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7 essential skills for a network administrator

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Finding a network administrator with a complete skill set can be a bit of a puzzle. That’s because candidates for this role need more than expert technical skills. They need to be able to navigate the maze of network security, troubleshoot software and hardware issues, and be up to date on emerging tech – all while keeping connectivity seamless across platforms.

Getting the right person on board can really push your company forward in today's tech-driven marketplace, supercharging your organization's productivity and security. On the flip side, a poor choice could really set you back.

But don’t sweat it. We’re here to help you put the pieces together. This guide walks you through the essential skills network administrators need, explains why these skills are vital, and offers some pointers on how to recognize these qualities in your candidates. We even include tests for network admins you can use when assessing applicants.

What is a network administrator?

A network administrator is the tech whiz keeping all your digital gears turning. They're the ones making sure your entire network is running smoothly and securely. They do everything from managing network hardware to ensuring user connectivity.

On any given day, a network administrator hunts for ways to make the network faster and more cost-effective. This could mean upgrading to more efficient network hardware, streamlining data traffic, or rolling out advanced security protocols to fend off cyber threats.

They keep a close eye on all network components and how they’re performing, confirming that each is operating efficiently and that potential issues are fixed fast. When it comes to teamwork, the network administrator makes sure all the IT teams are talking to each other – keeping everyone on the same page and working well together.

They also have a big hand in matching up the tech with business goals, making sure network strategies help departments like HR, finance, and operations. This coordination is crucial for keeping the business tech-smart and secure.

Core skills every network administrator must have

Here are seven key skills every ace network administrator needs to have.

Core skills every network administrator must have graphic

Hard skills

Here are the technical skills and know-how your network admin needs to succeed.

  • Network mastery: They’ve got to understand every inch of managing your network infrastructure – from providing daily user support to implementing major network upgrades. This knowledge helps them keep everything running smoothly and troubleshoot when issues pop up.

  • Security savvy: They’re always one step ahead of the hackers. By staying current with the latest firewall updates and antivirus tools, they make sure your network is a no-go zone for cyber threats. They work with security teams to set up strong defenses, run regular checks to catch any security gaps before they become real problems, and make sure the network complies with relevant regulations.

  • System management: Whether configuring network hardware, setting up servers, or managing data backups, they're on top of it all. Their expertise in network configurations and maintenance keeps your network reliable.

  • Technical troubleshooting: With a deep understanding of how your network is built, they can quickly figure out what's wrong and fix it fast. This knack for spotting and solving problems on the fly keeps your downtime low and productivity high.

Soft skills

These soft skills will help your network admin navigate tech and teamwork with a human touch.

  • Communication: They act as the bridge between IT and the rest of the company, translating tech-speak into plain language. This helps everyone – from top management to end-users – understand the IT issues your company is facing and their solutions.

  • Leadership: They aren’t just tech gurus – they're team leaders. They keep the IT team focused and motivated, making sure everyone is up to speed and contributing their share.

  • Strategic planning: They've got long-term vision, planning how the network will evolve to support the company's growth. They plan future strategies for upgrades and network expansion, making sure the network infrastructure not only meets current needs but is also ready for future demands.

How to assess network administrator candidates

Resumes can give you a quick look at a candidate's history, but they only scratch the surface. To really trust someone with your network's reins, you need a deep dive into their skills.

Resumes can also bring unconscious bias into your hiring process. For example, a candidate’s flashy past projects or impressive degree might catch your eye, but these don’t always mean a person is right for the job.

That’s where TestGorilla steps in. With our library of 400+ tests, you can explore each candidate's technical skills, cognitive abilities, and personality traits. This thorough approach helps you make informed, data-driven hiring decisions.

With TestGorilla, mix and match up to five tests to create a single assessment that can help you understand who’s the best fit for your network administrator role. You can even add your own questions to tailor your talent assessment to your specific needs.

Here’s how to evaluate your network administrator candidates.

Skills-tests-to-use-when-hiring-a-network-administrator graphic

First, assess their hard skills

Here are some tests you might consider using to assess your candidates’ technical skills.

  • Our Network Engineering test covers the essentials of network management – like protocols, architecture design, security, and troubleshooting. It’s a great starting point to check for the key hard skills candidates need.

  • The Cloud System Administration test checks candidates’ skills in installing, configuring, and maintaining computer systems. As cloud computing becomes more popular, this test makes sure they can manage your on-premises and cloud systems.

  • Our Wireshark test evaluates candidates’ ability to use Wireshark (a powerful network analysis tool) to capture data, identify threats, and come up with solutions.

  • The Cybersecurity test covers technical knowledge of cybersecurity – like endpoint, network, and web security – to make sure your candidates have the skills to spot and avoid risks to your network infrastructure.

The tests you pick will depend on the specific technical requirements of your role. For example, if your network admin will be heavily involved in cybersecurity, you'll want tests that dive deep into security protocols and threat mitigation techniques. But if the role is more about basic network management, you might use that focus on configuring networks and troubleshooting issues only.

