Top network engineer interview questions

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Looking for a job as a network engineer? We examine some of the most common interview questions to expect

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The role of a network engineer is extremely important, with any job applicant expected to have knowledge of all the hardware and software that helps make a network function.

Although the role can vary significantly from day to day, the typical role focuses on the design and implementation of networking systems, so having a detailed understanding of how different systems run is essential.

An interview for the role of a network engineer tends to follow a fairly common structure of typical screening questions and behavioural, technical and non-technical questions.

These questions will vary, but to help you prepare, here are some of the most common network engineer interview questions.

Read next: How to become a network engineer

Behavioural questions

Behavioural questions are common in an interview, as the interviewer uses these as an opportunity to understand your attitude in work-related situations.

It is also an opportunity for the interviewee to demonstrate how they conduct themselves under pressure, working in a team, meeting tight deadlines and so on.

Here are some examples:

  1. Working in network administration sometimes means you're working alone on a project. How do you deal with working in a team environment and different lines of advice being thrown at you?
  2. What have you done when everything you've tried doesn't work and the network is still not operational?
  3. What are the biggest challenges in this type of work?
  4. Describe a situation when you were forced to work under pressure. How did you cope with the situation?

Non-technical questions

Similar to the behavioural questions, the interviewer will most likely also ask some non-technical questions to identify the candidate's soft skills and personality.

The interviewer wants to be sure that you are capable of working well in a team.

Some questions may include:

  1. Why did you choose a career as a network engineer?
  2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  3. Why do you think you can be an asset for our company?

Speaking with Computerworld UK, Andrew Hammond, IT roaming manager at the second hand goods retailer CEX said: "Because we believe in offering in-depth training to our staff on the job, we don't tend to ask that many technical questions.

"I find asking if they have a PC and whether they have built it themselves offers great insight into whether they are a technically minded person or not," he added. "Our roaming network engineers work on-site in one of our many high street stores so being able to deal with people is a huge skill we look for."

"We look for network engineers - or aspiring ones - that can highlight how they would troubleshoot a technical issue. For example, I often ask them: if someone says there is something wrong with their PC, what questions would you ask in order to troubleshoot the issue?

"A good candidate will find out by asking if this an ongoing issue, have they downloaded something. Have they installed new software? And so on."

Role-specific questions

The role-specific interview questions are mainly to identify whether the interviewee understands what the role will consist of, as well as how to go about certain tasks. They tend to be a mixture of technical & behavioural questions.

According to Indeed:                           

  1. What resources do you use to stay on top of innovators in the industry?
  2. Have you coordinated with development teams and other stakeholders while deploying network resources?
  3. What safeguards do you put in a network design to limit data loss?
  4. Can you draw a network topography worked on before and explain the design to me?
  5. What is the largest size network you have engineered?
  6. Can you walk me through your troubleshooting process when you aren't getting the expected performance out of your network configuration?
  7. How have you scaled networks to accommodate an organisation's changing needs?

According to Workable:

  1. What networking protocols are you mostly familiar with?
  2. What are proxy servers and how do they protect computer networks?
  3. What are the pros and cons of a private IP address?
  4. Describe common software problems that leads to network defects. How do you resolve them?
  5. What's the use of encryption on a network?

Technical questions

Finally, depending on how the company holds interviews it is likely that the most technical questions will be asked in the second and/or final interview stage.

This stage is likely to be conducted by the company's senior network engineer or IT specialist, who has experience of the technical side of the role.

Here are some examples:

  1. What is your favourite routing protocol?
  2. Which internal routing protocol would you us if you needed to route between Cisco and non-Cisco equipment?
  3. Explain what an Ether-Channel is?
  4. What is a root bridge and why do you need to have one?
  5. Do you know what it means to bridge the VPNs & where do we use it?
  6. Describe what a stateful firewall is?

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