Tips for a Successful Cybersecurity Interview

Tips for a Successful Cybersecurity Interview was originally published on Vault.

For many companies, cybersecurity has become a top priority. The industry is expected to grow by over 40% in the next five years, which means there will be plenty of available job opportunities. Of course, this also means that the competition will get pretty intense, so it’s important to break away from the pack and distinguish yourself as an ideal candidate. A great way to do this is to learn how to interview like a dynamo, which just so happens to be our topic of the day. Let’s get started.

Research the Company

When you’re gearing up for any job interview, it’s important to conduct some serious research into the company you’re interviewing for. This will show the interviewer that you’re thoughtful and thorough, and this display of genuine interest might just be what sets you apart from the other candidates.

Start by checking out the company’s website. Here, you should be able to find information about the company’s leadership team, core values, and any DE&I initiatives or charitable endeavors. If the company has won any awards, take note of it. Learn as much as you can about the company’s products and offerings, as well as other details such as the number of employees and how the company markets itself. Another great place to look for information is on a company’s social media pages. Here, you might be able to gain further insight into a company’s culture or learn about recent events and activities.

This might seem a little stalker-y, but you could also take a practice run to a company’s office or facility. This will help you to plan your route and avoid any issues related to parking, ensuring that you’ve got plenty of time to make it to your interview.

Be Familiar with Your Experience

When preparing for your interview, take the time to learn your resume inside and out. A great way to get comfortable with talking about your experience is by holding practice interviews with a friend or a family member. Take this a step further by asking your practice partner to review your resume and come up with their own questions, this way you can’t as easily anticipate what your answers should be. After enough practice, answering any questions about your resume and experience should feel like second nature.

It’s also worth mentioning that unpaid work is still work. If you’ve got unpaid work experience, don’t be afraid to include it on your resume or talk about it during your interview. In this line of work, it’s entirely possible to take some unpaid jobs as you make your way towards your first “real” job, but always remember—experience is experience, and if an unpaid job you’ve had demonstrates skills that are relevant to the job you’re interviewing for, flex it for all its worth.

Common Interview Questions

Now that you’ve got a willing practice partner, research some common cybersecurity interview questions and throw them into the mix. Getting used to answering such questions is key for the interview process, as it reduces the potential for “dead air” between yourself and the interviewer, or repeated instances of unfavorable interjections such as “uh” or “um.” If you’re quick on your feet, it will greatly increase your chances at landing the job, and the interviewer will be quite impressed!

To help get you started, here’s a series of common cybersecurity interview questions:

  • What are some common methods of authentication?
  • What is regulatory compliance?
  • What are the common signs of a compromised system?
  • How would you identify a security threat?
  • What steps would you take to protect a vulnerable system?

Along with these and other industry-specific questions, your interviewer might ask you why you’re leaving your current job, or what excites you the most about the prospect of working at their company. Even if you’re in the process of escaping a bad situation, it’s best to avoid speaking badly about your current employer or any previous employers. Instead, provide a simple answer such as “I’m looking for a new challenge.” If you’ve done your research into the company, you should have no trouble explaining why you’re interested in the job you’re interviewing for.

Tangible Examples

It goes without saying that your resume should include plenty of examples of your work, but a portfolio takes this even further by giving potential employers a real look at what you’re capable of. Let’s say that you’ve developed software that detects or blocks unauthorized RFID (radio frequency identification) scanning, or you’ve built your own encryption software. Here, you can bring along your trusty laptop or mobile device and show the interviewer your work. These tangible examples serve as proof of your skills in action, and are a great companion to your resume.

When building a well-rounded project to include in your portfolio, document all your work. From the problem at hand all the way to the implemented security method and its results, you’ll want to provide the interviewer with a step-by-step guide to your process, this way you can demonstrate your skills in programming and cryptography, along with your ability to perform penetration tests and identify cybersecurity threats, among other relevant skills.

Be Conversational

You don’t want to come off as wooden or over-rehearsed. In any interview, it’s best to stay relaxed and speak naturally. With plenty of practice, you should feel pretty comfortable speaking about yourself, your education, and your work history and projects. If you get blindsided by a particular question, a good tactic is to repeat the question out loud to give the impression of careful consideration. This will give you a bit more time to think about your answer, but do your best to not rely upon this tactic too frequently.

Lastly, get plenty of rest the night before your interview. They say “dress for the job you want,” and that certainly applies here, but avoid any clothing that is outrageous or otherwise distracting. With some practice under your belt, you’ll be well-prepared and ready to answer any questions the interviewer might have. Speak slowly and clearly, and smile—you’ll exude all the confidence and poise of a true professional.