Mastering the Principal Network Engineer Interview: 27 Common Questions and How to Ace Them

Have you ever thought about how your computer handles wireless, video, and data services? Network engineers build and maintain the computer networks that do all of that. Since computer networks aren’t going anywhere, a network engineer has favorable job prospects. Today’s network engineer brings in an average $90,000+ per year in the US.

Are you interested in becoming a network engineer? Or have you already started looking for a more senior position? We’ve put together this comprehensive list of network engineer interview questions to help you out!.

We’ll cover the most basic questions, along with trickier networking troubleshooting interview questions. Let’s get started!

Landing an interview for a principal network engineer role is a major accomplishment. Because the person is one of the best at network engineering, there is a lot of competition for these positions. To do well in the interview, you need to prepare well, know a lot about the subject, and be able to explain your skills clearly.

This comprehensive guide tackles 27 of the most common and critical questions that come up in principal network engineer interviews We’ll provide tips and examples to help you formulate winning responses. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out, mastering these questions is key to getting hired

Overview of the Principal Network Engineer Role

Before diving into the questions, let’s briefly review the role. Principal network engineers are responsible for the overall planning, design, implementation, and management of an organization’s network infrastructure and systems

Key duties include:

  • Developing network design strategies and architecture.
  • Overseeing complex networking projects.
  • Establishing network specifications by collaborating with stakeholders.
  • Ensuring network operations adhere to best practices, policies, and industry standards.
  • Leading teams of network engineers and IT professionals.
  • Monitoring network performance and troubleshooting issues.
  • Implementing security measures and disaster recovery protocols.
  • Staying updated on emerging technologies and strategic planning.

Strong technical skills, as well as project management, leadership, and communication skills, are needed for this job. Employers want to see these capabilities clearly demonstrated in your interview responses.

1. Tell me about yourself

This common opening question allows you to introduce your background and skills Focus on facts that are relevant to the principal network engineer role.

  • Provide a brief overview of your professional experience and training. Emphasize relevant network engineering projects and accomplishments.

  • Discuss your technical expertise areas such as network design, routing and switching protocols, security, troubleshooting, etc.

  • Mention key skills like project management, leadership, analytical thinking, and problem-solving.

  • Share professional achievements that demonstrate your capabilities, like awards, recognitions, or major projects executed successfully.

  • Conclude with your motivations and passions as they relate to this role.

Example: “I am a network engineering professional with over 12 years of experience designing, implementing, and leading large enterprise networks. My expertise includes routing protocols like OSPF and EIGRP, switching protocols like STP and VTP, and skills in troubleshooting complex network issues. I have led teams of up to 15 network engineers across multiple projects involving network architecture design and migrations. A major accomplishment was leading the network redesign project for XYZ Corp which reduced downtime by 45%. I’m passionate about staying updated on the latest network technologies and mentoring junior engineers. The principal network engineer role strongly matches my experience and interests.”

2. Tell me about your experience as a network engineer

Hiring managers want details about your specific day-to-day responsibilities and accomplishments as a network engineer. Demonstrate a progression to more complex assignments.

  • Discuss your daily tasks such as managing networks, monitoring performance, troubleshooting issues, security, maintenance, etc.

  • Provide examples of network engineering projects you spearheaded and the precise contributions you made. Quantify achievements if possible.

  • Highlight your expertise with networking tools, operating systems, protocols, and hardware you’ve worked on.

  • Share instances where you solved major network outages or optimization issues. Focus on your systematic problem-solving process.

  • Mention any training or mentoring of junior engineers you were responsible for.

Example: “As a network engineer, I was responsible for the round-the-clock operations of enterprise networks supporting over 5,000 users. Daily tasks included monitoring network performance, implementing security controls, managing virtualization platforms, and promptly troubleshooting issues like latency or downtime. I spearheaded the network redesign for our East Coast offices which doubled the bandwidth capacity. I honed my expertise in managing Cisco Nexus switches, ASA firewalls, and Citrix NetScalers. A key achievement was optimizing our virtualization platform by 25% through vSphere configuration changes. I also mentored entry-level engineers on TCP/IP, switching, routing, and firewalls.”

3. Why did you become a network engineer?

This question tests your motivations and passion for the field. Show that you are purpose-driven, not just falling into the role randomly.

  • Share what first sparked your interest in network engineering specifically. Was it an internship, a college course, or perhaps a personal interest in technology? Provide details.

  • Discuss your natural strengths or tendencies that are a good fit for the field like analytical thinking, problem-solving, a methodical approach, perseverance, etc. Provide examples of demonstrating these skills.

  • Explain how you actively pursued network engineering through education, certifications, home labs, and early career roles.

  • Convey your enthusiasm and commitment to ongoing learning in this rapidly evolving field.

