This page contains a collection of notes compiled from many sources and many contributors with the goal to polish up your resume, prepare for an interview, ask great questions, and negotiate a solid salary.
Table of Contents
- Long Term Strategy
- Interview Preparation
- Cover Letter
- Writing a professional bio
- Resume Writing, language, format, and overall flow
- Pre-Interview Prep
- Common Interview Questions
- Question to ask the interviewer about the role:
- Technical interview study in information security:
- Post Interview
- Writing a post-interview thank you note
- Writing a resignation letter
- Interview salary negotiation
- Responding to offers
- Appropriate following-up
- Reviews/promotions: question to ask a current manager
- Negotiate Promotions
- Other resources
Long Term Strategy
Careers are not built in a day, these are long-games. Some ideas that may work for you:
- Plan for a new role or future in an existing role by analyzing job postings for the role you have/want, look for keywords, experience, requirements, certs, skills, tools, software, etc.
- Once you see the patterns, plan your training and experience around that.
- For example, if penetration testing is a goal: use Kali Linux often, get to know the system, the tools, and learn techniques. Test against your home network (wired/wireless).
- If certifications are common but you don’t have time for in-depth study or funds for the exams: read, absorb, and learn the materials and terminology to get a sense of the basic body of knowledge for the particular cert.
- For example, Security+ or CISSP is foundational knowledge that any infosec professional should know. Study and know it, regardless of holding the certification.
- Track and trend this over time to prepare for waves as they approach
- In the tech field, a 2–3 year outlook is reasonable. In a year, things can change too rapidly to predict. In 4 or more years, it is difficult to predict the direction things will go.
- Read job postings for work that you are interested in doing, note the requirements, skills, experience, etc. Then learn, certify, or acquire those skills and experience to better prepare yourself for a role in six to twelve months in the future.
Based on: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6930193734936522752/
- Quality over quantity
- Focused approach
- Use your network
- Find a job listing
- Research the company. Is it somewhere you would like to work?
- Target resume to the job listing, address all requirements in your resume and identify any gaps
- Identify the hiring manager and recruiter
- Identify anyone you know that works at that company, reach out to them and ask for a brief phone call. Ask about what they do, the company as a whole, and for a referral. Consider reaching out to 3-4 people per company to chat and ask for referrals.
- Reach out to the recruiter, mention the ad number (or name) and the referral name
- Reach out to the hiring manager after having applied and speaking with the recruiter. Make a personal connection and introduction with a brief and direct message, request to stay in touch.
- Conduct industry research: salary ranges, company financials, competitors, mission/vision statements, core values and strategic goals
Job searches are difficult and rejections happen. You’re not always going to be the best candidate for a role and there’s nothing you can do about that but to keep trying.
- If you’ve applied to 10 jobs without a single call-back; stop, and ask for help
- If you’ve applied to 30 jobs without an interview; stop, and ask for help
- If you’ve applied to 100 jobs and haven’t been hired; stop, ask for help. Get a resume review. Get a LinkedIn profile review. Your process is not working. Don’t continue applying to hundreds more jobs.
Identify your “Hook”
Hiring managers interview many people. They go back to their notes to remember candidates—the exception being those with a strong hook. Hooks are how people dress, their personality; the best is a strong work-related story.
Be a low-risk safe choice
Hiring managers look for low-risk candidates, they play to not lose. Be the one that conveys “I got this” and “I got your back” and is low-risk.
Know the essence of the job you’re applying for
Get to know the job you’re applying for. Study it and picture yourself performing every task. When interviewing, frame responses revealing your significant knowledge about the job.
Know what makes you a great fit
Know exactly what makes you fit into the position perfectly and speak to it during the interview. What makes you special? When asked “What are your strengths?” skip clichés and go right into your qualities that are unique to the job. Think: what makes a perfect candidate and describe how you fit that role.
Know the company
Know the company to demonstrate high preparation, interest, and show how you fit in. OSINT the organization and interviewer, build a strong foundation.
- How the company makes money
- Top executives
- What they aim to accomplish (strategic objectives)
- Mission, goals, and values
- Read news, check their social media
- Understand the industry, major developments, changes, crises, etc.
Prepare follow-on questions
Prepare follow-on questions and outline key points to touch on if asked.
- Example: if time management is your strength, give examples “what does this strength look like in action?” Preparation makes responses more pointed, avoids awkward silence, uncertainty, and builds confidence prior to the interview.
