Professional development

4 cybersecurity interview tips from hiring managers

Louis Livingston-Garcia
April 22, 2022 by
Louis Livingston-Garcia

Sitting down to interview for a new cybersecurity job can be nerve-wracking. Some companies follow some tried-and-true interview strategies, but every cybersecurity position is unique.

To get you started on your interview prep, we've already collected a number of role-based questions (e.g., cybersecurity analyst, threat hunter and CISO) you should be able to answer during your interview.


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But we also speak to cybersecurity professionals and hiring managers every week on our podcast, here are some general tips that apply to everyone.


1. What not to do in your cybersecurity interview


While there are plenty of great tips on what to do, sometimes you need to know what not to do in an interview.

You can ask yourself, what are your strengths and weaknesses? Are you prepared to answer common interview questions in a clear and concise manner? Do you have an elevator pitch of sorts you can deliver in 90 seconds or less? Brevity is key to keeping your answers focused on what's most important and allows the interviewer to ask follow-up questions and make the interview more conversational.

"Are you paying attention?" Jackie Olshack of Dell Technologies asked during her Cyber Work Live episode

Also, don't make the mistake of not interviewing the interviewer. Do this company and its culture fit your values, and will it make you happy? 


2. Be passionate about your projects


In his Cyber Work Podcast episode, Jonathan Tanner of Barracuda provided tips about passion and qualifications. 

"Projects," Barracuda said of what's important to stand out in a resume or interview. "Even if it's for school. They give a description of the project, and you can tell they enjoy working on it as well as know how to do it in the first place."

And think about what you bring to the table related to the job posting. You can tell them about your skills in the interview, even if the interviewer doesn't bring it up. And don't be afraid to admit you're not a pro on something. 

"Treat it a little bit more like a conversation than a test you have to pass," Tanner said. 


3. Expect challenging interview questions


Gene Yoo, CEO of Resecurity, admitted to being a terrible interviewer. He isn't trying to be mean, but he tries to ensure his employees can do the job, which leads to intense interviews. He said the initiative is key. 

"We need problem solvers and people who challenge you," Yoo said during his Cyber Work Live episode

Every interviewer has their own style, so don't let "tough" interviews throw you off or make you think you're doing bad. Often times the interviewer is wondering how you respond to those challenging situations, so you may be evaluated more on how you respond to those situations than what your exact answer is.


4. Admit when you don’t know something


This podcast clip is more specific to red teaming, but the advice is universal for all cybersecurity roles. 

First off, don't be afraid! Don't think you need to know all the answers to every question. With so many different areas of expertise in cybersecurity, interviewees may bounce around to see what they do know. 

"Don't get discouraged," Curtis Brazzell, the managing security consultant of GuidePoint Security, said during his Cyber Work Live episode. "Don't get hung up on any one question if you don't know the answer. You're probably not expected to know all of the answers." 

If you are unfamiliar with some items before going into an interview about tools, try to brush up on them before the interview. What's trending? What's new in malware? Think of alternate ways to answer the question. Tell them if you've heard of the topic before and what interested you about it. Or use the opportunity to ask them if that's something you should prioritize learning. You may not want to do this with every question you're unsure of, but it's a great way to show your passion and curiosity throughout the interview.

For more advice on interviewing well, download our free ebook, Cybersecurity interview tips: How to stand out, get hired and advance your career.

Louis Livingston-Garcia
Louis Livingston-Garcia

Louis Livingston-Garcia has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in Japanese language and education from the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh. He has written for newspapers in Kodiak Island, Alaska, Wisconsin and Minnesota. His written work has been featured in many publications including Growler Magazine, Heavy Table, City Pages, 507 Magazine, Official Xbox Magazine, Game Informer, GamesRadar, October and more. He has professionally photographed Kodiak bears in the wild, Minnesota United FC soccer matches and countless breweries. If he isn’t traveling around the world with his wife, he is most likely playing video games or reading with his cat, Miyamoto (yes, named after the creator of Super Mario Bros.), in his lap, and a beer nearby.