Active Directory Overview – Interview preparation

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At this point in Dec. 2014, Active Directory has become a huge concept compared to 10 years ago when it was just a part of System Administration but forest, tree concepts were still huge concepts to learn even back then. The fact is now when we have lot of sources available for information, we do have tendency to think-these are relatively easy concepts. Back then we had to pay for getting information and now we get information almost free of cost (considering our internet connection costs).

Coming back to an interview preparation for Active Directory, this usually takes some commitment and this is an overview of how it works in real world. I will be writing this in parts so that this is a helpful session for anyone who is about to attend Active Directory interviews. This list is compiled based on my experience in interviews, what interviewers usually ask and what are they looking for in this area.

Active Directory, in general is a simple topic and very easy to understand but it gets complicated when there are concepts which you have to remember during interviews. I have seen confident people having little idea of certain low level things which an AD professional should know or atleast remember immediately when asked. Before attending an interview, there needs a small planning which I would divide into two parts for each topic: 1) Overview, and 2) In depth

Overview refers to topics which should be answered in short and precise sentences when asked and one should be relatively confident. Example of overview questions are: what is a Group Policy? Or what is Kerberos? One should keep in mind that answers should be nicely prepared with grammatically correct sentences. People have a tendency to explain everything when asked but that is not the right way to do it.

In depth preparation needs the topics and screens on top of your head which is equally important, especially the different interfaces in Active Directory. Examples would be: which screen do you go to set up a Scope? Or how do you make a DC a Global Catalog Server? Even if you would have done it a 100 times in real life, it wouldn’t matter if you can’t answer these questions. Because the interviewer would find you a technician without practical knowledge as he is meeting you the first time.

Now comes the main part- topic. At this time of writing, Active Directory involves lot of things and not limited to FSMO Roles, Trees, Forests, Trusts, Domains, Sites, Replication, etc. In real world, some of these topics are for understanding purposes and we don’t use it specifically to perform any task. I would be taking you through a series of Active Directory interview preparation for each topic so that you can read the article and get atleast a basic preparation of that particular topic.

In general, Active Directory is a database and was created so that people can login and access common resources from a centralized database in an organization. It is based on JET-ESE (Extensible Storage Engine) database which is considered to be more powerful and faster than relational databases as the storage is expandable.

Generally an Active Directory interview consists of many parts. Interviewer initially wants to know how well you know about Active Directory database, installation, where it is stored, FSMO Roles, Global Catalog, Trees, Forests, etc. Then the interview continues with related topics like Group Policy, DNS, Zones, Resource Records, etc. in depth from which interviewer evaluates how good your knowledge and understanding is. The key point here is to learn each topic in depth which requires preparation materials, a time-table and concentration. Hands on knowledge will help you analyze on a case scenario type of question but may not help in theoretical questions like Group policy refresh intervals, infrastructure related questions. My point here is if you know something, it has to be answered with the right definition, otherwise it doesn’t matter how much knowledge you carry.

The presentation and execution of your knowledge has to be put in proper words and sentences. Usually that ends an everlasting first impression from which you can continue the interview on a good positive note.



Iam a Microsoft Certified IT Professional with certifications in Active Directory, Network Infrastructure and Server 2008. Apart from passion for learning new technologies, I speak German and very much interested in sharing my knowledge, whether it is German or Information Technology.

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