10 Killer Interview Questions for Network Professionals

By Elizabeth Harrin | May 28, 2013 | Print this Page
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What should you be asking candidates for your networking jobs? Even if you’ve got a recruitment agency sifting through resumes and conducting preliminary interviews for you, you’ll have to meet and interview candidates for enterprise administration and networking roles, and you'll both get a better experience if you’re prepared for the interview. Here’s our roundup of 10 killer questions that you should ask all your candidates.

1. What types of network do you have experience with?

This should be one of the first things you ask. It might be critical to you that the candidate has prior experience with the type of network model you use, but even candidates that don't could be good fits, assuming they are willing to learn and have other critical skills. In fact, candidates with lots of experience on networks very similar to yours could be too set in their ways to adapt to the way your business does things.

2. What can you tell me about the OSI Reference Model?

The OSI Reference Model provides a framework for discussing network design and operations. It groups communication functions into 7 logical layers, each one building on the next. This question will demonstrate whether candidates have the theoretical knowledge to back up their practical skills.

3. What monitoring tools or approaches do you rate?

You can extend this to ask about what tools candidates have used in other jobs. Hopefully they will be able to give you a range of products and techniques, and the rationale for their favorites. This can tell you about the depth of their experience and also whether their choices of tools are a good fit for your architecture.

4. What are the benefits of subnetting?

Subnetting helps reduce network traffic and the size of the routing tables. It’s also a way to add security to network traffic by isolating it from the rest of the network. You don’t just want candidates who can technically deploy and administer networks – you also want people who understand the rationale behind your network model.

5. How would you recommend we support our mobile workers?

Look for answers that talk about bandwidth availability, user experience, and traffic security. It’s also interesting to see if candidates ask what sort of applications mobile workers use and then tailor their answers to reflect the way the network will be used.

6. What’s your experience of configuration management?

This question probes candidates' thoughts and experiences of the structure and governance that surrounds networking. You want someone with deep technical knowledge and domain experience, but also someone who isn’t a maverick who will make changes without following the proper protocols.

7. How does the networking team interact with other areas of IT?

While candidates will be networking specialists, the best will have an overall awareness of how what they do affects other areas of IT. Answers could cover working with platform and application specialists, being involved in projects, or collaboration with telephony experts.

8. What do you know about our industry?

While industry knowledge isn’t a prerequisite for success at a networking job, it's useful to find out what, if anything, the candidate knows about the environment that they will be working in. The network requirements for a hospital are very different from those of an international retailer. And this question will show you which candidates have done any homework about the job before coming to the interview.

9. What would you like your job to not include?

This question will help you avoid someone who ends up leaving after a couple of weeks. Ideally, you’ll have sent your candidates a job description, and they won’t have applied if they didn’t like the look of the role, but that doesn’t always happen – you can’t rely on candidates to have read the job specs!

10. Do you have any questions for us?

Always give candidates opportunities to ask you questions. Candidates who whip out lists of questions show that they have prepared for the interview. Candidates who try to negotiate pension contributions at this first stage probably don’t have the enthusiasm for the role that you are looking for. Candidates who ask nothing at all, meanwhile, are underprepared and not that interested in the company or the job.

Interviews are a two-way street. Not only do they allow you to establish whether candidates would be assets to your team, but they also provide an opportunity for candidates to find out about the company and decide if the role you're offering is a good fit for them. Asking the right questions at interviews helps both parties get the most out of the time and, hopefully, will secure you a professional, motivated and knowledgeable candidate for your networking team.