Top Cyber Security Interview Questions (& Answers)

Cyber Security Interview Questions and How to Best Answer

Cyber security is a thriving industry that offers challenges, rewards, and prestige. To enter the industry, you need to learn technical skills, have a standout resume, and be able to crush any interview questions the recruiter asks you. 

This article looks at the types of questions you will likely be asked during the interview process and how you best prepare for them. You will see examples of everything from personal, technical, and situational questions for various cyber security roles and advice on how to crush your job interview. 

Let’s discover common cyber security interview questions and learn how to ace them.

Types of Cyber Security Interview Questions

The questions you are asked during your cyber security job interview will vary from general questions about what you like to do in your spare time to very technical ones, such as explaining Kerberoasting

You must be prepared to answer any question the interviewer throws your way and use them as opportunities to demonstrate that you have what it takes to succeed in the role. This could be demonstrating your willingness to learn, technical competencies, or ability to work well in a team. 

There are common questions that an interviewer will use to test if you are a good fit for a role and the company. These can be broken down into 7 categories:

Each category is equally important to prepare for, as the interviewer will seek a well-rounded candidate with the soft and hard skills needed to succeed in the role. Let’s Let’s look at the questions an interviewer will ask you from each category.

Personal

An interviewer will ease you into the interview by asking you personal questions that are easier to answer, make you feel comfortable, and get the conversation flowing. They center around you as a person, your inspirations, motivations, and character. 

Q. How do you keep up to date with the latest cyber security developments?

Cyber security is a rapidly changing industry. An interviewer will want to know that you can keep pace and are interested in staying up-to-date with the latest trends. For great resources to stay up-to-date with the latest cyber security developments, check out The Top 15 Cyber Security Blogs to Start Reading Today, 15+ Best Cyber Security Books You Must Read, and The Best Cyber Security Podcasts for You.

Q. Have you been working on any cool projects outside of work?

An interviewer wants a candidate eager to develop their cyber security skillset and passionate about learning. Discussing projects you do outside of work is a great way to showcase this. A great way to build projects outside of work is to have your own home lab, which you can learn more about in How to Create a Virtual Hacking Lab: The Ultimate Hacker Setup.

Additional Personal Cyber Security Interview Questions:

  • What is your favorite cyber security tool you have recently used?
  • How do you think AI will affect the cyber security industry?
  • What do you do outside of cyber security to relax and de-stress?

Behavioral

Before assessing if you have the technical competencies to succeed in the role, an interviewer will want to know if you have the soft skills to handle non-technical challenges. They will assess these skills by asking how you have handled workplace situations in the past, resolved conflicts, and empowered your teammates to succeed. When answering these questions, always give a real example of your past experiences.

Q. Share an experience where you had to work with a team member who had a different cyber security approach. How did you handle the differences?

An interviewer wants to know if you can work well in a team, even with people with conflicting personalities or work styles. A good way to demonstrate that you have this capability is by discussing a previous experience where you have overcome your differences with a colleague to reach a successful outcome.

Q. Cyber security incidents can escalate quickly. Describe a time when you had to work under tight deadlines or intense pressure. What strategies did you use to manage stress?

It is vital that you respond quickly to critical cyber security incidents to minimize their impact on your business. An interviewer wants to know that you can work well under pressure and look after yourself to avoid burnout once an incident is resolved. Sharing the strategies you use to manage stress shows that you are well-prepared for when work becomes intense.

Additional Behavioural Cyber Security Interview Questions:

  • What do you do when priorities change quickly? Give one example of when this happened.
  • What was the most unexpected challenge you faced in your last job? Give an example of how you handled it.
  • Describe a situation where you felt you had not communicated well. How did you correct the situation?

Culture Fit

Each company you interview for will have its own company culture that they promote and hold their employees accountable for. The interviewer will want to know if you fit into this company culture based on your values, work style, or personality.

Q. How do you ensure that your actions align with the ethical standards of the organization and the broader cyber security community?

It is very important that you adhere to the ethical standards of the organization you are interviewing for. Be prepared to research the company and discuss how you fit in. If you are unsure of the broader cyber security community’s ethical standards in regard to hacking and penetration testing, try reading Is Hacking Illegal? The Law and Ethical Perspectives.

Q. Can you describe the work environment or company culture where you have been most successful and happy?

To demonstrate that you are a good fit for a company, you can draw on past successes where a previous work environment or company culture helped you be successful. Past experiences are a great way to demonstrate to an interviewer that you will likely be successful at their company.

Additional Culture Fit Cyber Security Interview Questions:

  • Why do you think you will be a good fit for this company?
  • What qualities do you value in a teammate?
  • Do you prefer working independently or as part of a team? 

