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Prepare yourself for these VMware administrator interview questions

Before you get to your VMware interview, prepare yourself with these questions.

Getting ready to interview for that VMware administrator job? Interviews can be tough, and the field of qualified candidates can often be crowded. But having some solid answers for the hardest interview questions can really get you noticed by potential employers. If you're a potential candidate, you will want to be prepared for these VMware administrator interview questions.

VMware has emerged as the quintessential platform for enterprise virtualization, allowing businesses to consolidate, optimize and manage computing resources and workloads. VMware administrators need comprehensive knowledge of VMware technologies and products in order to plan, deploy and maintain the virtual environment -- often working with IT planners, architects and engineers to expand and optimize the corporate data center.

Here are the first three key VMware administrator interview questions a potential candidate might expect to field during a job interview. We will have three more important ones to prepare for in part two. The questions might be phrased differently, but acing the answers with forethought and confidence can help to make that all-important first impression.

Tell us about your technical background and experience.

This line of questioning usually comes up early in the interview, and its goal is to gauge how closely your knowledge base aligns with the job's requirements. The company deploys a variety of VMware platforms and tools -- and they're listed in the job requirements of any posting -- so it pays to review the job requirements and make sure you know the requisite VMware products. You might not be an expert in everything, but keep that mental list ready because it will be a topic of conversation.

Generally speaking, you should go into the interview with solid experience implementing VMware vSphere for server virtualization and consolidation. This usually means provisioning, tuning, monitoring and migrating virtual machines -- this is what VMware is for.

Many IT jobs rely on some foundation of general technical schooling like a degree in computer science or information technology. That certainly doesn't hurt you here, but administrator jobs based on vendor-specific platforms -- like VMware vSphere, vCenter Server and so on -- rely on specific skills with the vendor's products. This means college credits alone won't cut it here. Instead, expect to show anywhere from three to eight years of strong practical experience with the latest VMware platforms like vSphere 6. There are never any points off if you're using a later version than the prospective employer -- it puts you in a strong position to help upgrade the environment -- especially if you've already helped upgrade your current data center to the latest VMware products.

Hands-on expertise should ideally be backed up with the latest VMware professional certifications such as VMware Certified Associate - Data Center Virtualization (VCA6-DCV), VMware Certified Professional - Data Center Virtualization (VCP6-DCV) or higher. Any VMware or other certifications should be up to date (recently renewed), and it can be helpful to show a history of updating and improving your educational foundation.

Technical backgrounds often extend beyond virtualization and VMware product lines to embrace other system administrator skill sets including Windows Server 2012 R2, Active Directory administration, host platform security, and building and maintaining high-availability VMware environments. An employer may also be looking for related data center infrastructure knowledge including an understanding of SAN, fibre channel and network technologies.

What do your virtualization tasks usually entail?

Knowing the products is certainly important, but it's even more important to use those virtualization tools productively. Once a prospective employer establishes what you're supposed to know, expect the conversation to turn to your scope of responsibilities -- how are you using those tools now, and what are doing with those tools?

Generally speaking, you should go into the interview with solid experience implementing VMware vSphere for server virtualization and consolidation. This usually means provisioning, tuning, monitoring and migrating virtual machines -- this is what VMware is for. You should have a strong background supporting supplemental tasks like performance monitoring, backups or replication, log analysis and reporting, troubleshooting and root cause analysis, and problem resolution for VMware environments.

You should be able to assess the current VMware environment and keep it up to date by reviewing existing technologies and configurations, and then implementing improvements and upgrades as required. In many cases, this includes managing patch deployment, and managing the security configuration of data center systems. Also expect to show expertise with other VMware tools like vCenter Server and show responsibility for implementing, tuning and maintaining those other VMware products.

This is another broad line of questioning where reading the job posting and examining the requirements can usually give you a great sense of the scope this new job will entail. It's typically fine if you don't hit all of the interviewer's checkboxes, but shoot for the important ones and be ready to discuss any gaps as opportunities to grow and employ virtualization in important new ways.

How do you handle monitoring and reporting?

Prospective employers need to see you can do more than provision VMs and deploy patches. A VMware administrator needs to oversee the environment, gauge its status at any point in time, gather or access status and performance information about the environment, and then be able to make sound decisions or determine prudent courses of action when issues are identified. This takes a keen knowledge of monitoring and reporting -- and may also involve knowledge of corporate compliance considerations depending on the particular organization.

You should be able to show a strong background developing and maintaining operational guidelines for the maintenance and support of the virtual infrastructure. This usually includes generating and assessing reports regarding system health, configuration, capacity and other issues. VMware administrators should ensure any processes or procedures involved are documented and up to date so other administrators can adhere to accepted practices -- and strengthen the company's compliance posture.

Once you spot a concern, you should be able to deal with it directly, so be ready to show experience in performing routine maintenance and applying software updates to address system health needs. A strong VMware administrator candidate should be able to define, monitor -- and troubleshoot if necessary -- system performance within the VMware environment in accordance with established processes and procedures.

Everyone prepares for interviews but you can be a step ahead by preparing for these VMware administrator interview questions.

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This was last published in February 2016

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