5 basic network management interview questions and answers

Job interviews should be a two-way conversation. Here are some common network management interview questions for both hiring managers and job applicants.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored just how crucial IT is to business and governmental operations. Almost overnight, private and public sector organizations transitioned brick-and-mortar operations to remote work models. The rapid move to a remote workforce highlighted the importance of having the right IT team in place to support optimal networking operations.

Currently, the pandemic has complicated the hiring process for networking professionals. As a result, organizations with staffing needs will need to be more inventive going forward. Moving even temporarily to a remote hiring model makes the interview process more challenging.

As networking technology priorities have shifted during the pandemic, both businesses and job applicants need to ask the right network management interview questions. For the interviewer, the right questions can reveal a candidate's expertise, thought process and personality. For a candidate, asking the right questions is vital to learn about work conditions, expectations, benefits and opportunities for advancement.

Beyond the basic icebreaker questions and generalized behavioral queries, what network management interview questions should interviewers and candidates ask?

Questions the interviewer should ask

Networking is on a fast track with developments in virtualization, mobility and software. Not all sources are equal, so the interviewer should understand both the candidate's process and resources.

How do you keep pace with new trends and emerging technologies that are relevant to your career?

Network managers should be aware of new approaches to manage enterprise technology in order to improve operations and cut costs. Effective network managers should be constantly learning about best practices and new technologies that can yield better results.

The candidate should be prepared to provide examples of technical and trend-oriented sources of information, such as vendor forums, news outlets, informal meetings with peers and, perhaps most importantly, membership in an industry association. Candidates should be able to cite examples of information that directly affected their practices and processes. For example, the candidate might mention a new tool discovered through several product reviews that helped expedite troubleshooting processes. Or perhaps a colleague at a different organization gave the candidate suggestions about how to better educate end users on phishing attacks.

What skills do you think are most significant to be an effective IT manager, and why?

First and foremost, the network manager needs to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of networking in general and perhaps some insights into the architecture the company is using, if possible.

In advance of the interview, research the company. If the company is prominent enough, the candidate might get some insight into the network architecture through case studies, interviews with executives and news reports. The job description itself should provide some important information. The interviewer will also further inform the candidate's understanding of the network.

The candidate should also ask questions of the interviewer, looking for more detail on both the network and the tools the company is using to manage it. The candidate should demonstrate cogent knowledge of adjacent technologies in critical areas such as cybersecurity, cloud computing and unified communications. Candidates should provide examples where -- either through a specific project or ongoing learning -- they expanded their knowledge of something like hybrid cloud.

Working with a team to meet objectives effectively is also a crucial skill. Project management experience is also beneficial. In many cases, network managers may have a procurement role. Candidates should be able to illustrate past examples of helping their organizations receive more value from a deal either through a reduction in price or some other more favorable terms.

Describe your experience setting up and carrying out a business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plan. What lessons did you learn? What would you do differently?

Candidates need to pinpoint specific examples in which they helped to design and execute a plan to integrate resilience and redundancies to support continuous business operations. The candidate could describe overarching strategies, such as using a cloud-based DR service for failover in the event of a natural disaster. But the candidate can also talk about strategies for supporting discrete applications or operations such as server clustering.

Network manager candidates also need to describe how they approached a problem and whether it was a technical issue or something else. It's helpful if the example occurred before the BCDR program was fully deployed. For example, if a failover issue is detected during testing, candidates can explain how they applied that knowledge to a later project. Candidates can also note that they learned how critical it is to test early and often for all potential points of failure in a BCDR rollout.

Questions the job applicant should ask

Interview subjects should use the interview process to understand as much as possible about both the position and the company. This includes gaining a clear picture of the hiring manager's goals and expectations.

How does the IT team work with lines of business?

The interviewer needs to explain how communications work among tech teams and various end-user units. If the IT team is considered essential to the success of the company, emphasize that point with examples. The interviewer should talk about how ongoing end-user training and consistent communications with end users help solidify best practices and reduce organizational risk. If the IT group identifies tech-savvy end users who can help answer other users' questions about the network system or an application, note how that strategy has been successful in reducing calls to the help desk and improving end-user satisfaction.

What metrics do you use to measure IT team performance?

Communication and consistency are crucial to having an effective way to track IT personnel performance. Outline for the candidate the criteria the company uses to evaluate network managers' work. Talk about how these benchmarks tie into overarching corporate objectives. If bonuses and other incentives are awarded for performance on specific projects, give examples of those.

Next Steps

Interviewing for a job has taken a new turn because of the global pandemic. Prepare for a video conference interview with these tips.

This was last published in May 2020

Dig Deeper on Networking careers and certifications