Knowledge Based

Once an interviewer is satisfied that you have the requisite soft skills, they will want to know if you possess the foundational knowledge required for the role. The questions to assess this knowledge will vary based on the specific cyber security role you are applying for. Here are some common questions for incident response and security compliance roles.

Questions for an Incident Responder Role

Q. Describe the steps involved in an effective cyber security incident response plan.

For an incident responder role, you must have a general understanding of what an effective incident response plan needs to cover so that you can design, create, and implement one if required.

Q. What tools can you use to analyze a piece of malware you come across during a cyber security incident?

To be an effective indecent responder, you should understand the available malware analysis tools. You do not need to be an expert in these tools, just know they exist and how to use some of them to resolve common incident response tasks. You can find a list of popular malware analysis tools in The Top 20 Malware Analysis Tools.

Questions for a Security Compliance Auditor Role

Q. What potential security risks are associated with the Internet of Things (IoT), and how can they be mitigated?

The proliferation of insecure IoT devices exposes many organizations to new cyber security risks. As a security compliance auditor, you must produce policies that mitigate these risks. An interviewer wants to ensure you have the capability to do so.

Q. Can you explain the concept of a “Zero-Day Vulnerability” as if you were explaining it to someone with no technical background?

The term “Zero-Day Vulnerability” is a popular one in cyber security that you should know. This question first ensures you have this fundamental knowledge and then asks you to demonstrate your communication skills. This is a vital skill as a security compliance auditor, as you often interact with non-technical employees.

Additional Knowledge Based Cyber Security Interview Questions:

  • Explain the concept of "defense-in-depth" in cyber security and provide examples of how it can be implemented in a network.
  • What is the difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption, and in what scenarios would you use each?
  • What is the purpose of a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system, and how does it contribute to cyber security monitoring and analysis?

Technical

After demonstrating you have the foundational knowledge required for a role, an interviewer will then look to assess if you have the technical skillset for the job role. Again, this skill set will vary depending on the role you are applying for. Here are some common technical questions that apply to incident responder and SOC analyst positions. 

Questions for an Incident Responder Role

Q. What technical steps would you take if you found ransomware in your environment?

Ransomware is a big issue in the cyber security industry. As an incident responder, you must know the technical steps to respond to a ransomware incident and minimize the impact on your organization. Due to the time sensitivity of this form of attack, you must be able to jump into action without hesitation.

Q. How would you check a network is safe from further threats after you have responded to an initial incident? 

Once you have responded to an initial incident, you must ensure that your organization’s IT environment is free of any other threats that may have spawned from this initial incident. This may involve using threat hunting tools. You can discover popular ones you should know in 25 Essential Threat Hunting Tools for Your Arsenal.

Questions for a SOC Analyst Role

Q. What steps would you take to analyze and respond to an alert of potential malicious activity in a network?

SOC analysts deal with alerts every day. You must demonstrate that you know the steps to effectively triage, analyze, and respond to an alert. This is where you can show off your technical expertise and efficient workflow.

Q. What is tailgating in terms of physical security, and what steps can be taken to prevent it?

Not everything a SOC analyst has to deal with is hands-on keyboard. Your organization's physical security is just as important, and the interviewer wants to know that you have at least thought about it. Tailgating is a physical attack technique you should know how to mitigate. Read How to Prevent Tailgating Attacks: The Five-Minute Guide to learn how.

Additional Technical Cyber Security Interview Questions:

Situational

An interviewer wants to know if you can apply your technical knowledge to common workplace situations. To assess this, they will put you in a hypothetical scenario and ask how you would resolve it using past experience or applying your technical expertise.

Questions for an Incident Responder Role

Q. You receive a call during out-of-office hours about a major cyber security incident that has impacted your organization. Outline your immediate steps and how you would contain the incident.

Cyber security incidents often happen outside of regular work hours. As an incident responder, you must be prepared to handle these types of incidents and demonstrate to the interviewer you have the technical skills, soft skills, critical thinking, and problem solving capacity to do so. 

Q. You need to quickly get accustomed to a new cyber security tool the organization has purchased. How do you go about doing this?

Cyber security best practices are rapidly changing with the release of new tools that offer advanced capabilities. You need to stay up-to-date with these tools and be able to adopt them into your workflow quickly. If you want to discover where you can get hands-on learning with the latest cyber security tools and technologies, read The 10 Best Cyber Security Labs for You.

Questions for a Security Compliance Auditor Role

Q. During a routine audit, you find that several employees have been negligent with their password security. How would you address this issue both immediately and in the long term?

This question asks you to use your technical knowledge and soft skills to effectively handle a common cyber security problem. As a security compliance auditor, you must communicate policies that address technical issues with a non-technical audience and be able to resolve issues immediately and plan for the future.

