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10 ways to prep for -- and ace -- a security job interview

George V. Hulme | Jan. 16, 2014
You've landed an interview for that security job you've had your eye on. Now prepare to land the job with these 10 techniques to get noticed and make an impression

"If this is a face-to-face interview, and you don't know already, don't be afraid to ask your interviewer or HR ahead of time what the dress code is like," advises Shawn Moyer, partner and chief researcher at Atredis Partners. "Go ahead and dress a notch or two above the norm, but don't go too far. As a consultant, every time I wear a suit and tie to a t-shirt-and-jeans startup, I get asked if I'm a lawyer or an undertaker," he says.

Study the job description and align yourself to match
The goal is to align yourself to the job description as much as possible, but don't stretch the truth. "If a job description is available, and it has fairly good detail, prepare to answer how you fit the description and be prepared to answer any areas where you fall short of the requirements," says Moyer. But no need to think that you have to be able to check every line item. "In a lot of cases, job descriptions are a wish list for an ideal candidate that may not even exist, so don't be intimidated if you fall a bit short. If you've made it as far as the interview, you're at least in the running," Moyer says.

Not only will such prep help you match yourself to their needs, but it will also help you to avoid selling the wrong aspects of yourself to the interviewer for the position that is up for grabs. "There's nothing 'better' than giving a lengthy rant on the great things you can do that have nothing to do with the job position or the company's needs," says Amit. In other words, you only have a limited amount of time to sell yourself, make each sentence count.

Leave the ego at the door
Security pros tend to be a bright bunch. Very bright, in fact. But if a candidate is going to be offering advice on how they could improve the operations at the company they're interviewing — a bold move unless asked directly — they need to be careful. "One guy came in and spent the entire interview telling me how wrong we were doing everything and that he would fix us right up. This was for an entry-level position. He did not get hired," says Fisher.

Prepare to answer questions on your current employment situation, and other potentially negative questions

Be prepared to answer questions that aim to expose your weak points as your skills align to the requirements. It's important to stress that you are eager to, and want to, learn the gaps you currently have. "Nobody is perfect, and often you'll need to answer the "what are your weak points" questions. I won't ask because I think it's stupid, but some HR people are keen on this. In security you always have something new to learn. Even if it seems completely tangential to your "area of expertise:" Arduino hacking, playing with crypto, or making a Furby do somersaults," Amit says.


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