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Amy Arnold
Amy Arnold
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Why I Won't Hire You: 3 Interview Mistakes Network Engineers Make

Here's advice on what not to do during an interview, from an engineer who has been on both sides of the interview table.

Interviewing has never been a problem for me. In fact, I’ve gotten nearly every IT job I’ve ever applied for, even at the beginning of my career when my skills were green and guts were a large portion of what I had to rely on.

After interviewing many candidates for IT positions over the years, however, it’s clear to me that many engineering professionals' interviewing aptitude is less than stellar. I’d compare the interviewing skills of many of these candidates to the sucking power of a black hole as opposed to the rising star they would like to be seen as.

Here are three interview mistakes I've seen network engineers commonly make:

1. Failure to make eye contact. Yes, I know you are likely an introvert with substandard communication skills. This does not come as a surprise. If you were a person who loved the spotlight and thrived off interaction with people, you probably wouldn’t be interested in my slightly less glamorous network engineering role.

However, direct eye contact tells me you have the emotional maturity to overcome your hermit tendencies when required. The interviewer needs to know you can handle yourself even outside your comfort zone, and you only have one opportunity to prove it. So stop looking down at your papers, up at the ceiling, or over all the walls. Shake off the social awkwardness and look your interviewer in the eyes if you want to get the job.

2. Faking your skill set. This one will earn you major penalty points, so just don’t do it. If it’s on your application and you don’t know it, you are wasting the interviewer’s time and earning his/her resentment. Claiming skills you don’t have calls into question your integrity, and for that alone I wouldn’t hire you.

Does this mean you can’t try for a job you don’t have the strongest skill set in? Absolutely not; just be honest about it. Be ready to make a case for your learning aptitude and present the experience you do have. Will you get the job without the BS? Maybe not. But some chance is better than no chance if you compromise your integrity.

[Learn two key steps that can help make the difference between a short, unhappy stint and a long, successful career in networking in "Advice To New Network Engineers."]

3. Talking too much. I am often surprised at how often I encounter this one, but if you are a chatty pants, you need to learn when to zip it. Yes, as an interviewer, I want more than yes or no answers from you, the candidate. However, I am definitely not looking for a dissertation on your philosophy of life, nor am I particularly interested in a recollection of every moment you deemed significant since birth.

Give the interviewer a two- to three-minute response to a question. See if he/she prompts you to continue. If not, consider your answer sufficient and let the process move along. Being unaware of your own prattling tells me that you have no idea of your impact on others and that’s just not IT team material.

In addition to avoiding the mistakes listed above, here's something else to keep in mind in order to improve your odds of winning the job: IT managers are looking for quality thinkers. While you need to bring technical skills to the table, showing that you are an organized problem solver gives you the edge. Every answer you give in an interview should reinforce that quality. If you do that, you’ll find you get many more offers than rejections.

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Rob Parten
Rob Parten,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/20/2013 | 2:06:55 PM
re: Why I Won't Hire You: 3 Interview Mistakes Network Engineers Make
For #1. I agree no eye contact is a bad thing; however, most people haven't had the ability to overcome their lack of social skills because, let's just be honest here, we're not the social butterflies of the world and passing judgement onto another because they cannot do this is wrong. A lot of people are extroverts; however, they're shy and reserved at first. I love to be social and talk to people; however, I have a difficult time interacting with older people. Finally, it can be a cultural "thing" for some, especially me. I grew up with a group of people you wouldn't feel comfortable with, in fact, most of people in IT wouldn't be comfortable with but that is a fact of life. Be considerate of who you're hiring and for what purpose. I wouldn't necessarily dismiss this type of person in a customer facing role as they me be submissive people who will always please to avoid confrontation; however, don't expect them to hang out for beers afterwards. Why not look at this opportunity, if you're a social butterfly, to help this turtle come out of his shell.

For #2. O...M...G, I must have to agree! There were some interviews I came out and could only feel terrible for the poor company who does decide to hire this guy. I say resumes that listed every known protocol to man and those resumes were always red flags and I was right, each and every one of them were less than stellar candidates to downright horrible. You also forgot to mention the "Paper CCNA/NP/IE", I interviewed a CCNP who didn't understand HSRP nad VRRP and couldn't explain the basics of 802.1x. On the flip, I met a CCIE who didn't understand the concept of "rolling" the fiber cable if the link isn't up from a patch panel. I always told recruiters "I am looking for a network engineer, not a Cisco engineer", BIG difference.

For #3. I enjoy a good conversation but I admit some can get chatty. There is good conversation and babble, you have to know the difference.
User Rank: Apprentice
12/18/2013 | 3:21:56 PM
re: Why I Won't Hire You: 3 Interview Mistakes Network Engineers Make
I'm struggling with you're #2 right now. Finding many candidates will embellish greatly- if they were exposed to C++ (or dozens of other examples) in college a decade ago, they list it as a skill despite having done nothing with it since. Becomes such a time waster when an interview is set up based on gross overstating of capabilities.
Marcia Savage
Marcia Savage,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/16/2013 | 10:52:19 PM
re: Why I Won't Hire You: 3 Interview Mistakes Network Engineers Make
Thanks for the great advice Amy. Do readers see any other common mistakes networking pros make in the interview process?
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