CISA interview questions (2024): Essential guide for candidates and interviewers

Jeff Peters
February 8, 2024 by
Jeff Peters

As organizations continue to invest in cybersecurity solutions to defend their data, networks and customers, they want to ensure that investment is being put to good use. An information systems auditor helps to evaluate the security controls within an organization and provide an objective assessment of their findings to key stakeholders. 

The Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification is designed to validate your skills in this job role. More than 150,000 individuals now hold a CISA certification, according to ISACA, making it the most popular IT auditing certification available.  

As you prep for your CISA interview, whether for an IT auditor, cybersecurity auditor, information systems auditor or another job title, here are some key questions you should be prepared to answer — or questions hiring managers may want to ask potential candidates. 

Understanding CISA certification 

The CISA exam is a rigorous, 4-hour, 150-question test that requires in-depth knowledge of information systems auditing, as well as years of on-the-job experience. Once acquired, it’s extremely helpful for obtaining roles like information security architect, information security analyst, information system auditor, IT compliance analyst and more.  

As cybersecurity trends and best practices change, the CISA is updated to ensure it tests candidates against up-to-date skills around those who audit, control, monitor and assess IT and business systems. In August 2024, the CISA exam will receive an update, changing the weights of the CISA domain areas. 

Below are some CISA practice exams and CISA interview questions to review to help prepare for your next interview. 

Top CISA interview questions for 2024 

Hiring managers will ask a variety of questions— prepare to answer direct, straightforward questions or more complex questions based on real-world scenarios. All of the answers below are meant to get you started, but you’ll want to elaborate on them with examples from your training and job experiences when possible. 

What is an RFC? 

A request for change (RFC) is a process that sets up authorization to change a system. It keeps a logged activity tracker of changes, and a CISA IT auditor must know when it’s appropriate to approve an RFC. 

What is change management? 

Change management is a structured approach to facilitate organizational change. For IT auditors, CISA professionals need to identify potential risks of changes. 

What is the purpose of a CISA audit trail? 

A CISA audit trail is a chronological record of system activities. It’s crucial for monitoring, investigation, compliance, accountability and problem resolution. 

What is the standard protocol of the Internet? 

Most internal networks and the Internet use the TCP/IP protocol.

How do you verify information system controls within an audit? 

Ideally, an IT auditor would use a combination of testing, interviews and documentation reviews to assess all different control types, encryption, mechanisms and monitoring tools. All of these should align with the company's standard security policies and regulatory requirements. 

Technical questions and answers 

Here is an in-depth look at CISA interview questions related to IT audit and security. In these questions, you’ll want to make sure your technical expertise is highlighted, as well as your commitment to staying on top of new emerging technologies and trends.  

What are some pitfalls of virtualized systems? 

Virtualized systems are technologies that create multiple instances on a single physical computer. It creates systems that operate independently of each other while using the same resources but come with the challenge of potential performance bottlenecks, resource overcommitment and security concerns. 

What is the disadvantage of using long asymmetric encryption keys? 

While this emerging technology offers more security, it can also slow down performance and increase overhead costs. 

What components do you focus on in an audit, and why? 

An IT auditor should evaluate the framework, policies and overall IT alignment with business goals. 

How do you approach access controls in an IT audit? 

In this question, you’ll want to explain your approach in detail. Candidates should ideally share their thought processes on authorization processes and the overall management of user access. Specifically, mention user account provisioning, rule-based access, password policies and the concept of least privilege. 

Risk management and compliance questions 

For risk management and compliance questions, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest regulations and standards. Confidently articulate and explain your risk management approach in interviews, showing a thorough thought process. 

When you find a flaw in the system while performing an audit, what is the best response? 

It’s not your responsibility to fix the flaw, but it is your role to note it in the final report and submit it to system owners for review. Also, provide a recommendation on what to do. 

What are some ways companies can lose data? 

Data loss can happen in many ways, but hackers and malware are two main challenges for enterprise organizations. Other reasons include unhappy employees, accidental leaks or stolen employee property. 

How do you stay current with compliance requirements and regulatory changes? 

