Cybersecurity Interview Questions and Pitfalls You Should Prepare For [Part 1]

Certain questions are regularly asked during cybersecurity interviews. Being aware of them can help you prepare a polished response. After all, it’s easier to give a confident answer, when you’re not trying to think of your answer on the spot.

As part of this Cybersecurity Interview Questions series, we’re going to take a deep dive into popular questions. This is intended to provide you with the knowledge to develop your authentic answers to help you land a cybersecurity job.

Tell me about yourself.

This interview question is deceptively simple (not the least because it’s not technically a question). The question is very open-ended and doesn’t have a “right” answer, but there are responses which advance the case to hire you.

First, let’s discuss what the interviewer is not asking you. She is not asking you to tell her everything you’ve done since you finished school. The interviewer already has your resume. Simply walking the interviewer through your resume again is a wasted opportunity.

The interviewer is asking you to tell her your story. What experiences along your journey have brought you (and helped prepare you) to interview for this job. Your story should be two to three minutes long and tailored for the job you're interviewing for.

Here’s a secret. You are totally allowed to skim over experience that is less relevant to telling your cybersecurity origin story.

There’s a difference between telling your story and simply telling facts. Stories are engaging. They have plots and characters. Stories manage to tie various events together thematically. If you do it right, you can get the interviewer cheering for your story's protagonist (i.e., you) early on. Getting the interviewer on your side is quite effective as the interview continues.

A common pitfall in answering this question is trying to tell the interviewer everything about yourself at once. One time I had a candidate speak for 15 minutes straight (in a 30-minute interview) answering this question. At a certain point I was curious to see how long he would go. When he finally finished answering, the interview was half over. I’d determined he wasn’t the right person for the job before the second question.

Does the task of summarizing your entire professional experience in a few minutes sound daunting? Spend some time watching stand-up comedy specials.

How do you avoid being long-winded? Here’s a secret. You are totally allowed to skim over experience that is less relevant to telling your cybersecurity origin story. Anything that doesn’t advance your story doesn’t warrant a lot of time.

When you discuss your non-cybersecurity job experience, talk about the skills aspect which would carry over to cybersecurity. You can mention non-technology related degrees in seconds. (Interviewers can see them on your resume.) A good story flies past the less relevant details, then focuses on aspects that advance the story of your transition to cybersecurity.

Does the task of summarizing your entire professional experience in a few minutes sound daunting? Spend some time watching stand-up comedy specials. Comedians are experts in telling succinct stories in a compelling way. Half hour comedy specials tend to align with a typical interview time, don’t they?

Remember that you are the hero of your story. The goal is not to tell the interviewer where you’ve been. Tell them how you got to this cybersecurity job interview and what skills you developed on your journey to prepare you for success. It’s a subtle, but important difference.

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