During the job interview process, network engineers can expect a range of questions ranging from technical (such as the tools and techniques you used to build and maintain networks) to interpersonal ( like how you used “soft skills” like communication and empathy to support your team).
Depending on the company and the interviewer, you may also be faced with questions about troubleshooting performance issues, monitoring the network, or configuring security systems such as firewalls. In other words, a network engineer the interview often gets very detailed very quickly – you need to be prepared.
But how to prepare? Let’s explore some possible answers to common network engineer interview questions and how a few simple techniques, such as highlighting your positive impact on past employers, can help you stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Opening questions often focus on network typology
According to Tomasz Nurkiewicz, CTO of DevSkiller, the first questions of any network engineer interview are likely to focus on networks you have previously worked on. Examples include:
- How were the networks separated from each other?
- How did you organize the network and what kind of topology?
- What were the security measures?
- What were the monitoring and control tools you use?
The interviewer will also look at how you reacted to common incidents. For example, if employees had connectivity issues or saw strange behavior on the network, how did you respond and with what tools?
“I wouldn’t ask explicit questions about an autopsy, but rather in the following sense: how did you make sure that it didn’t happen again? Have you found a procedure and documented it? Nurkiewicz added.
An interviewer may also ask you how you arranged coverage during your absences (such as vacations), which shows your ability to plan. Given current trends in network engineering, you will also be asked about your experiences with automation and scripting.
“The days when everything related to network infrastructure and engineering was completely manual are probably over,” Nurkiewicz said. “There’s a whole movement of having everything in code and setting up networks as a sort of more or less automated and declarative way.”
Focus on experience, highlight solutions
Nurkiewicz said it’s important to focus on the real experience, like how you react to stress or an incident or safety issue. “If there’s been some kind of vulnerability recently, it’s really good to mention it,” he said. “Perhaps there was a hugely influential security vulnerability, a backdoor vulnerability in a popular router.”
Some investigators may start with a question about a well-known (or just discovered) vulnerability, just to test the network engineer’s awareness of industry news. “It tells you if a candidate is just theoretical or if they follow trends and know what’s going on in nature,” he said.
When asked about your past work experiences, it is important to explain how the decisions you made have impacted the organization; for example, if you took the initiative and installed software that improved the network in a radical (and measurable) way. Or if you have developed an innovative approach to filtering messages to avoid a malware problem. Such stories illustrate how you know the needs of the business and can react to these needs using your technical capabilities.
“Focus on how you impacted the business,” Nurkiewicz said. “If you can say you’ve managed to reduce cloud costs by 10% because you installed software, that’s great. If you fix a bug that’s been bugging your business for six months and it doesn’t only acted as one line, but no one else found it, that’s great, because it shows you really care.
Prepare for test questions on configuration, cost impact
Regarding the test part of the interview, the possible tests may vary depending on what the company expects of the candidate. For example, if the company is expanding its cloud capabilities and wants different clouds to talk to each other with a minimal set of privilegesprepare to be tested on this.
Some practice interview questions might include:
- How do you configure power or firewalls?
- How do you configure private networks and VPNs?
- How do you configure bridge types between clouds?
- What is the impact of this on costs?
With the aforementioned cloud example, a candidate may have to physically set up a network connection between two clouds or require it to install a certain firewall or anti-virus software.
“As mentioned, they need to understand what the business needs are and how they can help,” Nurkiewicz said. “Be prepared to demonstrate that you understand that the choices can have a significant impact on how much the business pays for hardware or cloud costs. That’s where the big impact can come from.