If you interview for a position in the information technology field, the interviewer will likely assess your knowledge of hardware and networking. To increase your chances of making a positive first impression and getting the job, try practicing answers to common interview questions that prove your technical skills.
In this article, we discuss the STAR interview response technique and eight common hardware and networking interview questions with sample answers to help you prepare your own.
The STAR interview response technique
Try using the STAR interview response technique to convey your knowledge, experience and skills when you answer questions in your IT interview. The acronym stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. In a response structured with the STAR method, the job candidate talks about an experience where they used a particular skill, explaining:
Situation: The context, situation or challenge
Task: Their responsibility, role or task in the situation
Actions: The actions and steps they performed to solve the problem
Result: The result, outcome or effects of those steps
8 hardware and networking interview questions
Besides assessing your knowledge of hardware and networking, the interviewer may ask questions that test your problem-solving skills by asking how would you behave in case of an IT issue at the company. Consider these common hardware and networking interview questions and answers:
What does network mean?
How do you secure a computer network?
What does HTTP mean?
What is bandwidth?
What is an IP address?
How would you recover lost files from a system infected by a virus?
What is ASCII?
What’s the difference between a firewall and an antivirus?
1. What does network mean?
This question tests if you know the basics of the subject to assess if you’re a good candidate for the role. The best answer is specific, accurate and uses the correct technical terms. By using the STAR method, you can also add a relevant example of a situation when you used your knowledge of this subject to show your experience to the interviewer.
Example: “A network consists of multiple computers, tablets or smartphones that communicate with each other. A device is said to be networked with another when it’s able to communicate data to the other device. Two devices can be networked with each other over cable media or wireless media, such as Wi-Fi. Today, there are different kinds of networks, but they fall under two major categories: LAN and WAN. LAN networks are limited to a restricted area, while WAN ones can connect computers in multiple locations.
For example, at my previous company, I set up a Wi-Fi network that allowed connection to not only the desktop computers in the different offices but even laptops, tablets or smartphones. This way, I could give Wi-Fi access to guests, as well as to colleagues who wanted to work from their personal laptop or mobile device.”
2. How do you secure a computer network?
Your answer to this question can show the interviewer whether you’d be able to ensure internet safety at the company. To show that you’re the right fit for this position, use concrete examples of security or privacy issues that you have solved before. Use the STAR technique to explain in a detailed way which steps you took to overcome that challenge.
Example: “There are many simple ways to ensure that a computer network is safe at all times. The first step is installing a firewall, software that blocks unauthorized access to your network. Also, it’s vital to regularly update your antivirus software, since hackers are developing new malware all the time. Another useful tool is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that enhances internet security by making your network available only to devices in your system.
When I was hired at my previous company, I noticed that the corporate Ethernet network was not protected by a firewall. I immediately downloaded a firewall software I knew from a reputable website, and I made sure to install it on all the computers of the network. Also, I instructed my colleagues on how to keep the software updated at all times.”
3. What does HTTP mean?
This question is likely meant to assess your general knowledge of computer networking. Explain what the acronym stands for, but define the term in a specific way. For example, you may talk about the difference between HTTP and HTTPS, and how you used both protocols in your previous position.
Example: “HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. It’s a network protocol used by the internet to fetch and display the web page you’re looking for or to let you skip from one page to the other. However, HTTP protocol is designed in plain text, so any other person in the network could potentially see the data that your browser communicates to the server and vice versa. HTTPS, instead, uses the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which encrypts your data to keep it secure.
At my previous company, I noticed that the corporate website only used the HTTP protocol. I wanted to upgrade it to the HTTPS protocol, to make sure that our client could browse it safely at all times. So I decided, together with my boss, to install an SSL certificate.”
4. What is bandwidth?
Your interviewer may ask this question to test your knowledge of the technical language in the field. To impress them, you can use an accurate definition that includes how bandwidth is measured and the other factors that may affect the speed of an Internet connection. You can also add examples of situations where you improved or optimized bandwidth.
Example: “Bandwidth refers to the maximum transfer rate of data from a network device. It indicates how fast data can be sent over an internet connection, and it’s usually measured in bits per second. The more bandwidth a device has, the faster it will send and receive information. Bandwidth is a key factor in determining the speed of your internet connection, together with latency.
At my previous job, my coworkers always complained about the slowness of the internet connection. Our company’s Wi-Fi connection used the same channel as another nearby company, so I decided to switch channels to increase bandwidth. I also changed the position of the router to an area with a better signal. We immediately noticed improvements in the internet speed.”
5. What is an IP address?
Your interviewer may want you to explain not only what an IP address is, but also the different types in use and the two versions of the protocol. You can emphasize your knowledge of internet security by giving an example of how you used a private IP address in the past.
Example: “An IP address is a unique number that identifies a device connected to the network. Exactly like your home address, it provides information about a specific physical location. There are two versions of the IP protocol: IPv4 and IPv6. IPv6 is replacing IPv4 because it allows trillions of devices to connect to the network, and it has built-in security features. There are private and public IP addresses. The former connects devices in a private home or company network, while the latter allows the devices to connect with other computers and servers all over the world.
6. How would you recover lost files from a system infected by a virus?
This is a practical question to assess your problem-solving skills and your technical knowledge. Answer with the practical steps you’d take to resolve such an issue at the company and add concrete examples of similar situations you solved at your previous job. Using the STAR technique, you can give some background information about the challenge you faced and then explain how you solved the problem.
Example: “This happened once at my previous company. Most computers in the corporate network were infected by malware, so they were running extremely slow and displaying unusual error messages. I first removed all the viruses from the system by running a complete scan with a trustworthy antivirus program. Then, I kept seeing error messages when I tried to boot some of the computers in the network, so I decided to reformat these devices and reinstall the Windows operating system on them.
To recover the lost files, I used hard drive recovery software. I installed it on another computer from outside the network, then I connected the hard drive of the previously infected devices as a slave drive. At this point, the software could recover the missing files.”
7. What is ASCII?
The answer to this question can show your interviewer if you have the technical knowledge necessary to succeed in the open position. Explain in a detailed way what the acronym stands for and any experience you have using it. You can also mention UTF-8 and explain in which situations you would use it instead of ASCII.
Example: “ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It’s a widely used format for text files on computers. The basic ASCII table includes 128 characters, but extended ASCII adds 128 characters, so the total is 256. Its purpose is to ensure that different devices can communicate with each other. Also, it translates the binary language of a computer into human language, so you can read it on the screen.
In the first decade of the new millennium, ASCII was replaced by UTF-8, mainly thanks to some initiatives from Google which wanted the internet to be more international, instead of only displaying Latin characters. Today, HTML encoding uses UTF-8 by default, but at my previous company, I widely used ASCII while programming.”
8. What’s the difference between a firewall and an antivirus?
Since internet security is important to many companies, this question can help your interviewer determine if you’re a good fit for the role. Talk about times when you used both kinds of software at your previous job, using concrete examples of challenges you overcame. Try to show that you have good problem-solving skills when it comes to internet security.
Example: “A firewall works by protecting your network from potentially dangerous data packets. It is available both as software and as hardware already built into most modern routers. An antivirus, instead, detects malware that is already in your system and limits the damage to your computer by deleting or isolating the infected files. To put it briefly, a firewall protects your system from malware infections, while an antivirus removes the malicious software.
When I was hired at my previous company, the first step I took to secure the internet connection was installing both a firewall and an antivirus on all the computers in the network. After that, I ran a complete antivirus scan on all the devices to make sure they weren’t infected by malware.”