Practice, practice, practice
You and other candidates already know many of the questions you’ll be asked. The difference lies in the preparation. Prepare unique and position-specific responses for a competitive edge. Don’t memorize answers, rather know certain points of reference about yourself that apply to different questions. Mock interview. Video record yourself until you’re able to speak comfortably and flexibly—as opposed to regurgitating answers—about your prepared topics. Video feels awkward, yet pays off.
Preparation helps to stay succinct and logical—especially when talking through scenario/behavior questions.
If you can’t relax, nothing you do to prepare matters. Being yourself is essential; interviewers notice if you’re too nervous. Fear or anxiety appear weak compared to a relaxed smile and genuine confidence. Smiling increases your happiness and confidence, it puts others at ease—even virtually. Mirror neurons naturally mimic others’ expressions and emotions. This requires emotional intelligence (EQ), a skill employers seek.
Maintaining positivity for topics like describing difficult bosses, coworkers, or explaining why you were fired. Show you can maintain a positive, resilient, flexible attitude in a challenging environment.
Good interviewers get to the core of people, have an innate sense for reading people, can “see right through you,” and are good at asking the right questions. Dishonesty leads to not getting the job or (worse) being a poor fit. Give an honest and passionate breakdown of what you have to offer rather than what the interviewer wants to hear.
General interview prep
- Schedule interview around 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday (Mondays are stressful, Fridays can be distracting)
- Wear blue to associate as a team player
- Taylor to the interviewer’s generation:
- Gen Y (20-30yr): Bring visual samples and highlight ability to multitask
- Gen X (30-50): Emphasize creativity, mention how work/life balance contributes to your success
- Baby Boomer (50-70): Show you work hard and demonstrate respect for their achievements
- Hiring managers play “not to lose,” subtly communicate you understand this; be a safe bet
- Convey “I got this” and “I got your back”
- Hold palms open to show sincerity
- Steeple hands to show confidence
- Find something in common
- Physical mirror some, too much is creepy
- Compliment interviewer and the organization without self-promoting
- Speak expressively
- Speak faster when summarizing, slower when presenting new material
- Eye contact when you first meet
- Focus on future potential, less so the past
- Say “let me tell you what is not on my resume”
- Say “I struggled and worked very hard”
- Ask “why did you invite me to the interview today?” (understand what they see in you so far)
- Start the interview by highlighting your likability
- Have examples of each skill and how it benefits the organization
- Throughout the interview, answer: why I’m the best candidate
- Balance confidence and humility
- Speak with someone who works in the company to gain insights; mention this to show you’re serious
- Be prepared for behavior and scenario questions
- Overall, be VERY specific about who you are the job you’re applying for
- Try to find a contact person to address it to
- Visually match your resume and cover letter in font, layout, style, consistency
- Summary: you are the right candidate and you have the experience, education, or drive
- Opening: why this job is exciting to you and what you bring to the table
- Example: “I have been avidly following the release of X (something notable) over the last year, and when the Y position was flagged by a Google Alert this week, I immediately rearranged my schedule to apply for the position”
- “I’m applying for the X position because I have (time) experience in the same industry, but I also have the unique combination of <skills> skills you seek.”
- “I’m applying for … position because I am one of the few <unique quality>, which has been proven by <facts>”
- Include details indicating the specific skills that match job posting, mention the name of the position in the first sentence
- Write targeted and very specific
- Strategically plant keywords and skills throughout the cover letter
- Subtle name drops “When John Doe called to recommend I apply for the XYZ job, I knew that it would be the right company and challenge to suit my technical background”
- Explain details of a particular problem you played a key role in solving and how exactly you employed your skills to solve it. If you know the company has a particular problem you could help solve, outline how you could help solve it.
- PS line: “Thank you for taking the time to review my cover letter. I sincerely believe I’m a perfect fit for this position and your company. I’d welcome the opportunity to prove this to you by scheduling an interview at your convenience. Please call me at X. I look forward to speaking with you and thank you again for your consideration.
- Always export in PDF
Top Cover Letter Words
Diversity and Inclusion
Describe yourself with non-cliché adjectives, ie detail-oriented, ambitious, & responsible:
Self-Aware (Emotionally Intelligent)
Writing a professional bio
Paragraph 1: Introduction, discuss areas of expertise, key career focus skills
Paragraphs 2 & 3: Discuss career history spanning from early career to current role
Paragraph 4: Discuss services provided and/or current specialty and how you pivoted into this area of expertise
Paragraph 5: Provide information about education, current community leadership, affiliations, honors, and awards
Writing a professional bio on LinkedIn
LinkedIn summary area:
- Unique attributes: what do you do that others don’t?
