A successful networking career sometimes means moving from one company to another. It isn't always possible to attain your career goals by staying put. If you're a network support engineer looking for your first entry-level position or are an experienced pro ready to move up the ranks, that means preparing for lots of job interviews.

Before any interview, spend some time researching the company. Not only does this help you understand what the interviewer may be looking for in a job candidate, it also helps you determine if this company is really where you want to work. Regardless of what you've read about job shortages, this isn't true in the field of IT. Most businesses are looking for workers with strong IT skills, especially in networking, which is the backbone of the organization. With some knowledge about their business, you can impress the interviewer and get a leg up on other applicants.

What should every network support engineer be ready to answer during an interview?

1. What Kind of Experience Do You Have?

Be sure you aren't just rehashing what you stated on your resume or CV. They already read that. Show them your hidden talents beyond the basic education and work experience.

What they're looking for is what kinds of networks you have experience with. Network models vary greatly from company to company. Still, don't give up hope if the knowledge and experience you have is different from this business' network model. If you express both a willingness and an ability to learn, you will have an edge over those who are locked into a particular networking mindset. Don't appear to be too set in your ways to learn new ways of doing things.

2. What Do You Know About the OSI Reference Model?

The OSI reference model, or simply OSI model, is short for Open System Interconnection model. This model organizes the network communication functionality into seven logical layers. Each layer builds on the previous one. When interviewers ask this question, what they're really looking for is whether or not you have the theoretical knowledge to support your practical networking skills. Most likely, you studied the OSI model in school. If that's been awhile and you're a little fuzzy, dig out your old textbooks and study up before an interview, or spend some time reading up on it online.

3. What Monitoring Tools and Techniques Do You Most Like/Dislike?

This question is designed to probe a bit deeper into what tools, techniques, and solutions you actually have experience with. Plus, it gives the interviewer insight into how well you understand each, as well as your general philosophies and opinions about networking. They will be listening intently to see how good you'll fit into their existing architecture. As their potential network support engineer, you should strive to show the interviewer that you're very open-minded, aren't set in your ways, and can easily adapt to whatever networking systems and methodologies they toss your way.

4. What Are the Advantages of Subnetting?

When a network is divided into two or more separate networks, it's called subnetting. This practice helps to reduce the traffic on the network, as well as the size of the routing tables. Subnetting adds a layer of security to the traffic on the network by isolating it from the rest. When interviewers ask about subnetting, they're looking for applicants who are able to understand the rationale behind any given network model, not simply one who can deploy and administer a particular network. Having a good answer to this question goes a long way toward helping you stand out from other candidates for the job.

5. How Do You Recommend Supporting Mobile Workers?

Don't make it all about you! Show off the fact that you researched their company ahead of time.

In this question, interviewers are looking for a network support engineer who can talk about specifics like available bandwidth, security, and user experience. They're trying to find out how much you understand about these things. To really impress the interviewer, ask what kinds of applications mobile users will be accessing via the network, and tailor your answer according to how the network will actually be put to use.

6. What Kind of Experience Do You Have With Configuration Management?

When interviewers ask this question, they're searching for your ideas and experiences when it comes to networking structure and governance. They're trying to find a candidate with excellent technical knowledge and domain experience who won't be poking around trying to make changes without utilizing the proper protocols. Don't try to stand out as a maverick here.

7. How Does the Network Support Engineer Fit Within the IT Department?

Interviewers use this question to assess how well you understand how networking pros work with other areas of the IT department and how your job affects them. The kinds of answers they're looking for include discussions of working with platform and application specialists, the network support engineer's involvement in working on projects, and how you would collaborate with your peers in telephony.

8. What Knowledge Do You Have About [Their Industry]?

You might think that networking jobs are more or less agnostic in terms of what industry they work in, and to an extent you are right. However, it's always good to have a working knowledge of your industry, as well as how your particular business fits within that industry. Perhaps they're known for having the lowest prices, or the highest quality, or some feature that their competitors don't offer. The fact is, networking work is different in a healthcare organization than it is in a retail enterprise. This is also a good time to showcase the research you did on their company before the interview.

9. What Do You Hope Isn't a Part of This Job?

When interviews pull this question out of the bag, what they're trying to do is weed out any candidates who are likely to jump ship after a week or a month. Be familiar with the job description so that anything you mention here isn't a listed, published part of the position. If the ad specifically mentioned working some nights and weekends, don't start talking about how you hope not to have to work nights and weekends.

10. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

It's okay to have questions of your own. Just keep it related to the position. This isn't the time to ask about pension plans and vacations.

Most experienced interviewers will ask this question at some point, usually as they prepare to wrap up the interview. They're looking for intelligent, work-related questions. This is not the time to begin salary negotiations or to ask about paid leave. As much as the particulars of your question, they're looking for your personality to determine if it fits within the existing corporate culture and the IT department, specifically.

You also want to use the interview to demonstrate that, not only are you up to date on current trends as they relate to the job of the network support engineer, you've also got a keen understanding of what the future holds for networking. Study up on that before your big interview by downloading Digital IT and Transformation: A Global View of Trends and Requirement.