In this answer, you’ll want to reference your ability to integrate proactive risk assessment into your IT strategy. You’ll also want to mention how you learn and grow in your career, including reading relevant publications, challenging yourself with certifications and any other professional education. 

Real-world scenarios and case studies 

Approach these questions strategically and have examples ready. Be prepared to walk interviewers through your thought process while also sharing relevant results.

What happens when a change damages a system or doesn’t roll out as planned? 

Organizations should have a process in place if a deployment doesn’t go as planned. Auditors evaluate whether these processes are documented, and those in specific roles at the organization oversee carrying out the process. In this question, offer a real-world example of documenting this process or how you fixed a deployment that didn’t go as planned if you were in that type of hands-on role. 

You’re an auditor evaluating a company's network that provides wireless access for a fee, requiring them to process financial data. The company’s wireless network connection has implemented the use of SSL and WTLS. What is one of the top concerns? 

Even though SSL and WTLS are implemented, there is still a risk of attackers bypassing security using other measures. For example, if the wireless access point (WAP) is compromised they may be able to view the encrypted traffic or use other means to intercept data. In addition to security, it’s important that an incident response plan is in place in the event of a breach. 

Explain how you utilized CISA principles during a data leak or cyberattack. 

If you have experience in this type of role, incorporate CISA principles into your answer, such as conducting a thorough forensic investigation to identify the source, followed by implementing access controls, disaster recovery systems and more. Make sure to mention how you mitigated the impact of this attack and any key results. 

Soft skills and behavioral questions 

Not only are technical skills important for the CISA interviews, but soft skills in IT audit and cybersecurity roles are equally important. Ideal CISA-certified professionals have a unique balance of technical expertise and interpersonal skills like strong communication, teamwork and leadership. 

Describe a time when you had to communicate negative news during an IT audit. 

Unfortunately, you’re eventually going to have to deliver negative news during an IT audit. In this answer, though, you’ll want to explain how you approached this review with empathy toward team members. Explain how you proactively communicate with stakeholders about potential risks. 

Describe a time you worked collaboratively with other teams during an IT audit. How did it go? 

A real-world example is an excellent answer to this question. Describe how you cooperated and informed other teams, especially those not familiar with technical IT systems. Share how you hit project goals and improved overall working relations between departments. 

Describe a time you hit an unexpected challenge during an audit. 

In this answer, hiring managers are looking for you to stay cool, calm and collected when hitting a roadblack. Explain the challenge and your tactical approach to documenting it and providing a recommendation for a solution. 

Preparing for the CISA Interview 

Just like you studied for the CISA exam, prepare real-world scenario answers for CISA interviews as well. Once CISA-qualified, ensure the certification is at the top of your resume and highly visible. 

For CISA-based interviews, review exam materials and question banks. Write down a few key points about real-world scenarios so you can provide actual examples when possible. As CISA professionals are highly qualified and well-paid, employers often have high expectations during interviews. 

Career path and growth post-CISA certification 

The CISA certification is not an entry-level certification, so obtaining this prestigious stamp of approval allows you to stand out from the crowd. Many mid-level security professionals go on to specialize in niche security areas or get promoted to senior or managerial titles.  

A CISA certification is highly valuable on your resume, ISACA reports an average U.S. salary of $149,000; however, the average CISA salary can vary significantly depending on location, experience and job role. If you’re preparing for a CISA interview, rest assured you already have tons of experience under your belt by passing the rigorous CISA exam. Now, get ready for your interview! 

Additional resources 

For more information on Infosec’s CISA training and resources, check out the CISA certification hub. Also, check out some of the below webinars and other training materials to help you prepare for your CISA certification or next cybersecurity job role. 

Jeff Peters
Jeff Peters

Jeff Peters is a communications professional with more than a decade of experience creating cybersecurity-related content. As the Director of Content and Brand Marketing at Infosec, he oversees the Infosec Resources website, the Cyber Work Podcast and Cyber Work Hacks series, and a variety of other content aimed at answering security awareness and technical cybersecurity training questions. His focus is on developing materials to help cybersecurity practitioners and leaders improve their skills, level up their careers and build stronger teams.