Let’s start with the good news: you won’t compete with many other people in your interview for a network engineering job. Typically just two or three candidates, unless you apply for a job with one of the big banks, or with a leading network engineering consultancy. And what is the bad news?

There is no bad news. Or at least not anything you’d not expect. It is still an interview. To succeed, you have to convince the recruiting managers of your technical skills, right attitude to work, and readiness for the job.


The questions depend on two things

Questions aren’t the same in every interview in this field. Two things make the difference. First one is technology: Are they working with Juniper, or with Cisco? What type of routers and firewalls do they work with in the company? Is the speed of the network their first priority, or do they prioritize security? Understanding their priorities and core business will help you to understand better the questions you’ll deal with.

Therefor you should research about their company, clients, and other things, trying to learn as much as you can before the start of your interview. Second important factor is the person who leads the interview with you.


Are you talking to a tech expert?

A variety of bodies can lead your interview. It can be an HR generalist, a tech expert, or event a recruitment consultant from an external agency–someone who doesn’t work for the company. In many cases, your interviewers will know little about network engineering. Actually they may know nothing about it at all. This is the case of HR generalists, and sometimes also of external recruiters.

If you happen to interview with one of these guys, mark my words: they will focus mostly on your education, personality, and attitude to work. They will ask you some personal and some behavioral questions, while trying to create a good picture of your personality, motivation, and skills. They may not use a single technical question. The situations differs when you interview for a job with a senior network engineer, or with other tech expert.


Interview with a senior network engineer

Once you talk to a technical expert, or to any person who knows something about network engineering (and they may actually know much more than you do), the questions in an interview will change.

The experts will ask you mostly technical questions that relate to the job, and to the technology they use in their company. We will look at these questions in the next paragraph.

Technical questions for your interview – a sample list

  1. What are the advantages of CISCO when compared to their competitors?
  2. What Firewall do you consider the most secure?
  3. Do you know what it means to bridge the VPNs?
  4. What is the main reason why we use a secondary router?
  5. Can you define various types of Sockets?
  6. What are the layers in TCP/IP protocol?
  7. What means the following sub-net mask: (any number representing the sub-net mask)?
  8. Name your favorite routing protocol.
  9. What represents the majority part of worldwide NSP revenue today?
  10. How would you reduce the watts per bit to ensure the higher efficiency of a computer network?
  11. Can you describe the situation when you had to troubleshoot a network recently? What was the problem and what steps did you take to eliminate the problem?

Special Tip: Download a full list of questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:

list of questions, PDF

Technical questions–can you prepare for them in advance?

As you can imagine (and as you probably know from your experience in engineering and troubleshooting networks), there are dozens of possible technical questions, including practical case studies. If you know your job, if you have the certification, you should be able to find a good answer to every technical question, though it is hard to tell the exact questions before the start of your interview.

And oppositely, if you suck in network engineering, or are just starting your career in the field, it doesn’t matter how much time you devote to prepare for the technical questions. One of them, or even more of them, will catch you off guard.

* Do not forget to check: How to overcome interview nerves – Do not let anxiety to kill your chances in an interview. Get rid of stress and deliver your very best.


Behavioral and personal questions

The situation differs a lot with personal and behavioral questions. Since all employees experience the same kind of situations and challenges in the workplace (conflicts with colleagues, trouble to meet a tight deadline, lack of motivation, dealing with success, or with professional failure), the questions are pretty similar in every interview–including the interviews for network engineering positions. Few of them are:

  • Describe a conflict you had with your colleague.
  • Describe a situation when you went above and beyond with your service (for the customer, for the colleague).
  • Tell us about a situation when you reached a goal and tell us how you achieved it.
  • Describe a situation when you had to motivate someone in work (your colleague, your subordinate, or even your superior).
  • Describe the biggest failure of your professional career.
  • ….

Many tech experts struggle with answers to behavioral questions, and their weakness will often cost them a new job contract. If you are also not sure how you’d address the behavioral questions, have a look at our Interview Success Package. It can be the part of the puzzle you are missing, on your way to a great new job contract.

Alternatively you can continue your interview preparation with one of the following articles:

Matthew Chulaw
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