The interview is an important step, and while it may seem intimidating, it's also an opportunity. You get to show not just your knowledge but how you can use it to bring tangible value to the position for which you’re applying. We've rounded up some of the different types of questions you may be asked to answer during your cyber security interview — along with tips for to answer them.
How do I prepare for a cyber security interview?
There'll be two basic categories of questions: those designed to get to know you better and those aiming to test your cyber security knowledge and how you can put it to work.
These cyber security interview questions are designed to help the company understand things about you that your resume, certifications, and education can’t tell them. You should feel free to connect your answers to what makes you feel passionate about cyber security, as well as your enthusiasm for strengthening an organization with your skills.
What are your strengths, and what is something you’re proud of?
It’s important to think of this question from the interviewer’s perspective: They want to see what you bring to the company. Your answers should not only connect back to your cyber security skills but also to personal philosophies and living and working habits that make you an effective teammate.
What are your weaknesses or significant failures?
Always be ready to talk about your weaknesses. This is your chance to show the interviewer that you know how to admit to mistakes and learn from them. You may choose to construct your answer using an 80/20 ratio: 80% of your answer talks about how you learned from the mistake, and 20% outlines the error itself.
If possible, you'll want to focus on a cyber security-related error. If you’re brand new to the arena, you can choose something that happened during your studies. You can also discuss a problem you or an associate had that stemmed from a cyber security breach and the mistakes you made that caused or worsened the situation. Regardless of how you begin your answer, quickly focus on what you learned from the experience.
Cyber security questions
The questions about cyber security are — similar to the getting-to-know-you questions — opportunities for you to make your value tangible for the organization. Answering them is a two-step process:
- Answer the question succinctly and accurately. The interviewer wants to hear a direct answer. They may need to ensure you have the basic knowledge so they can support your application when talking to the CIO or CEO.
- Connect your answer to the value you can bring to the organization. This may involve touching on:
- Challenges the organization or its clients face. Learning what these are will require research.
- The kinds of projects the company takes on. For example, if they provide remote SIEM (security information and event management) services, you can discuss how the question impacts SIEM challenges such as compliance, Internet of Things (IoT) security, and preventing insider threats.
Here are some sample questions and how you may want to approach answering them.
Questions about addressing security incidents
Mitigating security issues is central to the work of a cyber security professional. Try to answer cyber security interview questions like the ones below to show you understand that the steps you take protect the company’s profits and operability. Therefore, instead of merely asking, “How do I prepare for a cyber security interview?” take it a step further and connect your answers to the business’ challenges.
How do you secure a server?
To answer this question, familiarize yourself with the different types of server security options. Securing a server depends on the kind of server and where it is in the IT architecture. For example, securing a web server, which is where you host your website, would involve different firewalls than a data server used to store and manage data. Also, if the server is in the cloud, the security will be different than if it’s on-premise.
What kinds of anomalies may indicate the system has been compromised?
As you answer this question, you have a chance to show you know how to find and evaluate anomalies. You can make a diagram of the company’s intrusion prevention or intrusion detection system (IPS or IDS) and its other defenses, such as specific firewalls. Then you could categorize the alerts and events based on where they occur within the environment and how they impacted specific systems or computers.
What is a vishing attack?
Vishing is when an attacker tries to get sensitive information through a voice call. This is a seemingly easy question, but you should see it as your chance to talk about all the phishing-related threats — vishing, phishing (email), whale phishing (targeting executives), and spear phishing (targeting a specific person). Specifically, discuss ways to defend against them. Feel free to talk about a combination of technologies, such as web application firewalls (WAFs) and educational initiatives like ensuring all employees and stakeholders know how to recognize and avoid these threats.
What are the most serious virus-related threats on the landscape?
Granted, the most serious virus is the one that can exploit your organization’s vulnerabilities, but you should go a little deeper. Discuss polymorphic viruses, which can change to avoid detection. This is also your chance to show you know the differences between viruses, malware, and Trojans.
Questions about network architecture
Similar to doctors, lawyers, and scientists, cyber security professionals need to demonstrate knowledge specific to their craft. Therefore, some of the questions might feel like they’re trying to test you. However, this doesn’t mean you should just rattle off accurate answers. Try to always make a connection between the cyber security interview questions asked and how to provide cyber security.
If an organization wants full control over the applications and data they have in the cloud, what kind of architecture should they choose?
The answer is a private cloud, which a company has if they are paying for the exclusive use of cloud space. But you should also take this as an opportunity to show you know the value of the hybrid cloud, public cloud, and community cloud architectures.
How would you approach defending a cloud-based architecture as compared to an on-premise architecture?
As you answer this question, show that you understand the challenges unique to the cloud and on-prem environments. Focus on the differences.
For cloud architecture, you may discuss the importance of compartmentalizing the environment and then using principles of least privilege, which involves access on a “need-to-know” basis. For on-prem, you can add in some physical security measures, such as biometric credentials and physical points of access.
The key is to prepare ahead of time by researching the company you’re applying to join, the services it provides, and some of its top clients and their challenges. You also have to ensure you have a solid background in cyber security. With Codecademy, you can gain the cyber security knowledge you need and learn how to apply it in real-world scenarios.