Q. A new regulation is introduced that affects data privacy for your industry. How would you ensure your organization’s data handling practices comply with this new regulation?

Regulatory standards are quickly changed or amended to keep up with the ever-evolving cyber security landscape. As a security compliance auditor, you need to be able to keep up with these changes to ensure your organization is compliant. This question asks you to demonstrate this capability.

Additional Situational Cyber Security Interview Questions:

  • In a scenario where a phishing attack has compromised several user accounts, describe the measures you would take to contain the incident, identify affected accounts, and enhance user awareness training.
  • The company has recently adopted a remote work policy, and employees are using personal devices to access corporate resources. How would you ensure the security of sensitive data in this scenario?
  • A major service provider experiences a data breach, and your organization is a client using their services. What actions would you take to assess the impact on your organization and strengthen defenses against potential fallout?

Problem Solving

Most cyber security jobs require you to quickly adapt to new situations and find novel solutions to complex problems. To assess your problem solving skills, the interviewer will provide you with a common cyber security problem or one related to a problem the company has faced in the past and ask you to resolve it.

Q. How would you approach securing a legacy system that cannot be easily updated or patched?

Legacy systems are a major issue in cyber security and are a difficult problem to solve as many enterprise IT environments rely on them for business operations. Solving this problem requires you to think critically about managing security whilst ensuring business operations are not negatively impacted.

Q. Your company wants to roll out a new AI-based system to help internal teams optimize their workflow. How would you research and communicate AI's potential risks to your organization’s cyber security?

AI is currently very popular across tech. The interviewer wants to know that you are keeping up with this trend, have thought about how it may impact cyber security, and are able to use your problem solving skills to critically assess the potential risks it may pose to the organization. 

You can learn more about AI in any of these articles to get up to speed on its advantages and disadvantages:

Additional Problem Solving Cyber Security Interview Questions:

  • You discover an unsecured device connected to the corporate network. What steps would you take to identify and secure the device, and how would you prevent similar occurrences in the future?
  • You notice a sudden increase in network traffic. What steps would you take to identify the cause, and how would you mitigate the potential threat?
  • Explain how you would assess the security risks associated with a cloud migration initiative and what measures you would implement to ensure a secure transition.

Interview Advice

Cyber security job interviews can be hard. They are designed to weed out ill-prepared candidates or those who don’t match the company's needs. To help you, here are some important Do’s and Dont’s to remember before and during your interview.  

Things to do before and during a cyber security job interview:

  • Dress appropriately: Try to find out the company’s dress code ahead of time and dress to match. This demonstrates that you are eager to fit in with the company culture and are a good match. If you cannot find the dress code, dress professionally.
  • Research the company: Find out the company’s values, culture, services, and recent events to show the interviewer your interest in joining the company and stand out from other candidates.
  • Highlight your successes: Plan the stories you want to share with the interviewer beforehand so you can showcase your talents and previous successes.
  • Be curious and enthusiastic: Ask questions throughout the interview about the company, the role, and the team you will be joining to demonstrate your genuine interest in joining the company and that you are excited about the opportunity.

Things not do before and during a cyber security job interview:

  • Interrupt the interviewer: Never interrupt the interviewer or be too assertive. Instead, showcase your soft skills by actively listening to the interviewer and maintaining attentive body language. 
  • Lie or exaggerate your previous experiences: Be honest about your current skillset, previous experiences, and accomplishments. Nowadays, it is very easy for employers to find out if you’ve been lied about your previous achievements, which will destroy your credibility. 
  • Acting informally: Always remember you are in a professional setting that requires maintaining a warm but professional demeanor. Act how you want to be perceived in the workplace.
  • Speak negatively of former employers: Always try to maintain a positive and professional outlook throughout the interview. You want to focus on your skills or the positive outcomes from past experiences and avoid discussing negatives.

Conclusion

Landing a cyber security job can be difficult. To stand out, you must be well-prepared for the interview questions that will assess your suitability for the role. This article examined the types of interview questions that are likely to be asked and why an interviewer will ask them. Along the way, you learned where to find the answers to these questions and some helpful interview advice. 

To ensure you are best prepared to land a role in cyber security, check out the StationX Accelerator program. This program provides personalized career roadmaps, dedicated mentorship, and courses to build your interviewing skills. We will provide you with everything you need to land a cyber security job.

If you want to learn more about the skills needed to succeed in the interviewing process, check out these training courses:

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  • Adam Goss

    Adam is a seasoned cyber security professional with extensive experience in cyber threat intelligence and threat hunting. He enjoys learning new tools and technologies, and holds numerous industry qualifications on both the red and blue sides. Adam aims to share the unique insights he has gained from his experiences through his blog articles. You can find Adam on LinkedIn or check out his other projects on LinkTree.

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