“How To” Cyber Blog Series: Part IV

Mission Critical Institute blog post: How to Ace the Cyber Job Interview

Relatively few people breeze in and out of interviews without some level of anxiety. If you took the advice in the last post in this series on preparing for the cyber job interview you should be ready for the meeting. Try to relax a little and go with it, letting the prospective employer see that you really are the perfect candidate for the job.

Getting Started
Brush up on current events the day before or the morning of your cyber interview. Is a significant security event taking place, such as a spreading ransomware attack, or was new legislation passed that may affect the company’s compliance? Know about it and be prepared to share a few details if it comes up in conversation.

To help you remember the interviewer’s name (and it’s easy to forget a name when you’re stressed), repeat the person’s name during the introduction. For example, say “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Jones.” It really does work!

Bring a few copies of your resume and cover letter printed on stock paper and ask the interviewer and other stakeholders in attendance if they would like a copy. This is also a good time to turn your cell phone off or ensure that all sounds – ringer, message notifications, and so on – are silent.

Jot down notes when the interviewer discusses the organization and open position. You might need those notes to prepare for a second or third interview and taking a few notes during the interview can signal your interest. When it’s your turn to ask questions, blend in a point the interviewer made earlier, such as “You mentioned that XYZ company recently acquired ABC company. Will this position be responsible for managing cloud security risk for ABC as well, or act as a liaison between XYZ and ABC?”

When Answering Questions
First and foremost, be honest and authentic, and make eye contact. Provide answers that are relevant and to the point; avoid long, rambling answers.

Make sure your answers include specific examples from your past to demonstrate your experience. If you’re asked a “what would you do” type of question and aren’t sure how to address it, feel free to ask a few questions to make sure you understand the issue.

It’s OK to take a few moments to think about an answer to a question. One technique that helps is to repeat the question back to the interviewer for clarification or to buy some time. Interviewers don’t expect you to have a ready answer for every question, and quickly stating the first thing that comes to mind can make you appear overzealous. If you simply can’t answer a question, say so instead of making up an answer that isn’t relevant.
Try to match your skills/accomplishments/goals with something the organization is actively working on or recently completed. For example, “I read about XYZ company’s recent initiative to incorporate stronger security in its systems. I’m familiar with applying the six steps of the NIST RMF, including security controls, and appreciate the effort it takes to provide customers with a highly secure product.”

Focus on how you can help the company, or how your skills and background can solve a problem the company faces. For example, ask the interviewer to describe the primary challenges of the position, and then explain how you would overcome those challenges.

If you must explain why you did something in the past, say “My understanding was . . . ” rather than “I assumed . . .”. Also, don’t discuss former employers or co-workers in a negative way; in fact, it’s best to downplay previous negative experiences. Instead of saying a previous situation was “horrible” or “a train wreck,” say it was “challenging.”

Salary: When to Ask
Wouldn’t the job hunting process be so much more convenient if the starting salary or salary range was stated in every job description? When you’re unsure of the salary, a general guideline is to inquire when invited to a second interview or sometime during that interview. Some interviewers might ask for your previous salary, which could be quite a bit lower than the new position. In that case, respond by stating your desired salary or salary range and see if the company can meet it. (Note: Watch for the next blog post in this series, “How to Negotiate the Cyber Job Offer,” for tips when negotiating a compensation package.)

Winding Down the Interview and Post-Interview Tasks
Thank the interviewer any stakeholders for their time, ask when they expect to make a decision, and find out how they would like you to follow up, such as calling or emailing. If you don’t already have the interviewer’s business card, ask for one before leaving the room or stop at the reception desk on the way out.

Some interviewees suggest asking the interviewer if there was anything discussed that gave them reservations that you could do the job. If they provide an example, clear up any misunderstandings and address the issue in a way that underscores your value.

Finally, follow up with a thank-you note within 24 hours of the interview, which can be handwritten or via email, as well as a LinkedIn connection request if you hadn’t done so prior to the interview.