Cisco Interview Questions: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Cisco Interview Process

Cisco Systems, a global leader in networking and cybersecurity solutions, operates in the competitive tech industry where innovation is key. Prospective software engineers should highlight their ability to enhance network technologies and their familiarity with cybersecurity. Impressively, Cisco often utilizes collaborative platforms like Webex for remote interviewing, expecting candidates to demonstrate how they can seamlessly integrate with Cisco’s forward-thinking, digital-first approach.

At Cisco, the interview process begins with an initial resume screening, where recruiters assess the applicant’s skills and experience relative to the job opening. This step is usually followed by an Online Assessment (OA), which tests coding skills and logical reasoning.

After successful completion of the OA, candidates usually face one or two phone screens. These sessions focus on technical questions, potentially some cultural fit questions, and are followed by an onsite round. The onsite typically consists of multiple interviews that cover coding, system design, and sometimes a review of past projects or experiences. Overall, the difficulty level is considered to be challenging but fair, aiming to identify candidates who are both technically proficient and a good match for Cisco's culture.

Initial Screen

Cisco initially screens resumes focusing on relevant experience and technical skills. Additionally, candidates might undergo one or more online assessments evaluating coding proficiency and problem-solving ability.

After passing the resume check, applicants typically face a preliminary screening call. This involves basic technical questions and discussions about past projects and experiences, used to gauge fit and communication skills.

Phone Screen

At Cisco, the interview process typically begins with one or two phone screens. These initial calls focus on assessing your technical knowledge and problem-solving skills through coding questions and discussions about your past projects and experiences.

The phone screen(s) not only gauge your technical acumen but also test your communication skills and fit for Cisco's collaborative culture. It’s a crucial step to advance to the more in-depth onsite technical interviews.

Onsite Rounds

At Cisco, onsite interviews typically include four to five rounds focusing on a mix of behavioral questions, system design, and live coding challenges. The day is structured to assess both technical prowess and cultural fit within the team.

Each session during the onsite visit is meticulously planned. Candidates will face one or two behavioral interviews, one system design interview, and two coding interviews, often with a focus on real-world programming scenarios and problem-solving skills.

Final Rounds, Negotiation, Offer

After the interview rounds at Cisco, candidates may undergo team matching to ensure a good fit with specific project needs. This is followed by offer negotiations before finalizing employment details. Meetings with executives are uncommon.

Cisco Technical Interview Questions and Patterns

Cisco's interview is very similar to the typical coding interview but has a slight tendency to shift towards easier and classical Dynamic Programming, Two Pointers, and Backtracking, and not so much in Graph Theory and BFS/DFS traversals. At Cisco, the coding interview challenges generally linger around a medium difficulty, not quite on the level of other tech giants at FAANG.

Sample Classical Behavioral Questions and Answers

Describe a time when you had to work with a team to overcome a major obstacle in a project.

  • Highlight teamwork and problem-solving skills. Discuss the context, your specific role, how the team functioned, the obstacles, and the outcomes. Show communication and collaboration, possibly how feedback was incorporated, and lessons learned. Focus on the resolution and the impact of the outcome.

Tell me about a project where you utilized new technology to solve an old problem.

  • Emphasize your adaptability and innovation. Provide specifics about the technology used, challenges faced, and why it was chosen over traditional methods. Outline the implementation process and the consequent benefits. Demonstrating continuous learning and improvement is key here, along with the successful integration of the new system or technology.

Can you give an example of how you handled a tight deadline?

  • Stress on time management and prioritization skills. Explain the situation, the scope of the project, the deadline, and specific actions you took to meet the deadline. It's beneficial to mention any strategies used to ensure quality was maintained despite the rush, and reflect on any support from or coordination with others.

Sample Teamwork Behavioral Questions and Answers

Describe a time when you had to collaborate with a team to complete a project under a tight deadline.

  • Demonstrate your ability to prioritize, communicate effectively, and leverage team strengths under pressure. Mention specific strategies you used to ensure collaborative success and project delivery.

Can you provide an example of a time when you disagreed with a team member on a project? How did you handle the situation?

  • Highlight your conflict resolution skills and ability to engage in constructive dialogue. Explain how you considered the other person's perspective, found common ground, or reached a compromise that benefited the project.

Cisco is renowned for its culture of innovation. Tell us about a time when you contributed to a team that was tasked with creating an innovative solution.

  • Focus on your creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Discuss your role in the brainstorming process, how you encouraged innovative ideas, and the outcome of the team’s efforts.

Sample Role Specifc Behavioral Questions and Answers

Can you describe a situation where you had to integrate multiple technologies to complete a project, similar to how Cisco operates with varied technologies in the networking sector?

  • Discuss a specific project where integration was key. Highlight your role, the technologies involved, the challenges faced, and the outcome. Emphasize teamwork, innovation, and problem-solving capabilities.

Tell me about a time you identified a significant problem in your codebase; how did you address it?

  • Provide a clear example of the problem identification process and your fix. Stress the importance of attention to detail, your analytical approach, and how your solution improved the software's functionality or efficiency.

Cisco values community involvement and often encourages employees to contribute to open-source projects. Have you ever contributed to any open-source project, and what was your experience?

  • Share details about your contribution to an open-source project. Explain your motivation, the nature of your contribution, the skills you utilized, and the impact your work had on the project.