Q. Please describe the importance you place on customer service versus technical skills.
A. Most interviewers like to start with big picture questions and then work their way into more technical areas. IT is a service organization and customer service is at its core. In particular, customer service skills are just as important as technical skills, particularly in panic situations when systems are down or the user has just deleted their board presentation that’s due in 30 minutes. We’ve all had these situations. You should be prepared to talk about a specific situation where you’ve excelled and received accolades from an end-user. If they put it in writing, mention that as well.
Q. What steps do you take when troubleshooting a networking issue?
A. As a support technician, your job is to solve problems. This question provides the interviewer with insight into your troubleshooting skills. Of course, the most important part of troubleshooting any problem is to divide the tasks of problem resolution into a systematic process of elimination, like this:
1. Define the problem.
2. Gather detailed information.
3. Consider probable cause for the failure.
4. Devise a plan to solve the problem.
5. Implement the plan.
6. Observe the results of the implementation.
7. Repeat the process if the plan does not resolve the problem.
8. Document the changes made to solve the problem.
Be prepared before the interview, so you can provide an example of these skills in action.
Q. How would you prioritize support issues?
A. It is unlikely that as a network administrator or technician you will receive problem calls one at a time. Typically, when you receive one call, you already have three people waiting for service. For this reason, you must learn to prioritize. Your answer to this question will provide the interviewer with insight into how effectively you prioritize. It’s not a trick question, though sometimes it can feel that way. You probably have a process that you use instinctually. Talk about it. It probably includes many of the following components:
- Total network failure (affects everyone)
- Partial network failure (affects small groups of users)
- Small network failure (affects a small, single group of users)
- Total workstation failure (single user can’t work at all)
- Partial workstation failure (single user can’t do most tasks)
- Minor issue (single user has problems that crop up now and again)
Q. Users can send e-mail locally, but cannot send e-mail to external recipients. How would you troubleshoot this situation?
A. The interviewer will run you through a series of questions like this one to see how you would use your troubleshooting skills in a common, real-life situation. He not only gets to see how your mind works, but also begins to get an insight into your technical capabilities. In your answer, be methodical in your approach, identifying the most likely possibility and testing it. Be sure to let the interviewer know that if your first attempt doesn’t work, you know how to move on to the next possibility.
Q. A user complains that when she prints a document in any application, the printer prints garbage. What is the most likely cause of the problem?
A. This question starts the behavioral interviewing questions based on real-life situations that assess your problem-solving skills and your technical skills. They will range from the general (like this question) to very specific technical questions that determine your knowledge level and skill set. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. The interviewer is mostly interested in how you would resolve the situation and what resources you would use to do so.
Q. A user’s roaming profile is not accessible. Describe how you would solve this problem.
A. This question tests your troubleshooting skills. In this situation you may want to talk about which tests you would perform in order to resolve the issue. These may include:
- Ensuring that the path to the profile directory is correct on the user’s account properties.
- Ensuring that the server where the profile resides is accessible.
- Ensuring that the user has Full Control permissions to the Profile directory.
Q. A user has left the company and you need to create a new user with the same rights and permissions. Please describe some of the ways to create the new user.
A. This question tests your ability to get the job done in the most efficient way possible. For example, you can create new accounts from scratch and assign the original rights to the accounts or you can simply rename the old account for the new user, which saves you a lot of time and effort.
Q. What are the first things you check when a user is experiencing problems accessing the network?
A. This question assesses your basic network troubleshooting skills. You can’t miss this one! You should be able to answer it in your sleep. You can liven up the interview by providing a funny story about user errors that you’ve encountered.
Q. What tools do you have available to you for troubleshooting?
A. At this point, the interviewer is testing your resourcefulness. This is a pretty generic question, so make sure that your answer is consistent with the overall theme of the interview. The tools available may include server log files, network analyzers, error messages, README files, telephone support, or vendor technical support web sites or CD-ROMs. Don’t forget to mention vendor-specific resources that you may use, like TechNet Online, or any other subscriptions that you may have in your bag of tricks. The final resource is of course your colleagues who may have run into this situation in the past.
Q. A user cannot access the local intranet. What would you try first in helping to determine how to narrow the problem down to the intranet?
A. Don’t make this question harder than it really is. Sometimes the interviewer will try to trip you up to test your common sense. Go for the obvious, rather than complicating the situation. In this case, simply trying to access the intranet from another workstation would help isolate the problem to the machine.
Q. Several users can’t log in to the server. What would you do to narrow the problem down to the workstations, network, or server?
A. The situation gets a little more interesting. Again, keep it simple, such as checking the server console for user connections to see if other users are able to log into the server. If they can, the problem is most likely related to those users’ workstations. If they can’t, the problem is either the server or network connection.
Q. Which software troubleshooting tool could you use to determine which protocol is configured with the wrong address?
A. Questions like these assess your knowledge of troubleshooting tools that can help you resolve problems faster. In this case, a typical tool used to determine incorrectly configured addresses is a protocol analyzer. It can be used to examine the details of packets as they travel across the wire. This is a sophisticated tool that requires a deeper understanding of network protocols. Any interviewer will be impressed if you’ve used such a tool in troubleshooting.
Q. Which hardware
troubleshooting tool(s) could you use to find out where a cable is routed?
