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How Do You Interview A Network Engineer?

Cliff posted about 13 years ago | from the third-in-a-series dept.

Unix 15

vrmlguy asks: "Back in July, we learned how to interview programers, and in August we learned how to interview sysadmins. Obviously, we still need to hire some network engineers, but what questions should we ask? The previous articles had a couple of generic gems which I intend to put to good use, but the only position-specific question that I can come up with is "Please explain the differences between RIP and OSPF." Any other ideas for a guy whose idea of using a sniffer is to fire up tcpdump?"

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heh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2448570)

sasha is my bitch.

yeah, that's right.

Good morning Mr. Applicant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2448803)

Do you have an MSCE?


background, breadth (3, Informative)

green pizza (159161) | about 13 years ago | (#2448853)

Has the person worked with enough types of networking gear to understand the history, future, and direction so that he can make informed decisions as new products become available? Having only worked with ethernet is a bad sign.

Has he worked with powerful software tools, both commercial and opensource? (HP Openview, CA Unicenter, etc).

What is his experience with router equipment? Experience with at least one other large scale platform other than Cisco is a huge plus.

Re:background, breadth (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2449682)


When I read the post title, the nick blended with it in my head and I read "background, pizza breath". Thought you were going to recommend checking their geek quotient by smelling their breath...

With reverence. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2449157)

For if you piss them off, you can bet they'll be capturing all your email, web site visits, and AOL IM trollings for chicks. Fear, my friend. FEAR.

Well (1)

_typo (122952) | about 13 years ago | (#2449472)

Actualy the best way is to post a link to your public webpage on slashdot saying it's some sort of geek gadget/website and then let him scramble trying to get the site to live the DDoS.

Well, not really, I guess I'd look for:

- Experience in Unix (You'll need it if your serious about networking)

- Experience in seting up the stuff you need and use, may they be BGP, IP, TCP or higher level stuff like network services

- Knowledge of available hardware from the major manufacteurs and what he whould use to solve particular problems (make up some situations)

- Availability to be paged at any hour (night or day) since stuff always fails at 4 am on a Saturday

- Personality/Friendlyness ???

Of course if you already have network guys around ask them to inverview candidates and let them choose.

One fat question... (1)

RadioheadKid (461411) | about 13 years ago | (#2449568)

If the candidate thinks Cisco is that white lard stuff you put on your baking pans, he's probably not ready for the job...

But seriously, I think scenario based questions are great, like this doesn't work, what are the steps you would take to trouble-shoot it. Or given this budget, and bandwidth requirements, etc..what would you set up in this situation. And it depends on the nature of the job what areas to focus on. It also helps you find out if this person is going to b.s. you or not. I'd rather have someone say, well I'm not sure, than jump in the deep end with no way to swim out. Hope that helps...

Re:One fat question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2452735)

I thought Cisco was some awful "musician" created by the music industry to sell more records.

Shows what I know...

My Last Interview (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2450171)

True story:

I was working for a Liar (aka Consultant) and I was assigned to visit a client from time to time. After the relationship with the client went sour, (due to personal interests of both parties), they offered me a job; 2 weeks before the contract with my employer was cancelled.

They asked me to come to an interview and I said I'd been in one big interview the last 10 months)

Worked out pretty darn good. Although my old boss IS trying to sue me.

What's the best way to learn old networking stuff? (2)

cymen (8178) | about 13 years ago | (#2450514)

In a similar vain what is the best way to learn older networking stuff like token ring? I recently had a friend ask me if I could help her public school with their ailing token ring network. But because I have no experience with tokent ring I couldn't help her.

Obviously I'm going to buy a couple of old token ring cards to play with but are there any good sites for background information, etc? I don't expect to become a networking guru but learning more about not so common network equipment would be interesting...

Ask them to draw pictures, ask some dumb questions (3, Informative)

indaba (32226) | about 13 years ago | (#2450675)

I'm a network engineer and I live with a whiteboard marker in my hand.

