During a job search, flunking tough networking interview questions can land a resume in the "rejection" pile faster than you can say "dropped packet."
George Bock, vice president of IT at Sole Technology Inc., estimates that he conducts some 50 interviews a year for a variety of positions. To get a foot in his door, he suggested one simple principle: Know what you're after.
"The resume is going to be the first entry point into any interview, so making sure you've got your job description and know what you're looking for before you start the process is critical," Bock said. "I hope that people take the time to modify their resume for my job description."
And while it may be tempting to tout all your certification accolades over the past decade, Bock said he really does not want to hear that you are an SQL server guru when you're applying to be an Exchange administrator.
Instead, job seekers should focus only on the most relevant certification, leaving less relevant credentials (if the subject comes up) for the interview and keeping the resume focused on why you are not only the perfect candidate for a job but the perfect candidate for this job.
Besides, for Bock and other potential employers, the value of the certifications is dropping, particularly compared with demonstrable experience and proven skills in a given area.
According to a recent report by Foote Partners LLC., the average certification has decreased in value 7.3% over the past two years, while the average skill set has increased in value 10.5% over the same period.
But when emphasizing these skills on paper, be prepared to back up your claims in the interview.
"I think everybody embellishes on a resume. The good candidates embellish for the right reasons and back it up," Bock said. "The people who write they can do everything, I don't believe."
And if an applicant starts to include statistics or throw in brand names, Bock guarantees that he will dig into those areas.
"If they can't explain how they managed a Windows network or fixed a specific problem ... that tells me they're blowing smoke," he said.
The personal connection
The technical conversation in the interview is just one small factor for Bock. Technical qualifications are easy to glean from a resume. In an interview, the most important factor is how well he sees the applicant fitting in with the company.
"If he doesn't fit into the overall strategy or plan I have for the department, then that's going to be a deterrent for me, and that only comes out in the interview," Bock said. "I probably spend half my time in interviews figuring out what makes a person tick."
That leads to one of Bock's favorite questions: When have you not succeeded but still learned?
"People who can articulate experiences like that do well," he said. Sole Technology has a corporate culture of risk-taking and is OK with failure, he said, as long as the employees learn and take that experience with them.
Bock also suggested that a good fit for company culture may be reflected in interview apparel, even if that goes against conventional dress-to-impress wisdom.
"We're very laid back, very comfortable -- sneakers and comfortable shirts," he said. "Try to accentuate the fact you'll fit in."
More networking interview questions
The forum members on ITKnowledgeExchange recently offered up their own suggested networking interview questions to be prepared for. Some of the best are below:
- What sort of cabling is suitable for Fast Ethernet protocols?
- What do you do to manage your time effectively?
- What is a Class D IP address?
- How do I monitor the activity of sockets?
- Users are complaining of delays when using the network. What would you do?
- What are some of the problems associated with operating a switched LAN?
- What are your career goals for 2009?
- A customer is planning on setting up a new office network. Make a network diagram and present to the customer everything that is involved.
- Why should I hire you over anyone else?
- What would you do if you were asked to do something outside your job description?