Success or failure in an interview for a network engineering job isn’t only about your technical skills anymore. In a modern company, technicians and engineers form an integral part of the workforce. They participate in team meetings, offer suggestions, troubleshoot and set up networks on client site, and simply have a lot of contact with other people both inside and outside of the company.

Of course, you won’t get the job unless you know Cisco, Juniper, unless you understand the latest trends in networks and know how to implement them in your work. But it is not enough, especially when you compete with more people for the job, which is often the case nowadays, because many people lost their jobs during the pandemic (including network engineers).

Hiring managers try to understand you as a technician, and also as a human being. What you like and don’t like, your strengths and weaknesses, your values and preferences. They try to understand whether you are a good fit for their team and working environment. Question about your strengths and weaknesses help them with their task. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this question. I tried to include on my list answers for both novices and experienced engineers, as well as some unconventional answers. The last part of this article (below the list of answers) will help you understand what to focus on, and how to make the right impression on the hiring managers. Enjoy!

 

7 sample answers to “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” interview question for network engineers

  1. Responsibility and attention to detail are my greatest strengths. I do not proceed with the most obvious solution, or one that is easiest to implement. On the contrary, I always try to understand the goals of the client, future plans and priorities, as well se security risks, and just then proceed with design and implementation. It helps me to deliver results beyond expectations. At the same time, however, this perfectionism is sometimes my weakness. Because in certain projects quick implementation is the main goal, and I struggle with that, because I do not like half-baked solutions. Hence I may fail to meet the deadline, which I should try to avoid. Yet it is what it is, and I hope to find the right balance in my work between working precisely and quickly enough.
  2. Communication skills are my biggest weakness. Not that I do not like talking to people–I do enjoy company, and I definitely want to talk more and improve on my skills. The thing is just that I love my work so much that I often forget who my audience is, and use expressions and technical terms they cannot understand. I am aware of this weakness and try to remind it to me often, to make sure I talk in a way my audience can understand. From my strengths I would pick patience, and a constant desire to improve on my technical knowledge. In my free time I’m reading a lot, watching new tutorials, browsing forums, always in hunt for a new technology or improvement.
  3. To be honest, I cannot tell yet what my strengths and weaknesses are, at least from engineering point of view. This is my first job application in the field, and I believe I have to experience the job for a few weeks at least to understand the areas in which I excel, and areas I have to improve on. Talking to a client, designing a network, implementing it, troubleshooting it, taking care of paper work, participating in meetings… All of it sounds fascinating to me, but how well I will fare in each one of them I cannot tell. But I can assure you of one thing: If I struggle with something, I will work on my skills. Because I want to become the best engineer I can be.
  4. My biggest strength is my experience. I’ve worked in the field for 12 years already, always with the newest generation of networks. I‘ve done it all–small setups, big setups, implementation of a complex network that cost over one million dollars. In some projects I worked on my own, in others I led a small team. As you can imagine, I’ve experienced all sorts of problems and challenges you can face in this type of work. And it made me stronger, and a better engineer. If I should pick some weakness though, I would say planning and daily schedule. As an engineer I often think about solutions to complex problems, and it often happens to me that I come late to a meeting or occasionally even forget it completely. Of course, it can be addressed, I am aware of it, and want to do my best to improve on this weakness. A secretary could help, or setting reminders, or simply allocating enough time for planning. I hope to rely on these remedies in my new job.
  5. First of all, I try to stay humble. Maybe I have some successes, from both school and the only job I’ve had so far, but I do not consider myself a great engineer, and I never will. I try to maintain this attitude, because once we start being complacent we stop improving. And I know that technology always evolves, so does the negotiation with the client and other parts of the business, and I do not want to stay behind. When I think about it now, maybe my attitude is my greatest strength? Talking about weaknesses, I can see many. I still have room to improve in both my technical and soft skills, and I definitely want to work on everything. But I also realize I cannot expect miracles. It is a process, and I hope to improve on everything step by step.
  6. I would point out emotional intelligence as my weakness. Maybe that’s the price one has to pay for excellent technical skills, or at least I know many other engineers have the same problem. I pay the price for it–not much at work, because at work it doesn’t matter much, but in my relationships, in my personal life. But that’s likely not something you are interested in… Talking about my strengths, I would say that I am really good in the core of my job, in designing, implementing, and troubleshooting networks. It has never happened to that I failed to deliver, though of course problems appeared and I had to face them. But I like technical puzzles and challenges, and thrive in the process of addressing them.
  7. To be honest, this isn’t my way of thinking–strengths and weakness. Because I want to improve on everything I do. Look, I am 23 right now, and have all my professional career in front of me. Without a doubt I am better in certain activities and worse in others. Some people like me more and others less. But in my opinion, we should try to work on everything–our technical skills, communication skills, the relationship with our colleagues and other people, planning, time management, and so on, and so forth. This is my attitude to work and life. I see room for improvement in everything I do, and hence I cannot pick any particular strengths or weaknesses.

 

Your desire to improve is pivotal for the hiring managers

Companies do not expect to hire perfect network engineers. Such people do not exist, and if they do, they already work for Google or one of the other tech giants… Corporations and consultancies are looking for honest engineers, who are aware of their weaknesses, do not struggle to admit them, and are ready to do their best while trying to improve on each one.

Your attitude matters more than anything else for the interviewers. As long as they see that you aren’t complacent, want to progress, and are ready to work on your skills and abilities, they will be satisfied with your answer. And when you do not know what to say, you can always pick experience: either you have it or you lack it. In the first case it is your strength, in the second one your weakness.

Unconventional answers will help you stand out

You can find yourself in two scenarios in the interviews: Either you have a big chance from the start, or you have a little chance to succeed. When you are the only candidate, or have a lot of technical experience under your belt, you have a big chance to succeed and get a job of a network engineer. In such a case, your best bet are typical but good answers, such as no 1, no. 2, no. 4, or no. 6 on my list. Pick an important strength and one or two weaknesses (that aren’t central for the job), and ensure the hiring managers that you try your best to improve on them.

Another scenario: This is your first job application. Or you are one of seven or one of twenty candidates competing for one job only. In such a case, you won’t make a breakthrough with average answers. Sure enough, you will make a good impression, but you will end up second best. When your experience doesn’t stand out, you can and perhaps even should stand out with some unconventional (but meaningful) answers. Check no. 3, no. 5, or no. 7 on my list. Say something different, impress the interviewers with your attitude, and you can be sure you’ll have a special place on their list. In some cases it may still not be enough, and they will pick someone else, for example more experienced. But at least you will know you gave it your best shot, and did what you could to succeed…

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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