Employers need to see that you can communicate technical requirements and needs in an easy-to-understand manner. You must also demonstrate that you have the technical competency required to perform the job well.
What Interviewers Are Looking For
Network administrators are responsible for keeping a company's networks functioning. When things go wrong with the networks, it's a major problem. Expect a wide variety of questions during an interview for a network administrator role, falling into several overarching categories:
- General questions: As in any interview, interviewers will ask general questions designed to get to know you and your strengths and weaknesses, as well as questions aimed at determining your knowledge of the company and the role at hand.
- Questions around technical expertise: Interviewers want to know if you have the technical abilities to support the network and keep it functioning. Expect questions designed to figure out your technical knowledge—interviewers may ask you to define terms and concepts, speak about certain networking principles, or share the approach you'd take in certain situations. Since network standards and systems evolve, you may also get questions about how you keep up with the industry, your educational background, and any certification you may have.
- Questions about soft skills: Network admins do a lot of technical, behind-the-scenes work. But when changes or upgrades are needed, or if things go wrong, people in this position need to communicate clearly—and in terms that a less-technically aware audience can follow. That means strong communication skills are a must, and some interview questions will be geared toward digging into a candidate's soft skills.
With your responses, it's crucial that you project to employers that you are the desired candidate.
Network Administrator Job Interview Questions
While it is unlikely you will be asked every single one of these questions, it's better to have a prepared answer for each one than to be caught by surprise and flounder at your interview. Take the time to review and practice your answer to each question.
Common General Job Interview Questions
Just because you're applying for a very niche technical position doesn't mean you'll be given a pass at the most common job interview questions about your employment history, education, strengths, weaknesses, achievements, goals, and plans, such as:
- Tell me about yourself - Best Answers
- Why do you want this job? - Best Answers
- What is your greatest strength? - Best Answers
- What is your greatest weakness? - Best Answers
- Why should we hire you? - Best Answers
Take some time to prepare your answers to those questions and to review the most common interview mistakes in order to circumvent those as well.
Technical Expertise Questions
The bulk of the interview for a network administrator will likely consist of questions aimed at determining your technical know-how.
- How do you remain current with your technical expertise and skills?
- Do you belong to any online user groups?
- Describe your greatest technical adversity and how you handled it. Is there anything you would have done differently?
- What’s your experience with configuration management?
- What is your home network setup like?
- How do you archive your network?
- Explain the differences between a hub, switch, and router.
- How would you diagnose a DNS issue compared to a network issue?
- What is the difference between TCP and UDP?
- What is a VLAN?
- What is a TCP three-way handshake?
- What is 255.255.255.255 used for?
- When would you use a crosslink cable?
- What will happen if you leave the default gateway information empty while manually configuring TCP/IP?
- How can you access a shared folder from a remote computer? Name at least three methods.
- Do you find it arduous to work for long hours in front of a computer?
- How do you perform system maintenance? Walk me through your preferred process.
- What's your background in operating systems and maintenance?
- What is DHCP?
- What is the difference between a workgroup and a domain?
- What are the main differences between Windows Home, Windows Pro, and Windows Server?
- How would you recommend we support our virtual employees?
- What auditing tools or approaches do you prefer? Why?
Questions About Soft Skills
Interviewers may also be interested in exploring your soft skills, with questions such as:
- How do you work under pressure?
- How do you feel about working on a team?
- Tell me about a time the network went down. How did you communicate the situation with stakeholders?
- How would you respond to a frustrated or angry client?
Have Questions Ready Yourself
Before going into an interview, it's a good idea to prepare a list of appropriate questions for your interviewer to answer and to be mindful about what you would like their responses to be.
Your interview is also a good time to find out more about the network you will be responsible for. This will help the interviewer take you seriously as a prospective candidate and aid you in determining if the company is actually a good fit for both.
Inappropriate Interviewer Questions
If your interviewer asks any illegal or inappropriate interview questions, you are certainly allowed to decline to answer and should seriously reconsider working for that organization. Occasionally such questions are asked because the interviewer isn't familiar with interviewing guidelines as their primary job is in IT, not recruiting.
In other cases, it could be indicative of company culture. How they respond to your refusal to answer—if you choose not to—such questions will likely indicate whether the question was due to a terrible work culture or simply them not being familiar with interviewing guidelines.
The Panel Interview
In today’s technology job market, networking administrator candidates should be prepared for the possibility of a panel interview. Panel interviews often comprise the director of human resources, the vice president of the information technology department, and possibly the corporation's CEO.
When this hiring process is followed, it also may lengthen the decision time. There may be one to three rounds of interviews to follow, so patience and a calm demeanor are essential. If you are fortunate enough to make it this far in the interview process, this is an excellent sign.
Regardless of the job for which you're interviewing, it's always a smart idea to ask specific questions about the company culture and work environment and to show you took the time to do your homework about the company. Present yourself as the preferred networking administrator candidate and be prepared to explain why you are.
EXPECT MANY TYPES OF QUESTIONS. Although the heart of the interview will likely comprise questions about your technical abilities, interviewers will also ask questions designed to get to know you, assess how you'd fit into the company culture, and get a sense of your soft skills.
COME WITH YOUR OWN QUESTIONS. Interviewers will typically ask if you have any questions of your own, so come prepared with several.
PANEL INTERVIEWS ARE COMMON. For technical roles, it's common to be interviewed multiple times, and by people in several departments in the company.