How do you prepare for your upcoming interview for a role as a network engineer?
I’ll tell you how to ace your network interview in this no-nonsense article.
As a network engineer, I have interviewed many other engineers who applied for a network engineer role.
The people I have interviewed varied from juniors who just left school to CCIE certified architects.
I know what the interview takers and companies look for.
I’ve been there.
But when you Google on how to prepare for such an interview, you mostly get trash information.
If you want to truly know how to prepare for a network interview, read with me.
How to prepare yourself for a network interview.
Who does the company really need?
So, the moment you are asked for an interview as a network engineer, you better ask yourself the following question.
“What does the company need?“
For example, let’s say you solicited for a job as a network engineer at a security firm, such as an MSSP (Managed Security Service Provider).
What are they looking for then?
- Affinity / experience with security (firewalls)
- Security minded
- Go to their website, and look at their clients.
- What’s important to their clients? That’s important to them!
Really ask yourself who this company is looking for.
Imagine you own the company, what kind of engineers do you want to hire?
Why are you really asked for the interview?
Ask yourself the question why you are asked for an interview.
What makes it that they invited you? What do they see in your resume?
The answer is in your resume.
Personally what I look at are three very important things.
- How long do you stay at employees?
- Were you promoted at previous employees?
- What have you worked with?
Most of the time, when I see a job hopper I really don’t even bother to check it further.
Because a company always needs to invest in someone before they are completely up and running.
No matter how good you are, the investment is always there.
And if you are gone in 6 months, I call it a bad investment.
The only exception I make is when someone explains why he/she is job hopping in the first place in the motivation letter.
The other point I look at is how your career track is looking at other employees.
Where you continuously moving up the rank?
Generally this is a good sign.
Or did you stay in the same position for 15 years?
The latter is a really bad sign.
Also, what have you worked with? Cisco, Fortinet, Aruba, Juniper?
If you’ve worked with a wide range of Cisco products, that is really a plus.
By telling me what you have worked with I can tell much of your capabilities.
This could really be a sign on your resume to hint to others you could be a win for the business.
What should I wear on the interview?
Want to know something I discovered?
The guy who comes in with a 3 piece suite, knows probably not so much..
That suite is there to deflect the attention to that problem.
The guy who comes in with his casual sneakers, jeans, and shirt, is confident enough to sell himself based on this knowledge and experience.
Really, don’t think too much about this.
Managers who want to hire good network engineers aren’t in need of suits.
They are in need of personnel who they can rely on.
What are your strong points?
Tell me, what are they..?
The key point in here is to be honest!
Don’t try to bluff your way in, be honest in what you are good at.
You better undersell yourself, instead of overselling.
What do I mean by that?
When I’m asked the question what I’m good at, I always state the following.
“I’m good at troubleshooting, at analyzing problems, and fixing them. The more complex the issue becomes, the more I like it. Give me something I can’t fix, and I’ll prove you otherwise. However, I wouldn’t say or consider myself a true CCIE expert at this, I’m fairly good at this, but I doubt if I would call myself an expert at it..“
The key things here are.
- Think about what you are truly good at.
- Speak with confidence about it.
- State you are good at it, but don’t oversell.
- Be honest!
More importantly in a network interview: what are your weak points?
This subject always grabs my attention.
Always be upfront and be honest about your weak points.
No one is perfect, and there will always be areas where we can improve.
When talking about weak points, never blame others or make excuses. Take ownership of your weaknesses and discuss how you plan to work on them.
This shows that you are self-aware and willing to learn and grow.
What is the single thing you are most proud of?
Be prepared for a question related to the single thing you are most proud of.
Maybe these are certificates you got or projects you were involved with.
And if it doesn’t get asked, find a way to talk about it.
Talk about your greatest achievement so far, but again, don’t oversell it.
Tell me your biggest f*ck up, and how did you handle it?
How do you handle your mistakes? I always ask that.
I’m always able to extract so many things about someone when asking this question.
You can tell right away if someone is sincere, or not.
If you got asked this question, be honest.
You know, everyone makes mistakes.
I make them, you make them, and everyone else.
Simple as that.
Again: be. honest.
What is the most complex incident you handled?
This is a question where your skills and competences are checked.
How are you troubleshooting?
What tools do you use? Wireshark of example?
How do you use your tools? What for?
How do you think? How do you analyze an issue?
Your previous work experience carries a lot of weight in this question.
When you’re getting ready for a network interview, it’s not just about showing off your technical skills, but also about giving potential employers a glimpse into how you handle real-world situations.
Why do you want to leave your current job?
Always prepare yourself for this question.
And first of all, one golden rule..
Never talk badly about your previous employees.
This tells me personally many things.
- You are going to talk badly about us with your next employer.
- You are unable to take responsibility.
- You are unable to look at yourself critically.
- You hold grudges just a bit too much.
Even if you are very negative towards your previous employers, just remain neutral.
Saying things like “We share different opinions.” is enough.
Yes, be politically correct.
Sometimes, you just should, period.
Conversely, ask these questions to the other side!
Bring your notebook, and ask genuine questions.
What questions should you ask for your network interview?
It’s very important you ask questions during an interview.
Not because you want to look good, or want to fake interest.
But because you know who you are going to work for.
Because to be honest, an interview goes two ways.
On the one hand the company decides whether they want you.
On the other hand, you must really find out if you want the company.
You don’t want to work for a boring company, that doesn’t give anything about you.
I’ve worked in companies where the environment was pure toxic.
I hated to get into my car and drive to work.
How I got there? I didn’t ask enough questions.
What does a day of a network engineer look like at this company?
Ask what a day looks like for an engineer at this company.
It’s a good way to start engaging in a smooth conversation and leave the formality a bit behind.
Oh, and keep the question broad: “So tell me, what does a day look like for an engineer here?” is enough.
What is the biggest IT issue this company is struggling with today?
This is key. This tells me so much about the company.
Asking this question you can tell fast how the IT department is doing.
If they start to think, stutter and look at each other, you know they have a long way to go.
And that’s not a bad thing, you are going to fix that for ’em!
Who are they looking for, exactly?
Just ask the question: “What’s you ideal candidate?”.
There are so many times that managers are wrongly asking for network engineers.
And then you arrive at the interview you are told they need people to administer the Active Directory and Exchange servers.
“But we have also switches..”
Sure thing mate.
I would suggest you ask that one the phone or mail before you enter the network interview itself.
However, double check it at the interview itself.
Chances are you are getting two different answers.
What current IT projects have a high value for the company today?
Simple question, but it reveals where the priorities lie within the company.
For you it can be an extra indicator whether this company is something for you, or not.
Is there an IT roadmap for the upcoming years?
Very important. And does this roadmap align with the IT projects?
The roadmap a company has laid out is something you are dealing with sooner or later.
Know what the company needs so you can contribute to it.
How is the paperwork? Do we have designs?
The answer is probably yes during the interview.
Regardless of this is true or not.
However, if the answer is no during the interview, know what you are getting in to.
If a company doesn’t pay attention to paperwork, you are bound to get into a mess.