The Most Common Cybersecurity Job Interview Questions
You've got all the qualifications, prepared a killer job application, and landed an interview. Congratulations! Now you just need to prepare. We're sure that you have the knowledge — but communicating it to an interviewer can be a whole different ball game.
Cybersecurity professionals typically need to have a broad understanding of many different facets of the profession, from hands-on technical know-how to questions that border on the philosophical. Interviewers want to know not only what you know, but also how you think. Our list of top cybersecurity interview questions will help you anticipate the questions real hiring managers and recruiters ask, so you can get your dream job.
Basic Interview Questions
Interview questions for cybersecurity jobs will almost always start with the basics. If you're a candidate for an entry-level cybersecurity position, such questions will test your knowledge of this fast-moving industry. However, even if you're a more experienced candidate, the interviewer will likely still ask at least a few basic questions in order to get to know you and to help put you at ease:
- What cybersecurity certifications and education do you have?
- What is the most interesting thing you've worked on recently?
- What achievement are you most proud of so far in your career?
- What do you think is the goal of information security within an organization?
Next the interviewer may ask you about various definitions, not only to see if you get the answer "right," but also to learn more about your ability to communicate ideas.
- What is the difference between a threat, a vulnerability, and a risk?
- What is more important for cybersecurity professionals to focus on, threats or vulnerabilities?
- What is the difference between hashing, encoding, and encryption?
- What is the difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption?
- Of SSL, TLS, and HTTPS, which is the most secure?
Tip to answer basic interview questions: Answer in a straightforward manner, and give examples to demonstrate your knowledge.
Technical Interview Questions
In the next phase, questions will usually get more technical, and will be posed as nuanced scenarios. This allows the interviewer to learn your problem-solving processes and gauge your ability to think outside the box. Whether you're applying for cybersecurity specialist, cybersecurity engineer, or cybersecurity analyst, interview questions are likely to include the following:
- What are the most common defenses against a cross site scripting attack?
- Can you take me step by step through the authentication process?
- Can you give me a detailed explanation of traceroute?
- What kind of ports do you prefer on your firewall? Filtered ports or closed ports?
- What's the difference between a false positive and false negative in an intrusion detection system? Which is more acceptable?
- What tools would you use for penetration testing? What would you include in the report?
- What sort of anomalies would you look for to identify a compromised system?
Cybersecurity engineer interview questions may be a bit more advanced, as this is typically a more experienced position.
- If vulnerability X occurred, how would you go about patching it?
- How would you prevent or mitigate a DDoS attack?
- What are your first three steps when securing a server? (The organization may make this more specific to the type of server they use.)
- How would you implement a new security event manager?
- How would you implement a content security policy? Give me an example of a CSP you implemented successfully.
Tip to answer technical interview questions: Don't forget to explain why you are choosing the answer that you do.
Cybersecurity Manager Interview Questions
Management positions require a broader skillset, especially "soft skills" like written and verbal communication. If you're interviewing for a cybersecurity manager job, the interviewer will most likely ask you a set of additional questions after the technical set of questions. These will test your ability to effectively communicate your ideas, as well as handle managerial tasks like creating policies and guidelines.
- What is the difference between policies, processes, and guidelines?
- Can you explain your approach to creating and implementing a new process?
- Do you prefer open-source software or licensed?
- How would you manage a blue team versus a red team?
- How would you detect and manage data leakage?
- How would you deal with social media at work?
- Can you explain the difference between quantitative analysis and qualitative analysis? Tell me how you would incorporate each into a risk assessment.
- How you would manage an incident, step by step?
Tip to answer cybersecurity manager interview questions: Give examples of how you would communicate with those in the organization both above and below you.
Soft Skills Interview Questions
The interviewer will ask you questions about your soft skills in order to check on your level of curiosity, innovation, and drive. The ability—and desire—to learn new things is a crucial part of cybersecurity. While you might think these are especially important interview questions for cybersecurity specialists and other entry-level positions, keep in mind that continuing to learn new things is a must for any position.
- What kind of network do you have at home?
- Where do you get your cybersecurity news?
- Can you tell me about someone you look up to in the information security profession?
The interviewer may also use this stage to get a read on your interpersonal skills. Even if you are not applying for a management position, teamwork and adaptability are very important.
- Tell me about a time you worked in a team environment. What were some of the challenges you faced and what role did you play?
- How do you prefer to be managed or to be a manager?
- Have you ever mentored anyone? Tell me about how you helped them.
- If you discovered a flaw in a product your company uses, how would you go about notifying upper management?
Tip to answer soft skills interview questions: Make sure you are up to speed with the latest cybersecurity news and you're able to discuss it.
You can never be too prepared for your cybersecurity job interview, so it's time to get started! With this list of information security interview questions, a little preparation time, and the right qualifications and experience, you'll ace that interview and soon take the next step in your career.