Then, look at their soft skills

  • Our Leadership and People Management test makes sure your candidates can guide and grow their teams with development planning, feedback, and influence.

  • The Communication Skills test checks how well your candidates can communicate in different professional settings using verbal and written skills.

  • Our Critical Thinking test measures candidates’ ability to apply inductive and deductive reasoning to make sound judgments. These analytical skills are huge for network administrators because they often face complex network problems that require quick and effective solutions.

You can also try our personality tests like the Enneagram test, 16 Personalities test, or DISC test to get a better sense of your candidates’ working styles, preferences, and more.

Don’t overlook culture add

Hiring for culture add means finding candidates who bring fresh ideas to your organization and vibe with your company culture. This way, you can put your network in the hands of people who think outside the box when faced with complex challenges and get along with your existing teams.

Give our Culture Add test a go to see how potential hires could positively impact your company culture and help keep your organization vibrant and forward-thinking. With this test, you rate a list of values that are most important to your organization, and your candidates do the same. This way, you can see how your values stack up.

Top it off with interviews

Finish up with interviews designed for network administrator candidates. These conversations should dig into what they’ve actually done, showing how they handle the specific tasks of network management.

Try asking questions like:

  • “Can you describe a situation where you had to ensure network stability during a high-traffic event? How did you manage it and what was the outcome?" This checks their ability to manage the network under stress.

  • “How have you improved network security or efficiency in past roles? What steps did you take and what impact did it have?" This looks at how they think strategically and work to make systems better.

Quick tip: If a candidate doesn't have much direct experience, throw a hypothetical situation at them. Here’s an example: "Imagine you need to quickly increase network capacity due to a sudden spike in demand..." This helps you see how they think on their feet and solve problems.

Check out these 30 network administrator interview questions for more inspiration.

3 common mistakes to avoid when assessing network administrator candidates

Here are some common hiccups to avoid when you’re checking out network administrator candidates.

1. Not giving enough attention to hardware skills

To run a network, admins need a grip on both software and hardware skills. Sure, being a whiz at software configurations, managing updates, and securing networks is vital, but understanding the physical components – like routers, switches, and cables – is just as crucial.

If you zoom in too much on software prowess, you might overlook a candidate’s ability to deal with the nuts-and-bolts hardware tasks.

Make sure your assessments and interview questions tackle both the software and hardware sides. Mix it up with some techy questions, hands-on demos, and real-life problem scenarios that test how candidates handle everything from changing software settings to actually setting up the gear.

2. Focusing only on today’s skills

One common mistake when hiring network admins is not checking if they're up to speed with the latest tech – like AI and machine learning. Networks are getting smarter, and knowing how to work with AI can really help with things like spotting security issues before they blow up.

In your interviews, make sure to ask about their experience with new tech trends. Throw in some questions or scenarios that touch on AI in networking to see how comfortable they are with advanced tech.

3. Overlooking knowledge of regulations

Brian Posey, an author who was once the network admin for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox, once said:

Today’s network administrators must meet various challenges associated with numerous federal regulations such as SOX, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, GLBA, FISMA, DPA and other acronyms which can spell premature hair loss to those charged with implementing them. Administrators who work for organizations within regulated industries are finding that much of their time is spent ensuring that the network is managed in a way that complies with such regulations.

If you skip checking your candidates’ knowledge of regulations, it can spell trouble. Picture this: you hire a network admin who doesn't know about PCI-DSS, the rules for handling credit card data. Them failing to configure firewalls properly or not implementing necessary security patches could lead to data breaches. This mistake could result in huge fines and a serious hit to your company’s reputation.

So, be sure to ask candidates how they’ll make sure – or how they’ve made sure – networks are managed in compliance with regulations.

FAQs

Here are some common questions about the network administrator role.

What are the three main tasks normally performed by a network administrator?

Network admins start by 1) installing and configuring the hardware and software necessary to get a network up and running. Their next task is 2) maintaining the network – which includes adding new machines, securing the network, and managing services. They also play a crucial role in 3) troubleshooting, quickly resolving any issues to ensure the network runs smoothly and efficiently.

What’s the difference between a network admin and a cybersecurity analyst?

A network administrator keeps the network running smoothly. They set it up, handle upgrades, and fix issues – handling basic security measures like setting up firewalls. In contrast, a cybersecurity analyst dives deeper into security. They constantly monitor for threats, patch vulnerabilities, and investigate breaches to keep everything as secure as possible.

Keep your network humming with TestGorilla

A network administrator is the backbone of any company’s network infrastructure, keeping all systems talking to each other and making sure data moves safely. They're crucial for a smooth and secure network – something every digital business needs today.

TestGorilla’s talent assessments can help you pick a network admin who knows their stuff. Our tests – crafted with expert insights and backed by science – evaluate everything from technical skills and problem-solving abilities to personality traits. They can help you find someone who’s not just skilled but also a great fit for your team.

Ready to find your tech wizard? Dive into our library of 400+ tests, book a live demo, or start your free TestGorilla account today.

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