Daniel Petri’s MCSE & System Administrator Job Interview Questions – Part 1 – Networking

by Daniel Petri - January 8, 2009

In today's dynamic IT world many people might find themselves in a position where they are now looking to get a new or better job than they had up to that point in time. Getting your foot into the door is hard enough, and for that you need a well-written CV, not to mention the ability to make a good first impression on the potential phone conversation you might get. However, getting the foot in the door is just the first step of actually getting the job. In most cases you should now expect to be interviewed by an experienced IT Professional, perhaps even the same one that you're going to replace, or the one you're going to work under.

Most technical interviews will be related to the job-specific tasks you're supposed to apply for, therefore not all technical interviews are alike. However, applying for a Microsoft-related IT position has some benefits, as most of the information can be found on the Internet (not to mention this website). Needless to say, you should NOT apply for a job you're not qualified to perform, but as we all know, this recommendation is hardly ever followed by people who sometimes falsify their so-called experience and pretend to have knowledge they do not actually have. Here is where the interviewer's role comes into place, and where true knowledge can be placed apart from various wannabes or fakers.

Here is part 1 of Daniel Petri's (long and thorough) MCSE/IT Pro/System Administrator job interview questions sample. Note that this is only a sample of what I might ask a potential candidate, however I think that I've covered most of the basic and non-basic issues. Answering this list in a satisfactory way will give you a pretty good chance to impress your potential interviewer, especially if that person really knows a thing or two about these issues.

This article is in fact targeted at both the interviewer (who needs a pool of valid questions they can ask) and to the candidate (who wants a pool of sample questions they can prepare for). Needless to say, both MUST know what they're talking about. Having an interviewer that knows nothing about the questions they ask should be punishable by law! :)

I did not prepare a passing score chart for my interview questions, as I feel that it is the responsibility of the interviewer to get the "right" feel from the candidate. Passing with a hard coded score of 70% does not qualify you, it's the general feeling I get from asking the questions, looking at the candidate's ability to answer them and the way he or she copes with questions that they cannot answer.

Also, although I consider these questions as a thorough verbal test for the candidate's knowledge, in most cases, when he or she passes this phase, I will also ask them to perform an actual hands-on lab based on my written exercises. I might also include these in a future part of this session.

I have deliberately left out the answers to these questions. I want YOU to research them and take the time to actually learn these topics, if you don't know them already.

Another question that came up from some readers was whether I was not afraid to disclose these questions publicly, as some candidates reading this site will quickly copy the questions and use them to get prepared in advance for the interview. My answer to that is THAT IS EXACTLY THE POINT! I want the candidate to know what they're here for, and the more prepared they are, the better their knowledge is. The "cheating" candidate that will only learn the answers by heart (like "Paper MCSEs" do today) will have no chance of passing my hands-on exam anyway.

Most sub topics start off with relatively easy questions where the candidate is supposed to demonstrate their knowledge on that topic. A few sentences will be enough to show their (lack of) knowledge on the topic.

I know some of these questions might make you feel like I am digging in too deep. Well, although this might be true for some questions, I always proceed with the interview in a dynamic way, which means I will add more questions on a topic or reduce the level of questions based on the candidate's ability to answer previous questions. Much like ADAPTIVE TESTING that was used in some past Microsoft exams. For example, when asking a candidate about DNS he demonstrated very limited knowledge of the basic meaning of the service and what it was used for. There was no point in trying to ask him about Round Robin, knowing that since he did not know what SRV Records were, what was an AD Integrated Zone, what were Zone Transfers and so on, he will probably not know the answers to the more advanced questions. Oh, and in case you wanted to ask – he was not accepted for that specific job…

In part 1 of this article series I will cover Microsoft Networking issues. As always, your comments and feedbacks are more than welcome. Use the "Feedback" form to send them in.  If you're using this interview question sample in your own environment please drop me a line telling me how it works for you. Also, placing a link to my site and giving me credit for my work is expected.

