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Why this matters:

A candidate who’s taken the time to further their cybersecurity education demonstrates a solid commitment to cybersecurity as a career. It shows they care about the industry and its challenges — and want to be an active part of the solution.

What to listen for:

  • Certifications that will fill a gap on your cybersecurity team
  • The candidate’s attitude toward the question — do they seem content in their current knowledge or willing to pursue professional development?

Why this matters:

This is your chance to make sure that the candidate not only speaks fluent tech, but also understands one of the basic requirements of the position — maintaining and deploying firewalls. An experienced candidate should be able to answer the question easily and demonstrate solid rationale.

What to listen for:

  • Answers that cover the concept of security by obscurity and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of visibility
  • Hesitation in answering this basic question — this could indicate a lack of crucial experience that’s necessary for the role

Why this matters:

Hackers succeed by staying one step ahead of the security protocols put in place to stop them. A cybersecurity specialist who can get inside the head of a cybercriminal and think like them can help anticipate new ways they might try to infiltrate the company’s system.

What to listen for:

  • A hypothetical example that demonstrates a solid working knowledge of the latest security protocols
  • The ability to anticipate future trends — and the creativity and problem-solving ability to outsmart them

Why this matters:

With this question, you’ll gain insight into the candidate’s eye for detail and problem-solving skills. The best cybersecurity specialists are proactive about implementing fixes and strategizing ways to prevent further issues.

What to listen for:

  • A forward-thinking approach that fixed the issue at hand — and also helped protect against future vulnerabilities
  • Quick thinking, since IT security issues can rapidly escalate if not handled fast

Why this matters:

While the previous question focuses on internal vulnerabilities, this one focuses on inbound threats. A good cybersecurity specialist is able to identify both internal and external risks and put protocols in place to eliminate them.

What to listen for:

  • Specific details about the attack, including its source, type, and the attacker’s method of entry — and what the candidate did to prevent or mitigate the risk
  • Evidence that the candidate was quick to respond and thorough in their approach

Why this matters:

A cybersecurity specialist is part solo artist, part band member. It’s important for them to work closely with other people throughout the business to solve problems, make recommendations, and put effective security protocols in place.

What to listen for:

  • Indications that the candidate values teamwork and respects their coworkers’ knowledge and experience
  • Hesitation that could signal that the candidate doesn’t work well in a team, or hasn’t experienced a good team relationship in past positions

Why this matters:

This open-ended question asks the candidate to consider the most important metrics for security success. Answers will vary, but an ideal cybersecurity specialist will be data-driven and will emphasize the importance of using quantitative measures of success, in addition to their experience and instincts.

What to listen for:

  • Examples of methods to measure success both quantitatively and qualitatively
  • An understanding of different metrics that may be important depending on the type of program or protocol — including cost, resources, and efficacy

Why this matters:

A cybersecurity specialist uses every form of communication, from writing technical reports to leading seminars on security for employees. This question can give you a good sense of whether the candidate is a strong communicator who’s able to speak in nontechnical language when necessary to ensure the other party understands.

What to listen for:

  • Answers that offer a plan that involves open communication delivered in nontechnical terms
  • Great answers that stress the scale and severity of the issue, rather than trying to downplay it, without coming across as alarmist

Why this matters:

Cybersecurity specialists have to focus on both daily monitoring and application and bigger-picture strategy and development. To avoid letting an attack slip through the cracks while they’re keeping other balls in the air, they need to be organized — and to effectively plan ahead.

What to listen for:

  • Examples of organizational strategies that are relevant to a cybersecurity atmosphere
  • Knowledge of organizational tools they find useful and why, such as calendar reminders, IT service ticketing, or other workflow systems
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