. Do you know the difference between SDK and an API?
  6. What do you know about Ghost Imaging?
  7. What is Disk Partition? How many partitions can a hard drive have?
  8. What is a Gateway pertaining to the network?
  9. Assume you need to view a file on a shared disc but are unable to do so for some reason. What would you do if you were in this situation?
  10. A customer is using Windows 10 and getting a blank screen with the cursor visible. This occurs every time the customer logs in and every time the customer updates. So, what should the customer do now?
  11. If you turn on a computer and see the error message "C:system32config File Missing Or Corrupt," it means the boot process has stopped. What is the cause of this? How would you fix this?
  12. In Windows 10, network computers are not visible in Explorer. How would you go about resolving this?

Behavioral / Soft Skills

  1. Describe a time when you went above and beyond to help a customer.
  2. Is technical knowledge or customer service more important?
  3. How do you communicate with customers who aren't tech-savvy?
  4. Why are you interested in Technical Support?
  5. What are the roles and responsibilities of a desktop support engineer?
  6. What skills have you learned for becoming a technical support engineer?

Good luck with your recruiting!

About Rocket

Rocket pairs talented recruiters with advanced AI to help companies hit their hiring goals and knows technology recruiting inside out. Rocket is headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley but has recruiters all over the US & Canada serving the needs of our growing client base across engineering, product management, data science and more through a variety of offerings and solutions.

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