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No matter what stage you’re at in your cybersecurity job hunt, it never hurts to have expert interview advice in your back pocket. Flatiron School (and formerly SecureSet) Career Services Manager, Scott Bowman, has been coaching professionals in career transition for over 8 years. Scott often finds himself helping alumni navigate the waters of their job hunt, especially before the interview process.
Below are some quick but key cyber security job interview questions and answers that Scott has recently provided for grads. Scott knows better than most — that it’s the small details that make the difference between extending your job hunt and landing your new job.
Q. How deep should I go when asked something technical in a cyber security job interview?
A. It depends on the type of question:
When dealing with behavioral questions (Ex: How would you troubleshoot X?), layout your methodology, framework, or experience with this task as a first step. It establishes your credibility and allows you to better organize an answer.
Aim for 1–3 minutes per answer, depending on how comfortable you are in this technical answer. Read your audience. If they seem like they are disengaging with you mid-sentence, it’s a good sign to cut yourself off.
For Informational questions (Ex: What is the difference between X and Y?), Brevity is key. Aim for no more than 60 seconds. There’s no need to ramble. An experienced professional will provide quick and decisive answers. It is okay to say, “I haven’t worked with that, but here’s how I would figure it out…” In your follow-up email, provide detailed explanations to supplement areas where you fell short.
Q. How do I portray confidence and seem less nervous?
A. Portraying confidence is a matter of controlling your physical posture and non-verbal communication. People who are nervous, anxious, and uncomfortable show the following traits on the outside: slouching, crossing arms, frowning, fidgeting with hands and feet, an increased heart rate, failure to maintain eye contact, etc.
A good skill is “mirroring,” or subtly copying your interviewer’s posture, tone of voice, and expressions. People like people who are similar to themselves. In the interview, focus on good eye contact, sitting upright in your chair, keeping your arms at your side and head up, delivering a consistent tone of voice, and making firm handshakes. It is nearly impossible to go into an interview without feeling nervous.
That’s your fight or flight response.
What you do with that energy is what makes the difference. Any experienced interviewer will expect you that you’re nervous, especially if it’s an important interview to you.
Understanding and focusing on the soft skills that are important in cyber security can also help you feel more confident and self-assured.
Q. How do I make myself stand out during the interview?
A. This is a complex question. Standing out during the interview is dependent on the strength of your first and last impressions. Generally, if you are well-spoken, polite, lend creativity to team problem solving, and can talk about the value you specifically bring to the table, you will make a good impression.
How you follow-up afterward makes a difference too. Sending a thank you (handwritten vs email) and including key reminders of things you said during the interview are a good way to reinforce your last impression. If you didn’t say what you wanted in your technical answers, this is a good time and place to correct yourself.
Another skill is using “themes” to describe yourself. “If hired, you will notice I bring 3 key skills to your team: Team collaboration, Strong communication, and the Persistence to work through any problem.”
Providing themes allows you to continuously reinforce your value-added assets throughout the conversation. They are also easier to write down (from the interviewer’s perspective) and depending on how much research you did, they should correlate directly with the company’s mission and values.
Turn the interview into a conversation by answering the question, then ask your own question. Ex: “…and those are my top strengths. Are those skills you could use on your team?”
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