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Questions You'll Often Be Asked at a Cybersecurity Job Interview

Questions You'll Often Be Asked at a Cybersecurity Job Interview
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By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, InCyberDefense

When you’re called for a phone or in-person interview about a cybersecurity job, you’ll commonly face two types of questions. One set of questions allows the interviewer to assess how well you know yourself and if you’re a cultural fit for the company. Your interviewer may also ask questions to gauge your technical skills and knowledge of cybersecurity.

To ensure a more successful interview, it is wise to practice for both types of questions. By doing well at the interview, you are more likely to impress your potential employer and be a memorable candidate.

Standard Questions Help Your Interviewer to Understand You

Most companies have standard interview questions they ask all job candidates as a way of getting to know them. These questions might include:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What do you know about our organization?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Why do you want to leave your current company?
  • Where do you want to be five years from now?

When you answer these questions, be sure that your replies are both concise and informative. Avoid generic answers and clichés, such as “I’m a people person,” and explain why you’re attracted to that particular company. Check the company website beforehand to get some information and try to incorporate it in your answers.

Cybersecurity Job Interview Questions

Depending upon the type of organization and cybersecurity position for which you’re interviewing — entry level or managerial, for instance — the questions will differ. For example, interviewing for a government cybersecurity job is different than talking with a non-government organization. If it is a government position, you can be sure you’ll be asked about a security clearance.

Not having a security clearance beforehand will certainly delay any offer of a job. If that’s the case and the agency is interested in you, you are likely to be asked to take a polygraph, complete an extensive resume and be subject to a personal background check. Applying for a non-government position might require a less thorough check, unless it is for a government contractor position.

Here are some popular cybersecurity job interview questions you may be asked:

  • What cybersecurity certifications do you have?
  • Do you have a security clearance? Is it current?
  • How do you keep up with the latest cybersecurity news?
  • What did you use for your home network?
  • What is the difference between risks, vulnerabilities and threats?
  • What is the difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption and which is better?
  • What is a firewall?
  • What are three ways to authenticate a user?
  • How did you protect your last organization from security threats?
  • What should be included in a good penetration testing report?
  • How do you mitigate a Distributed Denial of Service attack?
  • How often should patch management be performed?
  • What is the difference between software testing and penetration testing?
  • How would you detect and prevent data leaks?
  • How does social media create security risks?
  • Which is better for security – open source software or licensed software?
  • How often should security policies be updated?
  • How would you handle a security breach?
  • In a bring-your-own-device environment, how would you manage the security risks?

Coping with Oddball Interview Questions

Some employers like to spice up an interview by asking a few “oddball” interview questions unrelated to the job. By asking these questions in a cybersecurity job interview, the employer is testing your reasoning ability and your ability to think quickly and imaginatively. The interviewer is also searching for more information beyond what is in your LinkedIn profile or resume.

Here are some questions which have actually been asked in job interviews:

  • If you were a breed of dog, what type of dog would you be and why?
  • How many golf balls would it take to fill up this room?
  • What would be the name of your debut album?
  • What would you do if you found a penguin in the kitchen freezer?

It is hard to prepare for these questions. The best technique is to take a few seconds’ pause and do your best to create a concise but thorough answer.

Mock Interviews Are a Good Way to Practice Your Communication Skills

To practice for your interview, get a friend or family member to ask you typical cybersecurity job interview questions. They can also watch you and make observations on how well you communicated by telling you if you ramble in conversation or do not make eye contact.

Also, remember that you can contact AMU for extra help if you’re a current student or alumni. Email or call Career Services at 877-755-2787 for extra help with mock interviews, resumes, career coaching and other services related to your job hunt.

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