Technical Interview Questions – Networking

  • What is an IP address?
  • What is a subnet mask?
  • What is ARP?
  • What is ARP Cache Poisoning?
  • What is the ANDing process?
  • What is a default gateway? What happens if I don't have one?
  • Can a workstation computer be configured to browse the Internet and yet NOT have a default gateway?
  • What is a subnet?
  • What is APIPA?
  • What is an RFC? Name a few if possible (not necessarily the numbers, just the ideas behind them)
  • What is RFC 1918?
  • What is CIDR?
  • You have the following Network ID: 192.115.103.64/27. What is the IP range for your network?
  • You have the following Network ID: 131.112.0.0. You need at least 500 hosts per network. How many networks can you create? What subnet mask will you use?
  • You need to view at network traffic. What will you use? Name a few tools
  • How do I know the path that a packet takes to the destination?
  • What does the ping 192.168.0.1 -l 1000 -n 100 command do?
  • What is DHCP? What are the benefits and drawbacks of using it?
  • Describe the steps taken by the client and DHCP server in order to obtain an IP address.
  • What is the DHCPNACK and when do I get one? Name 2 scenarios.
  • What ports are used by DHCP and the DHCP clients?
  • Describe the process of installing a DHCP server in an AD infrastructure.
  • What is DHCPINFORM?
  • Describe the integration between DHCP and DNS.
  • What options in DHCP do you regularly use for an MS network?
  • What are User Classes and Vendor Classes in DHCP?
  • How do I configure a client machine to use a specific User Class?
  • What is the BOOTP protocol used for, where might you find it in Windows network infrastructure?
  • DNS zones – describe the differences between the 4 types.
  • DNS record types – describe the most important ones.
  • Describe the process of working with an external domain name
  • Describe the importance of DNS to AD.
  • Describe a few methods of finding an MX record for a remote domain on the Internet.
  • What does "Disable Recursion" in DNS mean?
  • What could cause the Forwarders and Root Hints to be grayed out?
  • What is a "Single Label domain name" and what sort of issues can it cause?
  • What is the "in-addr.arpa" zone used for?
  • What are the requirements from DNS to support AD?
  • How do you manually create SRV records in DNS?
  • Name 3 benefits of using AD-integrated zones.
  • What are the benefits of using Windows 2003 DNS when using AD-integrated zones?
  • You installed a new AD domain and the new (and first) DC has not registered its SRV records in DNS. Name a few possible causes.
  • What are the benefits and scenarios of using Stub zones?
  • What are the benefits and scenarios of using Conditional Forwarding?
  • What are the differences between Windows Clustering, Network Load Balancing and Round Robin, and scenarios for each use?
  • How do I work with the Host name cache on a client computer?
  • How do I clear the DNS cache on the DNS server?
  • What is the 224.0.1.24 address used for?
  • What is WINS and when do we use it?
  • Can you have a Microsoft-based network without any WINS server on it? What are the "considerations" regarding not using WINS?
  • Describe the differences between WINS push and pull replications.
  • What is the difference between tombstoning a WINS record and simply deleting it?
  • Name the NetBIOS names you might expect from a Windows 2003 DC that is registered in WINS.
  • Describe the role of the routing table on a host and on a router.
  • What are routing protocols? Why do we need them? Name a few.
  • What are router interfaces? What types can they be?
  • In Windows 2003 routing, what are the interface filters?
  • What is NAT?
  • What is the real difference between NAT and PAT?
  • How do you configure NAT on Windows 2003?
  • How do you allow inbound traffic for specific hosts on Windows 2003 NAT?
  • What is VPN? What types of VPN does Windows 2000 and beyond work with natively?
  • What is IAS? In what scenarios do we use it?
  • What's the difference between Mixed mode and Native mode in AD when dealing with RRAS?
  • What is the "RAS and IAS" group in AD?
  • What are Conditions and Profile in RRAS Policies?
  • What types or authentication can a Windows 2003 based RRAS work with?
  • How does SSL work?
  • How does IPSec work?
  • How do I deploy IPSec for a large number of computers?
  • What types of authentication can IPSec use?
  • What is PFS (Perfect Forward Secrecy) in IPSec?
  • How do I monitor IPSec?
  • Looking at IPSec-encrypted traffic with a sniffer. What packet types do I see?
  • What can you do with NETSH?
  • How do I look at the open ports on my machine?

The next article in this series will cover Active Directory questions!

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