Entry-Level Systems Engineer Interview Questions: Weed Out Unqualified Candidates

A Woman Having a Virtual Interview for an Entry Level Systems Engineer Position

Finding the perfect candidate can be a difficult process. Systems engineers are extremely important for any company developing and maintaining a series of systems. A systems engineer oversees the lifecycle and process of project development, even at an entry-level position. These positions require specific skill-sets and talent. When filing such an important role, there must be a full assessment. Developing entry-level systems engineer interview questions is vital to determine the best candidates and weed out the unqualified ones. 

How to Develop Entry-Level Systems Engineer Interview Questions

During an interview process, there will always be a series of questions to determine the candidates' qualifications. It’s essential to create an overview of the qualifications before drafting the questions. This overview can be determined by speaking with teams about what qualities are lacking in the current lifecycle of project development. These qualities can be presented as the ‘main’ qualifications you are seeking. If the team is lacking in communication, some of the questions should focus on the communication style and skill set of candidates. 

An entry-level system engineer will always need a few similar soft-skill qualifications despite the specific field or industry. These include but are not limited to:

  • Decision Making
  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Patience
  • Organization
  • Evaluation and Prediction Skills

Entry-level system engineers also need a variety of hard skills. These hard skills can be specific to the projects and industries they are working in, but in general, can include but are not limited to:

  • Cloud Base Experience
  • Network Experience
  • Design Experience
  • Hardware and Software Knowledge
  • Operating Systems Knowledge
  • Maintenance and Support Experience
  • Knowledge on Different Tools and Systems

After determining these qualifications you can go down the list to create interview questions. These questions must nurture an answer that is correct and explainable. They should also give the candidate the ability to emphasize their skill sets and talents while highlighting their weaknesses. For example, if you are looking for insight on what type of leadership style the candidate embodies, don’t ask them what their leadership style is verbatim. After all, the candidate may not even know whether they possess an authoritative, participative, laissez-faire, transactional, or transformational leadership style. Asking for an example that can give you insight into their leadership style without defining it. 

With limited time to choose a candidate and fully evaluate them, each question must have a specific purpose. The entry-level systems engineer interview questions must give insight into their hard and soft skills. 

It is just as important to ask questions that have no ‘right’ answer as it is to ask questions that do have correct answers. The no ‘right’ answer questions will help analyze candidates' differences. The questions with correct answers provide a baseline of the candidate's knowledge. 

To weed out unqualified candidates, it’s effective first to ask questions that have concrete, ‘right’ answers. The candidates who answer most of these questions correctly can proceed to the next set (which determines their stylistic differences), while those with the wrong answers can be dismissed. 

The Take-Home Test

Listed below are examples of different entry-level systems engineer interview questions with correct answers.

1. Can you explain how an IP address gets turned into a domain name?

This question is asking the candidate to fully describe the process of the Domain Name System. There is only one correct answer as the DNS has an objective process it follows. 

2. What is the difference between virtualization and containerization? 

This question analyzes the candidate's comprehension of vocabulary and hosting mechanisms.

3. What are the seven steps in performance testing?

This question analyzes the understanding of the performance testing process and what steps are necessary to gather information for a system's performance.

These entry-level systems engineer interview questions can make up a multiple choice test. Place these on a take-home test to optimize time for all parties. A multiple choice test can be run through a grading system easily. You can discern individual candidates for the next round of questioning based on the results.

The Face-To-Face Evaluation

Listed below are examples of questions you can ask in a second interview. This step usually occurs as a face-to-face or video interview. These provide a full evaluation of each candidate's stylistic differences for an entry-level systems engineer.

1. If you were given a project in a cloud-based environment you were not familiar with, how would you navigate the issue?

This question asks the candidate to analyze a situation. It helps analyze the soft skills of decision-making and prioritization. This question also helps determine if the candidate understands what comprises a cloud-based environment and how to navigate one. 

2. If your team had valuable hardware in a high-risk environment or climate, what would be some things you would implement to mitigate risk and setbacks? 

    This analyzes:

  1. Knowledge of different hardware risks
  2. Leadership styles
  3. Knowledge of crafting a disaster recovery plan

3. You are assigned a project that requires a lot of documentation on processes and implementations. What would your method be for creating and maintaining these documents?

This question determines if the candidate has any prior experience in documentation management. It can also prove if the candidate has experience in project management. 

While you ask these questions and listen to the candidates' answers, remember the key qualifications your team requires. Prioritizing qualifications will help you filter candidates and find the perfect fit.

Recruiting Technology and Final Steps

After the take-home test and the face-to-face evaluation, you will eliminate unqualified candidates and slim down the options. At this point, you can take a passive role and allow the candidate to show off their skills in real-time. Usually, a team of employees will be there to evaluate the candidate's skills. While you still have to prepare some questions, most of these will be scenario-based application questions. Take time to analyze the everyday objectives of the position and create application-based scenarios that the candidate can navigate. Some examples include:

  1. Create a document that needs revising for the candidate. Evaluate how they revise the documentation in real-time over a shared screen. 
  2. Give the candidate a project outline and have them create a detailed plan using charts and diagrams. 
  3. Role play as a client needing a specific software/system and have the candidate write out the requirements for the project and assign an estimated timeline. 
    The hardest part of the whole evaluation is implementing software and products to give the candidate the best evaluation possible. As the hiring manager, you should offer different environments for candidates to manipulate. 

For the take-home test, provide a testing environment with integrated functionality to prevent cheating and analyze results. It may also be important to have the ability to record part of the test for short answer questions.  

If you’re doing the face-to-face evaluation virtually, it’s important to implement a conferencing environment. This last step of the interview evaluation with application-based scenarios involves implementing a conference room with controllable functionality. In the examples above, the first scenario will require a shared screen with a document; the second scenario involves an environment with diagramming tools, and the last scenario an environment with notepad functionality. 

Filtered offers an environment for take-home testing that allows candidates to record answers. We also offer a conference environment built for engineers and a fully integrated whiteboard with diagramming tools. With better analytics and entry-level systems engineer interview questions, you can hire the best possible candidate faster than ever.

Filtered is a leader in skills-based, data-driven recruiting technology. Our end-to-end technical hiring platform enables you to spend time reviewing only the most qualified candidates, putting skills and aptitude at the forefront of your decisions. We’ll help you automate hiring while applying objective, data-driven techniques to consistently and confidently select the right candidates. To get started, contact our team today or register for a FREE demo