The Network Engineer Job Interview
Technical interviewers are now seeking candidates with a wide range of skills, and you must be able to demonstrate that you are able to add value with your technical and business skills.
Take time to prepare for all interviews carefully as this can help you make a strong connection between what the employer is looking for and what you can offer.
Interview management skills are very important to progressing your network engineering career. How well you handle yourself during the first and maybe one chance to impress, will secure your progress or stop you short at that point. Interviewing can be difficult because you have to demonstrate your value in both “soft skills” such as communication and team work as well as your “hard skills” (network security or data center etc.). Show that you have a combination of skills, that you are well-rounded, that you do have relevant soft skills as well as technical.
Image and Presentation
The prospective employer will form an impression of the type of person you are, based on the clothes you wear. In this industry, rarely are individuals required to wear a full suit to the office. Most companies have instituted a “business casual” policy or no policy at all. When getting ready for your interview, always ask your recruiter or company contact what the typical dress is for the office. Rather dress a little more conservatively to be safe.
Before your interview, learn about the company. Use the internet, industry journals etc. and find out as much as you can. During the interview, be sure to show your knowledge about the company and its industry in a positive way. This shows that you are interested in the position and the company. When the interviewer asks if you have any questions, have some ready, it shows your interest, your commitment to the interview. They want to hear that you’ve spent meaningful time contemplating these issues, and that you have good questions to ask them.
In many interviews you might be asked to demonstrate your networking skills. This usually takes place on a whiteboard, but you may also be asked to respond to technical questions. Many of the questions you will be asked will be analytical or knowledge based. Since you don’t often answer these types of questions on a daily basis, it’s a good idea to spend extra time practicing how to answer them. Interviewers will want to evaluate your technical skills, communication skills and thinking process.
Examples of questions relating to your technical abilities:
- What certifications do you hold and how long have you had them?
- What do you do to maintain your certifications?
- How do you keep your skills up to date with industry developments?
- What future certification or training plans do you have?
- What are your technical strengths and weaknesses?
- Explain a recent project and your responsibilities on it.
- Have you ever been able to improve on a solution design and if so, please describe?
- Questions specific to the type of role, eg network security, data center etc. Be prepared for these.
Behavioural / Character based Questions
Be prepared for questions about how you behave in certain situations. Often we don’t prepare well enough for these questions because we think we can handle them easily when they come up, but nervousness can interfere with our ability to think on our feet in an interview!
Examples of behavioural questions:
- Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
- How do you handle a challenge? Give an example.
- What was a recent mistake you made? How did you handle it?
- Describe a decision you made that wasn't popular and how you handled implementing it.
- Give an example of how you worked on team.
- What do you do if you disagree with someone at work?
- Share an example of how you were able to motivate employees or co-workers.
- What has been the most stressful situation you have ever found yourself in at work? How did you handle it?
- What, in your opinion, are the key ingredients in guiding and maintaining successful business relationships? Give me examples of how you have made this work for you.
- Tell me about a problem that you’ve solved in a unique or unusual way. What was the outcome? Were you happy or satisfied with it?
There are many sites online with both technical and behavioral question examples to help you prepare.
Review the job description
Before you engage in an interview make sure you ask the recruiter for the job description. Many of you have probably had the experience of embarking on interviews without having a job description, this does not give you the chance to evaluate your capabilities against the performance expectations and puts you at a disadvantage. If you know up front where you meet expectations well, and where you do not, you can spend time brushing up your skills, or coming up with a plan as to how you will come up to speed on a certain technology. You can also use this as a basis for developing your own questions.
Be on time
If you are interviewing in an unfamiliar place, take a dry run to the location several days or the night before the actual interview. You’ll want to arrive at least 10-15 minutes early for your interview, to fill out paper work and settle yourself before your interviewer meets you. Never underestimate getting lost or held up in traffic.
A ‘Thank you’ note is a good idea to close off your engagement with the interviewer on a more professional level and to set you apart from the many who will not take this extra step. Ensure you obtain business cards during the interview so that you have the relevant contact information. A brief well composed email indicating your thanks for the interviewers time can go a long way. As a bonus, you may also want to include something you remember specifically about that person, or a question you may have answered. For example try:
Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to interview me for the network security position on your team. I enjoyed meeting you and members of your team, and learning more about yourselves and the organisation. As a side note, I went back and checked your blog on your company website about content security in a financial services…etc ….
This shows that you are appreciative of their time, and you took something away from the interview. It shows you are professional, a good communicator, confident and have emotional intelligence, a valuable leadership behaviour.
Don’t wait too long for feedback, show your interest. Follow-up with your recruiter, and politely ask if a result has been reached. No news is not necessarily bad news, the process may be delayed, changed etc. You have made a contact to help you with your career move, keep this contact so that you are not forgotten in amongst the many hundreds of candidates who are probably on the books and being worked with regularly. Keep control of your career move, in a professional and positive manner with all recruiters.