A. Here’s another question regarding troubleshooting tools. In this case you might want to use a tone generator and tone locator to find out where cables are routed. These tools are alternately known as fox and hound devices. These are more advanced tools that represent a higher skill level. Whenever possible, provide an example of a sticky situation where you’ve had to rely on tools such as these for troubleshooting.
Q. Which Windows NT utility do you use to manage the major Windows NT log files?
A. Typically, the interviewer or someone more technical than the IT manager will ask you detailed operating system–specific questions to assess your knowledge of the various products. Alternately, you may be asked to take an assessment exam like Brainbench.
Q. A user calls you, complaining that he can’t access the corporate intranet web server. You try the same address, and you receive a Host Not Found error. Several minutes later, another user reports the same problem. You can still send e-mail and transfer files to another server. What is the most likely cause of the problem?
A. The interviewer will assess your skills as they relate to all aspects of networking, not just servers. This means you should be prepared to answer questions on web servers as well as local networks. In this case, because other people are experiencing the problem, the problem is most likely either network- or server-related. And because you can transfer files to and from another server, it can’t be the network. Thus, the problem is related to the web server.
Q. You are connecting a cubicle farm to your network. You install NICs in all the workstations and run cables to a workgroup hub. You then connect the MDI port on the workgroup hub to the main hub with a standard patch cable. Upon powering up the cubicle farm computers, none of them can see the servers on the network. What could you replace to solve this problem?
A. Networking devices like hubs, switches, and routers will also be part of the technical interview. It is expected that you can speak fluently on both software and hardware issues.
Q. A user from the marketing department calls complaining that she can’t log in or see any servers on the network. Her computer operates fine otherwise. No other users from the marketing department are reporting any problems. What is the first thing you could check?
A. You should also expect to be assessed on your knowledge of the physical layer of the OSI model.
Q. You are working alone when the following calls come in:
- The CEO can’t access his e-mail.
- Your good friend can’t print.
- A crabby user can’t log in to the network.
- The Internet router goes down.
What would you do in this situation?
A. The interviewer is testing your ability to prioritize very difficult situations. Don’t worry, it’s not a trick question—you just need to apply your prioritization skills. Another critical part of this situation is the proper setting of expectations so the users who don’t end up at the top of the list aren’t upset with you. In providing your answer, don’t forget that you are part of a team. You do have the ability to delegate support to other team members while you handle the most critical task. In this situation, at the top of the list is getting the Internet router back up, because it affects the most number of people. Assisting other people can be delegated to other team members.
Q. You are installing a Windows XP–based TCP/IP network. You accidentally set workstation B to the same IP address as workstation A. Which workstation(s) will receive an error message?
A. This type of question assesses your TCP/IP configuration knowledge. It’s a common problem, but a little tricky based on the configuration mentioned above. The correct answer here is that through broadcasts, both workstations will detect if there is a duplicate IP address on the network and will display error messages to that effect.
Q. Which TCP/IP utility is most often used to test whether an IP host is up and functional?
A. TCP/IP is at the core of just about every network today. You must be familiar with the most often used commands for managing this network environment. This includes Ping, ipconfig, FTP, and tracert. You should also be ready to apply these commands and utilities to various situations, as the next question demonstrates.
Some sample additional questions include:
- Which utility can you use to find the MAC and TCP/IP address of your Windows NT or 2000 workstation?
- Which program can you use to upload and download files to a Unix server?
- Which utility can you use to verify a packet’s path?
Q. You are the network administrator. A user calls you complaining that the performance of the intranet web server is sluggish. When you try to ping the server, it takes several seconds for the server to respond. You suspect the problem is related to a router that is seriously overloaded. Which workstation utility could you use to find out which router is causing this problem?
A. The answer here is the tracert utility, which will tell you which router is having the performance problem and how long it would take to travel between each host. You should be knowledgeable on the application of the most common IP commands for the various operating systems you support. Other questions along this line that you may run into include:
- Which ipconfig switch will display the most complete listing of IP configuration information for that station?
- Which Windows TCP/IP utility could you use to find out whether a server is responding on TCP port 21?
Q. Depending on the Windows client operating system version, which commands can you use to find out what is installed on a system?
A. You may run into operating system–specific questions like this one as you are being interviewed by prospective peers. You should be familiar with the most common commands. Don’t worry about memorizing command syntax. That’s what the /? is for.
Q. Which power condition occurs when the voltage level drops below 120 volts and stays below for an extended period of time?
A. Questions about power conditions don’t rank very high, though they are important. Network support technicians will be faced with many different scenarios. Be familiar with these types of conditions just in case.
Q. You are setting up a workstation for remote access to the office. The office has a modem pool configured, and it is working correctly. The required results are that the workstation and modem bank must establish a connection and that the server at the office must authenticate the workstation. Optionally, the workstation and office must be able to communicate by using a single protocol, and the workstation must be able to access all network devices at the office. The proposed solution is to install a POTS telephone line, modem cable, and modem connected to the workstation. How would you configure the protocols to achieve the desired results?
A. A question like this tests your ability to determine the best protocol solution for a given situation. With so many options available to network engineers, it’s important to understand the benefits and common denominators that will best fit a situation. In this case, TCP/IP would be the best
solution. With TCP/IP installed and configured on the workstation, and TCP/IP with DHCP, as well as IPX, installed and configured on the office server, you have a common protocol for communication.