Article by Kristina Balaam, Senior Staff Intelligence Researcher, Lookout

Cybersecurity is a fascinating industry filled with potential. As our society continues to introduce technology into nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives, the demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow.

Over the past several years, I’ve been involved in the hiring and interviewing of dozens of candidates for various positions and levels of seniority. While I’ve truly enjoyed every conversation with these candidates, those who that stood out the most to me (and usually to the rest of the interviewing team) all seemed to succeed because they were able to do the following things:

Know your reason for applying for this role

Whether you’re transitioning into cybersecurity from another field or just looking for a new job in a different organization, it’s important to have a genuine answer when asked, “Why do you want this job?”

Despite it being a relatively standard interview question, I’ve spoken with a number of candidates who weren’t able to provide an answer. Even though “a salary bump” or “a more senior title” might be the truth behind your decision to apply, these won’t  always resonate with the hiring team. At least a few of the people interviewing you will likely be the individuals you’ll end up working with, and there tends to be an expectation that a new hire will be enthusiastic about the role or the organization – or both.

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Be honest about your skills and knowledge gaps

Your resume is an opportunity to brag about what you know and what you’ve accomplished. It’s important, though, that it’s a true representation of your abilities! Even in non-technical roles in cybersecurity, there’s always a good chance that you’ll be asked about the skills or knowledge you have listed on your resume.

If you can’t answer basic questions related to that area of expertise, it will be difficult for an interviewer to believe you truly have the experience you’ve claimed.

Be able to provide details about your most recent work experience

Your interviewers will probably want to hear in detail about the work you’ve been doing in recent years.

Interviewers won’t expect you to recount every little detail from your first ever job, but being able to speak confidently about the projects you’ve completed and your successes (and “failures”) will help reassure your interviewer that the details on your resume are accurate. Be sure to highlight how the good and bad experiences contributed to your career growth.

In lieu of work experience, be able to talk about relevant projects or research

If you’re transitioning into cybersecurity, being able to talk about side projects or personal research (and experience with cyber threats) related to your intended role can demonstrate your interest and experience in the field.

While most entry level positions don’t typically require relevant work experience , having some demonstrable experience – whether through independent study, post-secondary coursework or a CTF (Capture the Flag) competition – can set you apart from other candidates.

Always be prepared to ask your interviewer questions

There’s no guarantee your interviewer will give you time for questions, but have a few ready to ask anyways. While both acting as an interviewer and interviewee, I’ve found that questions for the candidate tend to be left until the end of the interview.

Preparing several questions for the interviewer in advance helps demonstrate your genuine interest in the role, and in the organization / team with whom you hope to work. These could be questions about the corporate culture, the company’s growth plan, and/or the technology used by the team or even something generic like, “Can you tell me your favorite part about working at Company X”?

Interviews can be an exhilarating and nerve-wracking experience. Your interviewers know this too. Good interviewers want you to succeed and want to learn about who you are and what you’re excited about. Keep these tips in mind, be yourself and try to have fun! Remember: even though you’re interviewing for a position, this is also your chance to interview your future employer. Have confidence in yourself, and good luck!