Finding a suitable systems engineer for your project can be difficult. Not only do you have to sort through stacks of resumes, but you must also interview shortlisted applicants. As a result, the hiring and interview process can be time and energy-consuming, especially if you have limited resources.
Fortunately, you can reduce your time-to-hire by preparing the interviewer with thoughtful questions highlighting ideal candidates for all experience levels. These questions reveal applicants' technical background and skills, personality, soft skills, and other traits to ensure you hire top-tier systems engineers.
Read on for some of the best systems engineer interview questions and answers for entry-, mid-, and senior-level systems engineers. Then, learn how Revelo can help you source systems engineering talent, line up interviews, and evaluate and streamline hiring.
What Is a Systems Engineer?
A systems engineer creates, designs, and implements complex systems to solve and troubleshoot problems. Depending on the job or industry, systems may include processes, people, products, or information.
Systems engineers typically have a bachelor's degree in software engineering or computer science. They should also have knowledge and experience with:
- Networks, including TCP/IP
- Performance tuning of new applications and application stacks, such as NGINX, Tomcat, and Apache
- Experience with virtualization and containerization using tools such as VMware or Virtualbox
- Cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Systems engineers work in various industries, including transportation, healthcare, software development, and manufacturing. Duties vary depending on the employer, but most systems engineers will need to:
- Test and evaluate products and systems, including deploying a new system and troubleshooting existing systems
- Develop system security standards
- Manage data backup and develop a disaster recovery plan
- Supervise a project's events
- Implement and maintain information technology (IT) systems so they comply with the company's Standards Operating Procedure (SOP) or guidelines
- Oversee the development of customized hardware and software requirements
- Supervise and maintain inventory
- Ensure prompt responses to technical and non-technical issues
- Automate tasks for production environments
- Communicate complex systems operations to stakeholders or team leads
Entry-Level Systems Engineer Interview Questions
Entry-level systems engineers are often fresh university or boot camp graduates. They have more generalized and foundational skill sets and often focus on testing, data backup, and recovery, working with the IT team to ensure prompt responses to technical issues.
When preparing interview questions for junior systems engineers, you must assess their understanding of core systems engineering concepts. Here are some sample entry-level systems engineer interview questions and example answers to get you started.
What automation software and tools are you familiar with?
Entry-level systems engineers use various software to create, test, and deploy network infrastructure and systems. Examples of systems engineering automation tools include:
- Katalon Studio
Ask this question to determine whether they would be comfortable with your company's tech stack. If a candidate is unfamiliar with your preferred tech stack, consider moving on to another applicant.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing?
An entry-level systems engineer should be familiar with the pros and cons of cloud computing.
A good answer should mention various benefits, such as lower infrastructure costs, disaster recovery, scalability, security, and the ability to access data from anywhere. It should also list several cons, such as difficulty migrating and limited control over the service. Strong candidates should demonstrate a thorough understanding of cloud computing.
What tests do you use to keep systems running smoothly?
Entry-level systems engineers should be familiar with basic system application tests. Otherwise, they can't test systems and software. A robust answer should mention at least several of the following tests:
- Unit tests are low-level tests that test individual functions and methods of a software's components, classes, or modules.
- Integration tests confirm that services and modules used by a software work well together.
- Acceptance tests verify whether a system satisfies business requirements.
- Smoke tests check an app's basic functionality.
- Static code analysis is a type of debugging. It can be done without executing a program.
Solid answers should reveal candidates' troubleshooting skills, ability to resolve unexpected system errors, and problem-solving skills.
Mid-Level Systems Engineer Interview Questions
Mid-level systems engineers have four to six years of relevant working experience. As such, they have a deeper understanding of systems than their entry-level colleagues. They are also responsible for conducting thorough reviews of system engineering products, coordinating with clients and teams, developing and managing schedules, mentoring junior engineers, and creating requirements and enterprise architecture.
Mid-level systems engineer interview questions should evaluate applicants' advanced understanding of technical information and leadership skills. Below are sample interview questions to determine whether a prospective hire suits your team.
Describe a time you had to resolve a conflict between two technology teams.
Mid-level systems engineering projects often involve several tech teams. Sometimes, disagreements can arise between tech teams that require high-level persuasion and conflict-resolution skills.
This question assesses a prospective hire's oral and written communication, leadership, negotiating, and persuasion skills. It can also reveal applicants' previous experience resolving disputes between individuals, teams, and departments.
How would you explain complex system operations non-technically to a stakeholder or staff member with little expertise?
Mid-level systems engineers are often required to explain systems engineering concepts to people outside their field.
A strong answer should showcase the candidate's strong grasp of technical information, ability to simplify complex ideas, analysis/communication methods, and presentation skills. For example, a candidate may mention using a chart, graph, or infographic to explain the main technical functions and features of a systems engineering project. They may also use flow charts and network/system diagrams.
What virtualization software are you familiar with?
Mid-level systems engineers should be familiar with virtualization software. Also known as virtual machine (VM) software, virtualization software allows teams to create and run different operating systems on a laptop or desktop.
Ideally, the best hire for your team should be familiar with your company's preferred virtualization software. Popular virtualization software includes:
- Microsoft Hyper-V
- Red Hat Virtualization
- Oracle VM
- Citrix Hypervisor
Senior-Level Systems Engineer Interview Questions
Senior-level systems engineers have over six years of professional experience. They have ample experience in programming languages, spotting and fixing system errors, backing up data, creating documentation, and leading skilled teams. They can also develop advanced solutions for stakeholders' needs and solve complex issues.
When interviewing senior-level professionals for your team, you should ask questions that examine their familiarity with advanced systems engineering concepts. Below are some questions to ask, along with example answers.
How do you create documentation?
Senior-level systems engineers often work with project managers to create documentation. Ask this question to assess candidates' familiarity with documentation creation techniques and documentation tools.
A strong candidate should mention the following steps for creating documentation:
- Pick a suitable documentation format. This could be tables, text documents, videos, or interactive dashboards, depending on the documentation's purpose, scope, and audience.
- Follow the documentation plan. Senior-level systems engineers must follow the company's documentation plan, which defines the system documentation's scope, goals, structure, content, format, schedule, and style.
- Use appropriate standards and templates for the system engineering methodology, domain, and organization.
- Create documentation while engaging in system engineering activities. Creating documentation as one goes reduces the cost of documentation revision and maintenance and reduces the risk of losing important insights or details.
What is a class's memory consumption?
This question tests senior-level applicants' programming and systems knowledge. The ideal answer should state that classes have no memory consumption because they are blueprints for object creation. This is basic knowledge for senior-level systems engineers.
What is a struct in C?
This question tests applicants' programming abilities.
A good answer should mention that a struct is a collection of variables under a single name in the C programming language. Unlike arrays, structs can contain various data types, including float, int, and char data. Developers and engineers can create a struct using the "struct" keyword and declaring the members inside curly braces. To access the structure, they must create a variable of it. They can do this by using "struct" inside main(), followed by the names of the structure and the structure variable.
Hire Systems Engineers With Revelo
Sourcing, vetting, and hiring highly qualified system engineers can be an uphill battle for companies with limited resources and expertise.
However, Revelo can help. As Latin America's premier tech talent marketplace, we provide access to time-zone-aligned systems engineers rigorously tested for soft skills, technical skills, and English proficiency. We can also support you throughout the hiring process by managing payrolls, taxes, benefits administration, and compliance adherence.
Interested in seeing how Revelo can help? Contact us to start hiring systems engineers for your dev team today.