Professional development

5 ways to stand out in a cybersecurity job interview

Christine McKenzie
June 27, 2019 by
Christine McKenzie

Your phone rings — it’s the company you submitted an application to a few days ago. They love your resume and they want you to come in for a formal interview. Congratulations! 

But now what? Your nerves are buzzing with anticipation because you want the interview to be perfect. You want to be the best candidate they have, wowing them with your technical knowledge and people skills. 

What should you learn next?

What should you learn next?

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It’s natural to be nervous, but don’t panic! 

A job interview is the first step towards getting your cybersecurity dream job. Interviews can be stressful, but they’re also a great opportunity to learn more about the role and meet the people who may one day be your co-workers. With the right preparation, you’ll make a lasting impression that will have the company excited to call you back. 

Take a look at our top tips for how to stand out in a cybersecurity job interview: 

Prepare strategically 

It’s common knowledge that candidates should prepare before an interview instead of doing it off-the-cuff. Knowing how to prepare can be a little trickier, though, and candidates often find themselves overwhelmed by the amount of studying and practicing they want to cram in before the big day. To avoid pre-interview burnout, identify a few key things you want to accomplish during your practice session. 

Here’s what you should do the day before your interview: 

  1. Practice responses to common information security interview questions. Pay special attention to questions that overlap with the job description. Try to think of real-life examples when you implemented that skill, technology or solution — while most interviewers will entertain hypotheticals, what they really want to hear about are specific examples of when you’ve actually done those things
  2. If your interview is on-site, plot your route the day before and be sure to factor in the time of day in case rush hour impacts your commute. For a phone or Web interview, test all your tech beforehand to make sure you have a smooth, seamless connection when the time comes
  3. If you’re in heavy job-application mode, there’s a good chance this isn’t the only interview you’ve been on. Take some time to remind yourself of the specific job details as well as some info about the company. There’s nothing worse than slipping up during an interview and talking about the wrong company! 

Don’t just rehash your resume 

The interview is when you truly get to shine. It’s also an opportunity to go above and beyond what’s written on your resume. While it’s all right to mention a few things from your resume, you don’t want to rely on it throughout the entire conversation. Remember: By the time you set foot in the interview room, your interviewer has already seen everything on your resume. Instead, they’re looking for new details and information to convince them that you’re the right fit for the job. 

When the interviewer asks questions about your work history, that’s a great opportunity to elaborate and throw in details you didn’t have room for on your resume. Be sure to shine a spotlight on the parts of your current job you excel at, as well as any major achievements and accomplishments. 

If you’re interviewing for your first job in the cybersecurity field, then use this time to connect the dots for how your current experience will help you excel at the job you’re vying for. 

Demonstrate how you’ll add value 

Your interviewer wants to know exactly how the company will benefit from bringing you on as its newest employee. Avoid giving cut-and-dry answers and instead share details, examples, results and accomplishments. 

Do some research before the interview to get a feel for what the company’s goals are. Connect your answers and examples to these goals, bridging your experience with how you can help the company accomplish their business goals. The goal of an interview is to show the interviewer how you’ll add the most value as an employee. 

It pays to add detail to your responses. Steer clear of brief yes-or-no replies and answers that are terse or vague. Instead, dive straight into the details to show them how knowledgeable you are about the subject. Tell them about real-life times when you’ve used that specific software or implemented a certain process at work. 

Display your certifications

Listing certifications on your resume is a solid way to attract hiring managers. Certifications show that you’re a valuable and relevant hire, especially compared to competing applicants who lack pertinent credentials. They also demonstrate that you’re capable of keeping up with technology as it changes and improves. 

Here are a few of the most valuable IT certifications in terms of return on investment, according to the 2019 Robert Half Technology Salary Guide:

  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • CompTIA A+
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • ITIL®️
  • Project Management Professional (PMP®️)

On your resume, your certifications will go under their own section. There are a few key pieces of information that the hiring manager will want to know right off the bat. They include: 

  • Name of certification
  • Name of certifying agency
  • Date the certification was earned 

Many IT certifications have an expiration date. If that’s the case, be sure to include the expiration date on your resume. Don’t include certifications that are expired. If you’re in the process of re-certifying or earning a new certification, you can add the anticipated completion date. 

Ask insightful questions 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions during your interview. We often think of interviews as scripted, one-sided conversations. The truth is, interviews are an excellent opportunity for you to learn more about the company and the team you’ll be working with. 

Asking questions shows the interviewer you’re interested in the opportunity and eager to learn more. Plus, it helps you get a better feel for the company culture. Ask your interviewer what they like best about the company and what, if anything, they wish was different. 

Be sure to prepare a couple questions for the end of the interview as well. After you answer the interviewer’s final question, they’ll turn the tables and ask, “Do you have any questions for us?” Strong candidates will ask three to five strong, solid questions. 

Popular topics include questions about the work culture, on-the-job training, mentorship opportunities and what kind of resources and technology you’ll have at your disposal. The only questions you should avoid asking about are salary, perks and vacation time — those questions come later, when you’re negotiating the job offer. 

Send a thank-you email 

The thank-you email (once upon a time called the thank-you letter) is one of the most underrated and overlooked steps of the interview process. A recent survey from CareerBuilder says 91% of employers like receiving post-interview thanks from candidates. An additional 22% of employers think not sending a thank-you email hurts the candidates odds of getting an offer. 

Sending a follow-up email is an easy way to pad your odds of success. Plus, writing them is quick and simple, since they should be short and to the point. Simply put, you’re thanking the interviewers for their time and reiterating how interested you are in the position. 

Mentioning any common ground you hit on during the interview can be helpful, too. Did you go to the same college as the interviewer? Or maybe you both worked at the same company in the past? Things like that make you stand out from the crowd. 

Remember: Interviews are a two-way street 

It’s true that you’ll do most of the talking, but keep in mind that interviews are a two-way street. In other words, you’re interviewing the company and the role as much as they’re interviewing you. Your interview is your chance to glimpse into what day-to-day life in that role is like and what your future boss or coworkers are like. A taste of the company culture. 

Pay close attention to these factors, because they’ll ultimately determine whether or not you’re going to enjoy the job! 

Next steps 

The first step toward getting your cybersecurity dream job is getting through the interview. 

If you follow these interview tips, you can feel confident that you’re making the right impression on the interviewer.

Let’s recap: Before the interview, take some time to practice common cybersecurity interview questions so you have an idea of what to expect. Be sure to re-read the job description for hints of what skills, software and other technology you’ll be asked about. Try not to cram all your preparation in on the day before the interview — you want to go to bed that night feeling confident and well-rested, not stressed and scrambling to get ready. 

After you’ve crushed the interview and done a little victory dance in your car on the way home, send off that thank-you email. A polite note is a great way to go the extra mile and leave a lasting positive impression on the interviewer. In today’s competitive job market, it’s crucial to seize every opportunity you can to make yourself stand out against the competition. 

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And there you have it! The step-by-step guide to landing your cybersecurity dream job. 


Christine McKenzie
Christine McKenzie

Christine McKenzie is a professional writer with a Master of Science in International Relations. She enjoys writing about career and professional development topics in the Information Security discipline. She has also produced academic research about the influence of disruptive Information and Communication Technologies on human rights in China. Previously, she was a university Career Advisor where she worked extensively with students in the Information Technology and Computer Programming fields.