So you’ve successfully completed your cybersecurity degree and want to use your newfound skills to get a well-paid cybersecurity job? First, you’ll need to answer the notoriously tough cybersecurity interview questions that could stand between you and that dream job.
Quality cybersecurity employees are in demand. According to a recent study from McAfee, more than 200,000 cybersecurity jobs were left unfilled during 2015 in the U.S. alone due to the cybersecurity skills shortage.
A cybersecurity career isn’t one size fits all. A report from the SANS Institute pinned banking, finance, insurance, IT, government, consulting and professional services as top industries where cybersecurity skills are needed. The McAfee report also identifies the banking and finance industries as two areas where hiring is on the rise.
According to a study by tech career website Dice, some of the top-paying cybersecurity jobs posted in 2015 were:
– Lead software security engineer
– Security consultant
– Security engineer
– Cybersecurity lead
– Application security manager
Businesses need these roles filled by skilled, educated people who can hit the ground running. When applying for jobs, you should be prepared for questions that test your practical knowledge, as well as questions that will determine whether or not you can tell the difference between key cybersecurity concepts.
Here are some top questions you can be expected to answer in a job interview:
Can you explain the difference between a range of encryption techniques?
Don’t be surprised if you get this question. Hiring managers will want to make sure they get someone on board who really understands the nuance in encryption methods. After all, hackers can seep through the cracks, so you need to know where those cracks are and how to fill them.
Describe a time you solved a cybersecurity issue within a team.
As Deidre Diamond explains, soft skills are sorely needed in cybersecurity, including being able to work in teams. Effective cybersecurity means having to solve problems with others, so being able to bring to mind times when you’ve worked as part of a group will be essential.
How do you stay on top of industry changes?
This question is designed to test whether your industry knowledge is relevant and up to date, and as Washington D.C. ICT security professional Scott Barman writes, you won’t get away with generic answers. List out some specific news websites or blogs, and perhaps even mention an example of a recent trend and where you read about it.
This is also a great opportunity to talk about your degree if you have one – particularly an advanced degree. You can speak about the need for constant learning in cybersecurity, and how your degree demonstrates this quality.
What can you tell us about security at our company?
You should definitely expect a question along these lines. It’s normal for any business to ask whether a candidate has researched them and understands its product or service. When it comes to cybersecurity interview questions, they’ll want to see you understand what type of technology they’re using, whether or not they use popular security methods like two-factor authentication or any other information you can gather.
As CSO Online says, try and understand what language(s) the company uses, anything you can find will be a bonus.
What is a pen test and can you explain the process of pen testing?
Now, you may not receive this question exactly, but as IT security risk manager Adriano Leite explains on LinkedIn, you’re likely to receive many questions about specific test protocols and be asked to take the interviewer through a specific process.
Not only should you have processes like penetration testing memorized and ready to go, but you should also know the difference between things like 802.1x security and 802.11 along with other types of technical details.
Can you describe a complex cybersecurity concept as if I knew nothing about it?
One of the most sought-after skills in cybersecurity is being able to communicate complex topics in an easy-to-understand way. As Tim Heard writes at the Infosec Institute, being able to grasp the “big picture” and deliver information that’s key to specific stakeholders, while disregarding unessential information, is a highly desired trait. To build these soft skills, consider investing in a Master’s degree in Cybersecurity and learn how to easily communicate complex cybersecurity issues and techniques.
Can a server certificate prevent SQL attacks against your system?
It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for you to receive this question or one like it. Interviewers want to see your knowledge applied to the real world. All the aforementioned professionals say you should prepare for questions about attacks and specific methods for how you would fight them.
For instance, plan for questions about distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attacks and structured query language (SQL) injection – and be sure you have answers as to how you would defend an organization against these threats.
Of course, you should expect all types of questions – these are just some examples. When it comes to cybersecurity training, you can’t be too prepared. Learn as much detail as possible, and be ready to relate everything you know back to practical examples.
Interested in a career in cybersecurity? Explore our careers page to find out more.