Example: “I’ve been fascinated by networks and connectivity since getting my first computer as a child. In college, I pursued IT courses and was incredibly engaged by topics like routing, switching and network design. I realized I excelled at, and enjoyed, analytical thinking and mapping out logical solutions to technical problems. My natural strengths in these areas seemed perfectly aligned with network engineering. I started gaining hands-on experience through internships and secured my CCNA. I’ve been passionate about continually enhancing my skills and am always learning about new technologies through research, training and experimenting in home labs. Becoming a principal network engineer has been a long-term goal that builds on my innate skills and interests.”

4. What do you like best about being a network engineer?

The employer wants to understand what aspects of the work genuinely appeal to you and motivate you.

  • Is it working hands-on with cutting-edge network gear? The constant learning? Overcoming tough troubleshooting challenges? The logical/analytical nature of the work?

  • Provide specific examples of projects or tasks you found gratifying. Quantify results where possible to demonstrate impact.

  • Convey your enthusiasm and passion for the field. Use vivid descriptions of what excited or engaged you.

  • Discuss opportunities the role provided for continuous growth through learning new technologies and techniques.

Example: “What I love most about network engineering is the complex challenges it presents. I’m constantly pushed to expand my technical knowledge and improvise creative solutions. For instance, migrating our legacy network to a next-gen hybrid cloud architecture was incredibly rewarding. I enjoy the process of designing, testing, and implementing new systems from the ground up. I also love seeing tangible results – after optimizing the campus network, speeds improved by 30%, allowing new applications. The field always provides immense opportunities for me to learn new skills and technologies. Network engineering perfectly aligns with my interests in logical problem-solving and working hands-on with cutting-edge network gear.”

5. What do you like least about being a network engineer?

Everyone has aspects of their work they dislike or find frustrating. The interviewer wants to see you can openly communicate these areas rather than provide a generic response.

  • Explain constructive frustrations that show your high standards vs outright dislike for core parts of the job.

  • Perhaps repetitive tasks you automated through scripting or lengthy troubleshooting processes for complex issues.

  • Discuss any steps you’ve taken to improve frustrating aspects where possible. This highlights initiative.

  • Affirm your overall enthusiasm and focus on the positive elements that outweigh the frustrations for you.

Example: “One frustration is occasional long troubleshooting processes for problems like network outages. I’m always striving to improve monitoring and preventative measures to detect issues proactively. I also automated some repetitive daily checks through PowerShell scripts, which boosted efficiency. However, I still get satisfaction from methodically solving tough issues. The rush of restoring connectivity after a long outage outweighs the frustration tenfold. Overall, I’m driven by the constant learning and complex problem-solving. My passion for the meaningful work and rapid innovations in network engineering far overshadows the periodic frustrations.”

6. What is your greatest strength?

This question allows you to highlight your most powerful skill or quality as it applies to the principal network engineer role.

  • Select a strength that directly corresponds to a key requirement of the job like technical expertise, leadership, project management, collaboration, etc.

  • Provide a specific example that demonstrates you applying this strength to achieve results in your network engineering career.

  • Quantify your accomplishments or impact where possible.

  • Explain how this strength will continue to contribute to your future success in this role.

Example: “My greatest strength is my technical troubleshooting skills. I excel at methodically breaking down complex network issues and designing solutions. For example, when our new VoIP system was experiencing severe packet loss, I systematically diagnosed the underlying network latency issues leading to degradation of voice quality. By implementing QoS controls combined with network infrastructure tweaks, I was able to reduce packet loss by 60% and restore optimal VoIP performance. This strength in mastering complex technical challenges would enable me to continue resolving the thorniest network issues as a principal network engineer.”

7. How do you stay updated on the latest networking technologies?

The networking sphere evolves at a lightning pace. Hiring managers want to know that you are dedicated to ongoing

Basic Networking Interview Questions

Looking for an entry-level role? Start with these network support engineer interview questions.

Take your time reviewing these interview questions on networking for freshers. You might consider having a few research tabs open to ease your studies, too.

“Cat 5” and “Cat 6” are the LAN cable types most often used. The speed limits for “Cat 5” and “Cat 6” are 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps, respectively.

A cross table connects same-type devices for interaction without needing a switch or hub.

Standard LAN cables and cross cables are different in how the paired wires are connected to the connector (RJ45).

The length should be 100 meters, but once you get past 80 meters, the signal loss could slow you down.

  • Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP): DHCP gives IP addresses to many PCs on a network, which makes managing IP addresses easier.
  • Scope: A scope is a list of IP addresses that a client can use to talk to other PCs on the network. IP addresses have a gateway IP address, subnet masks, a DNS server IP address, and an exclusion range.
  • Superscope: Superscopres are a combination of two or more scopes.

