How to prepare for a cybersecurity interview

How to prepare for a cybersecurity interview

Just because there is a significant lack of cybersecurity professionals in the workplace currently, doesn’t mean you will automatically be offered every cybersecurity job you apply for, despite having the requisite hard skill set.

Yes, cybersecurity professionals are in high demand, but more importantly than that, cybersecurity professionals with the right skill sets, both soft and hard, are what the industry is crying out for.

You see it’s not just enough to be able to talk the cybersecurity talk, you have to be able to walk the walk too.

By which we mean:

  • You have to be a good cultural fit for the company.
  • You have to be a team player.
  • You will more than likely have to be flexible, adaptable, reactive and proactive.
  • You have to have the creativity to help grow the business.

Being competent at cybersecurity is only the tip of the iceberg.

You have to demonstrate, during your cybersecurity interview, that you have the rest of the package that they’re looking for too.

Why it’s crucial you should prepare for a cybersecurity interview

Hiring managers aren’t just looking to get bums on seats, they’re tasked with finding the perfect cybersecurity professional who will also be the right fit for the company. Someone who can not only perform well in the job they’re hired to do, but who will bring with them a whole lot more to the table.

And unfortunately this means there is no shortcut to nailing your interview. If you want to be hired, you have to demonstrate why you’re the best cybersecurity candidate for the job.

How do you do that? Preparation.

What to expect from a cybersecurity interview

Expect to be asked questions about:

  • Yourself.

Shine a light on your soft skills, these are just as important as your hard skills. Hard skills can after all be taught; being a team player or being able to think outside of the box, for example, are far harder to learn.

And even more importantly, you have to be able to communicate effectively. You could be at the top of your game, the best cybersecurity professional for 50 years, but if you can’t articulate yourself or play well with others, you won’t get the job.

  • Your qualifications.

Are you qualified for the job?  

  • Your understanding of the company.

Do your homework and show willing – don’t embarrass yourself by asking (at the start of the interview) what the company does.

You’re here because you want to work for them; how unmotivated are you going to come across if you don’t know who they are? At the very least know what the company is doing with regards compliance or information security, and visualise how you would fit into that.

Also look on their website and get a feel for their language and use it during the interview. The more you look like a cultural fit, the more you will appeal to them.

  • Your understanding about the role you’re interviewing for.

You want to align yourself with the ‘ideal’ candidate that the interviewers have in their head. The more boxes you can tick to show you are capable of carrying out the role effectively, is going to work in your favour.

You don’t need to be competent at everything the job description asks for, it is humbling to be able to point out your weaknesses after all. In fact most of the time the job description from the job advert will be a wish list, rather than a must have list.

  • Your motivations to join their team.

Your interviewers are looking to understand you better, so let them know what it is about them in particular that appeals to you, and what it is that has made you want to work alongside them.

And more specifically, they’ll want to know why you’re leaving your current job. So make sure you have a good answer figured out, particularly if the reason is not a nice one.

You don’t want to air your dirty laundry in public, that is never a good look.

  • That assess your cybersecurity technical skills.

Show you have the skills and passion to develop your existing cybersecurity skills. Talk about the cybersecurity blogs you read or the cybersecurity industry news publications you keep up to date with.

Expect to answer technical questions as well as solving technical challenges to prove your skills.

  • Your problem solving skills.

A typical day in the life of a cybersecurity professional is never routine. You will be required to think on your feet, to be reactive as well as proactive and to nip problems in the bud before they escalate.

Sometimes recruiters will want to see your problem solving skills in action.

  • Your understanding of the cybersecurity industry as a whole.

How clued up are you on the broader industry, latest trends, latest industry news etc?

Are you someone who is passionate about the job and is seeking a career in it, or are you just using it as a stepping stone to get somewhere else?  

The interviewers are trying to determine not just your capabilities, and to be fair, they’ll have a good idea about those anyway from the CV that you submitted originally, the CV that won you this interview; but recruiters won’t hire based on a CV alone, they need to assess your cultural fit too.

How long is a cybersecurity interview

There is no hard and fast rule to this, how long is a piece of string?

A cybersecurity interview will take how long it takes. But as a very general rule of thumb, a face to face interview typically lasts anywhere from between 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Some recruiters have said they know within the first minute if they want to hire someone or not.

20 common questions you could be asked during a cybersecurity interview

  1. Why are you looking for a new role?
  2. What are your strengths and weaknesses as an employee?
  3. What would your current boss say are your strengths and weaknesses as an employee?
  4. What is the difference between HTTPS, SSL and TLS?
  5. Explain the difference between a threat, vulnerability and risk.
  6. How do you strengthen user authentication?
  7. What is a traceroute?
  8. What’s the difference between IPS and IDS systems?
  9. What is a XSS attack?
  10. How do you prevent a XSS attack?
  11. What is the difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption?
  12. What is encryption and why is it important?
  13. How do you set up a firewall?
  14. How do you prevent identity theft?
  15. How will you secure our server?
  16. What is a DDoS attack?
  17. What is the difference between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing?
  18. What are some common cyber attacks?
  19. How will you prevent data leakage?
  20. What do you see are our weakest areas?

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