So , ask them to draw you some pictures. Like:

OSI model

Operation of at least 2 IGP's , ie OSPF, RIP, EIGRP

Route redistribution

Spanning tree


Split horizon

etc .. you get the idea

Ask a few dumb questions :

what's ARP ?

difference between a router and a switchname me a layer 4 IP protocol

what does NAT do ?

who's Jon Postel ?

who's Vint Cerf ?

what's the IETF ?

whats an RFC ?

etc .. you get the idea

Finally, if you have the time, give them 2 routers and switch
Get him/her to configure :




a simple access-list

basic router authentication

etc .. you get the idea

Also, certifications [] DO help you weed out the rubbish.

Darren Kruse CCNP CCDP
WAN/LAN Networking Consultant
Email : [mailto] []

ps, I'm alway's looking for work :-)
here at eBay ! []

interview questions (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 13 years ago | (#2453157)

I advocate preparing a bunch of trick questions in advance. The answers you expect don't have to be particularly accurate, indeed they can be downright wrong. What's important is not to test the basic skills of the interviewee, but to fellate the ego of the interviewer by demonstrating superior knowledge of inane trivia like obscure, special-purpose cisco patches.

At least, that's what I've come out of interviews thinking.

depends on job (1)

twigman5000 (410690) | about 13 years ago | (#2453784)

You can't judge netadmins by sysadmin standards. Asking about opensource software is only relevant in terms of management stuff like Openview (not open) or protocols like OSPF and VRRP (HSRP for Foundry).
Some good questions are: difference between OSPF & EIGRP
What ports to block at the border inbound and ourbound
What's an AS?
What's a looking glass?
Maximum number of load-balancing paths in OSPF
Explain STP
Explain routing between VLANs

THis is stuff I can explain off the top of my head and I've been concentrating on host stuff for a few months now, so any decent candidate should get em.

It's got nothing to do with technology... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2457246)

I've been a Sr. Network Engineer for around 15 years now. (I started out working in Radio Teletype in the 70's) Over the years, I've interviewed hundreds of job candidates for my employers and customers.

1) First!!! I recommend that you stop and look at your needs.

Most (so called) technical problems have nothing to do with technology. They are caused by bad organization and management. I recommend that you re-examine your networking needs very clearly, including organization and management, BEFORE you begin any changes in staff or hardware. Bring new staff into a screwed up network will not provide much benefit.

Remember!!! You are much more likely to get what you want... if you know WHAT you want before you start.

2) Be careful who you use as a hiring manager.

If you aren't qualified to interviewing new network staff, you shouldn't be doing it alone. In my experience, managers tend to hire staff that looks and feels the way that they do. Some of the most screwed up operations and networks I've seen were, "owned" by "low-tech" groups, like accounting or finance. Look for outside help if your organization doesn't have the internal expertise.

3) Set your expectations closer to reality.

Unless you're running a very "plain vanilla" network, you're unlikely you'll find a "perfect candidate". I closely review a candidate's resume, and ask questions about their previous work. I want to discover how well they knew their previous jobs. If the candidate deep and detailed knowledge of their previous job they will probably continue to do so in their new position. The technology used in the network WILL change. I consider "box level" knowledge of "my stuff" to be a secondary consideration.

The trick is finding happy, self-starters, with good work habits. Ask the candidate what work they are proud of. If they have a good answer... hire them. Feeling pride in their work means they've developed a personal involvement and ownership over their performance. Be ready to schedule training for your new staff.

3) Get ready to spend some cash.

Experienced staff will be worth what you pay for them. I believe that all techs staff must make 1000 mistakes before they learn enough to be worth a damm. (Very few people are able to learn from other peoples mistakes.) Buying experienced staff simply means they've already made their 1000 mistakes... in someone else's network.

Steve D...

test (1)

cr0sh (43134) | about 13 years ago | (#2460216)

this is a test - please ignore or mod down
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