I have been on both sides of the table during an interview to hire a SAS administrator. I’ve been hired as a SAS administrator, and I have hired SAS administrators. Today, I work with SAS customers to help them find the best software for their business needs. I get asked- a lot!- about how to find and to hire SAS administrators. How can you feel confident they know their stuff? Here is my personal list of interview questions.
Some of these questions can be answered from their resume, but if I’m doing a phone screen without the benefit of a resume, I’ll ask all of them. I have hired good SAS admins using this personal guidebook:
What SAS products and versions have you administered?
This question lets me know the breadth of their administration experience. Are they working with SAS metadata or not? The role of the SAS administrator became very important with SAS 9.
What operating system (OS) platforms have you used with SAS?
The more, the better! If I’m hiring for UNIX/LINUX and the candidate doesn’t have any experience outside of Windows, then I need to gauge how quickly they’ll pick it up. In this scenario, I’m going to usually prefer some that has UNIX/LINUX experience if they also have the SAS experience.
Which SAS products have you installed and configured?
I would also follow up this question with “Have you installed SAS Hot Fixes before”?
Do you have experience migrating content to new SAS versions?
Ask this question if necessary for your environment. If you are hiring to migrate from SAS Version 8 to SAS 9, ask if they have done that before.
How many SAS users have you supported? Business users? Power users?
This question gives me a general idea of how much work they had to do to support their users. If the company did not utilize metadata, what tasks did they perform in their administrator role? For business users, what is your role in pushing content out to them? For power users, how are you supporting your SAS developers?
Are you performing SAS product training for your SAS users?
If not, are they open to doing so? You have to decide if this is a requirement for your open position- not every administrator wants to be customer-facing or has the needed skills, even if the customers are internal. Some SAS administrators are more comfortable with server administration, while others prefer a more involved level of customer service to their users.
Are you doing any SAS development in you current role? Any experience with SAS development?
Have candidates designed any code, SAS Enterprise Guide projects, SAS Stored Processes or any other SAS content? From here, I recommend asking them to describe an example, such as "Walk me through the steps you took, from data management to analytics to reporting to sharing that information in the organization."
What level of support have you provided for your SAS users?
For example, did the candidate act as a first line of defense when users ran into problems? Do they work with their internal SAS user and SAS technical support where needed? Were they on call overnight, if that is a necessary part of the job requirements? How comfortable do they seem to be with troubleshooting a problem? Have candidates walk you through an example.
Describe the typical administrative tasks you perform each day.
The response to this question could be anything from kicking off jobs, restarting servers and backing up the environment to supporting users with coding questions. You should quickly get a sense for the type of daily tasks the candidate is used to performing.
I make sure I have candidates talk to me about the technical side of SAS administration, at least one story or explanation of how certain tasks are performed. Here are some questions to get them talking about their hands-on experience:
- “Describe to me how I would register a new table in SAS metadata”
- “Describe to me how I would add a new user and what permissions I can give that user”
- “What would you recommend I do for backing up my SAS environment?”
- “What does SAS do with authentication domains?”
- “How do you create a BASE engine library?”
- “Can you prevent a user from or ?”
- “What is an object spawner?”
If you have a current project, ask them “Here’s my scenario. What do you think I should do?” This is a favorite of mine. I really want to know their opinion. If they are honest with me, even if it means they are clearly outlining, “Well, Wendy, you really have a lot of work to do, and here’s X-Y-Z that you need to do”- that is great. You have a clear vision of the hard work that person will help you accomplish.
Do you have any other relevant experience?
Maybe the candidate has worked as a DBA. Maybe were an administrator for another software product. Maybe they’ve been a SAS user in another capacity. Get a sense for their technical savvy and their desire to learn something new. When I was very first hired to be a SAS administrator, I had never done it before- I had been a SAS programmer for a long time (more than 10 years), but had never been on the IT side of the house before. If I can learn it on the fly, I know there are others out there that can learn, too!
Don't forget to assess soft skills . . .
As I’m talking with the interviewee, I’m getting a sense of their technical ability as well as their interpersonal ability. Do they have the communication skills to explain something technically complex to a business user? Again, that might not be necessary for your environment. Add in questions that are relevant to your long-term vision of SAS and the roadmap to grow SAS. Will this person be a champion for SAS and for advanced analytics? Will this person help you go to the CIO and the CEO and explain why you need to hire more SAS users? Also, the most important of all, does this person have a quest to learn new things? If they do, they will help you troubleshoot even the most difficult of problems!
I hope these questions give you some good ideas of how to find a good SAS administrator. And if you’ve already found a good SAS administrator, go to them and say Thank You! They do so much for SAS and for your SAS users. For those of you that want to learn how to be a SAS administrator, hopefully this post gave you a good place to start. If you are looking to expand your knowledge of SAS administration, I recommend this training course: SAS Platform Administration: Fast Track.
I hope these questions give you some good ideas for finding a good SAS administrator. Please share some of your favorite interview questions!