The Active Directory is a directory service that manages network environments’ identities and connections. It is a collection of processes and services that help users leverage network resources to accomplish their tasks.

Domain Naming Service, or DNS, is used to translate between names and IP addresses. While we can easily recall names, the computer can only understand numbers. Therefore, we give computers and websites names. When we use these names (such as yahoo. com), the computer converts the request to an IP address (a number) via DNS.

  • “A” record: This is a host record that connects a name to an IP address. It gets the IP address of a name from the Domain Name System (DNS) record.
  • “MX” Record: You need MX records, also known as mail exchanger records, to find the network’s mail servers.

The IPCONFIG command displays IP information assigned to a computer. We can determine the computers assigned IP address, DNS IP address, and gateway IP address from the output.

When a DHCP server isn’t available, the Windows client computer gives itself an IP address called an APIPA so it can talk to other computers on the network.

When we install Active Directory, a domain is formed. Its a security barrier that controls computers inside of it. Using a domain, you can centrally manage computers and control them with group policies.

BSOD stands for “Blue Screen of Death. When a hardware or OS problem stops the Windows operating system from working, a blue screen with a code shows up. The best solution is to boot from the “Last Known Good Configuration” on the PC. Boot the machine in safe mode. And if that doesn’t work, it could signify issues with the devices or driver.

RIS stands for Remote Installation Services. Once the installed has been saved to a Windows server, RIS can set up the new hardware. It can be used to deploy server and client operating systems.

Ghosting, which is also called imaging, does the same thing by taking a picture of an installed and then installing it on new hardware. Because installing an OS from a CD every time might be time-consuming, we choose either RISE or imaging/ghosting.

Setting up a new computer and putting in the newest OS and antivirus software is possible. Then, connect the infected HDD to the system as a secondary disc. After that, wipe and scan the backup HDD. Now, you can transfer the files to the new system.

Manageable switches are customizable, configurable, and controllable. Unmanageable switches don’t have any customizable or configurable settings.

NIC stands for “network interface controller.” A network interface controller is a computer part that is also called a “network card” or “network adapter.” An NIC enables computer communication over a computer network.

USB stands for Universal serial bus, which connects devices like modems, mouses, and keyboards.

The connectivity between two devices is something we refer to as a link. It comprises cables and protocols used so two devices can talk to one another.

RAS, which stands for “remote access services,” lets you get to resources that are usually on a network of IT devices from afar.

Extended ACLs are source- and destination-based. Standard ACLs are source-based.

FTP, which stands for “File Transfer Protocol,” is a way for computers on a network to talk to each other and share files. A user can access files on public servers using anonymous FTP.

A backbone network is a centralized infrastructure created to provide several networks with varied routes and data. It also manages channel and bandwidth control.

Forward lookup converts names to IP addresses, while reverse lookup translates IP addresses to names.

Top Network Engineer Interview Questions

Expect a mix of both behavioral and technical networking interview questions. People may ask you about web tools you use every day, like VPN servers, or web tools you’ve used to build computer networks. Similarly, you might have to recount past work experiences where you demonstrated strong communication or liaising experience.

Our list of computer networks interview questions is broken up by level of difficulty to help you find the ones that are most relevant to your background.

Let’s start with basic networking questions.

Network Engineer Interview Questions with Answer Examples


What does a principal network engineer do?

The Principal Network Engineer will support the Enterprise Network to deliver complex projects, which includes design, implementation, change review/implementation, and advanced incident management support.

What is the largest size network you have engineered?

What is the largest size network you have engineered? A: This question allows you to gauge whether the applicant has hands-on experience with networks sized similarly to yours. They don’t necessarily have to be in the same industry or use identical technology to your organization.

What is a network engineer interview question?

This is a technical question that network engineers, even those with entry-level experience, have enough knowledge to answer when prompted in an interview. An employer may ask this question to make sure you’re confident in networking basics before they get into more in-depth questions about your experience and knowledge.

How do I prepare for a network engineer interview?

So, to help you prepare, here are 10 Network Engineer interview questions. 1. What is a network typology? Your answer should include a physical description of a company’s computer network, including where the different systems are located and how they’re connected. 2. What is your experience as a Network Engineer?

What is a principal engineer interview question?

The interviewer is asking this question to assess the principal engineer’s ability to objectively evaluate the performance of their team and provide feedback when necessary. How to Answer: When answering this question, it is important to demonstrate that you understand the importance of evaluation and feedback.

What questions should you ask in a networking interview?

Let’s get started! Expect a mix of both behavioral and technical networking interview questions. You might be asked about common web tools like VPN servers or web tools you’ve worked with to build computer networks. Similarly, you might have to recount past work experiences where you demonstrated strong communication or liaising experience.

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