- Capabilities: what can you do to help your future employer? Be specific.
- Mission: driving force behind your career. Why did you choose to be what you are? What do you want to achieve? This helps potential employers connect on a deeper level and shows them what you want to do as part of their team.
- Successes: illustrate the biggest accomplishments and what they’ve meant for your career. Include anything from awards to difficult projects you’ve completed. This showcases what you are able to do for a future employer.
- Interests: What do you like to do in your off time? This adds humanity to an otherwise work-focused bio.
- If appropriate, show personality, strong first line (hook), testimonial, show work, call to action
Resume Writing, language, format, and overall flow
- Priority #1: tell your story—not just work experience, but also what you’ve learned and the accomplishments you’re most proud of
- Achievements, successes, and how you made a difference or were a valued contributor
- More effective than listing job descriptions, duties, or staff size
- Think “Accomplished x, as measured by y, by doing z”
- More effective to share facts and figures, prove achievements not list platitudes
- On-time performance, waste reduction, under budget, exceeded goal stats
- Convey passion and enthusiasm for what you do
- Unique (everyone is already unique, tell why you’re better)
- Accomplishments matter more than how long you’ve done something
- Written like a news article: the best at the top to hook the reader
- Convey process of working through a problem (communicate/articulate)
- Who the person is, what they’re working on, what is the impact
- Have a logical flow: most recent first, big hitters first
- Don’t data dump
- Community Involvement
- Filter for only relevant skills
Words to use
Self-taught or in my own time
Willing to do whatever it takes
Words to Avoid
Responsible (rather, write achievements)
Resume general format
1. Professional Summary
- Put your best skills and most relevant experience forward to captivate. A crisp and short professional summary can intrigue the hiring manager to dwell on it for a few seconds more.
- Example: A detail-oriented X+ years experienced cybersecurity analyst, proficient in A, B and C. Gained hands-on experience in A, B, and C configurations. Adept at ensuring X, Y, and Z.
2. Professional Skills
Ensure relevant skills match or complement those required for the job role
Application & Interface Security
Change Control & Configuration
Data Security & Information Lifecycle mgmt
Infrastructure & Virtualization
Secure Software Development
Security Incident Management
E-Discovery & Cloud Forensics
Threat & Vulnerability Management
3. Professional Experience
Quantify the skills acquired. List employer names, locations, and dates. After each position, try to focus on RESULTS achieved, responsibilities executed, and provide numeric values where possible.
- What was your role on each team, or in each work situation?
- How did you contribute to the team?
- What was the biggest impact you had there?
4. Education and certification
- Bulleted list of courses taken and degrees earned
- List relevant certifications after education
- If certifications are recent and strongly related to the job requirement, list them before the education section
- Use reverse chronological order to insert the details of education (newest first)
5. Code repositories, CVEs, 0-days, and other infosec discoveries, technologies you are proficient in, blogs, channels, speaking engagement, group membership, etc.
6. Overall format
- Ensure the document is consistent: headings, line spacing, date formats, font sizes, font styles, tense, bullet point usage, and punctuation, etc
- Use tab stops rather than spaces to align things, don’t fear the right-tab stop
- Avoid narrow left and right margins: long lines become difficult to read; a rule of thumb is two to three alphabets wide, 75–80 characters wide for many fonts
- Use em dash, en dash, and hyphens correctly
- Use page breaks vs. carriage returns for new pages
- Get sleep
- Don’t caffeinate more than normal
- Well in advance, consider recording yourself asking and answering some of the below questions. Watch your face, listen to the way you speak. Do you come across confident, put together, and likable?
- Write some notes about your thoughts of the organization, questions you may have, answers to some top questions
- In many US states, it is legal to record phone calls without notifying all parties. If you live in such a state (like SC), consider recording the call with a standalone device for the purpose of note taking, improving your speaking, or otherwise learning from the interview. Of course, do so discreetly. It is easier to do this in a virtual/phone interview.
- Be open minded, you may not be offered the job, you may bomb the interview; you only fail if you don’t learn from it. Ask the recruiter or hiring manager for candid feedback.
- You don’t know what your “competition” looks like. You may be the only person interviewing for a position, or you may be more qualified than you think. Don’t psych yourself out; be open minded and prepare for any possibility.
Common Interview Questions
STAR method: Situation > Task > Activity > Result
- What was the situation that was assigned or tackled?
- What tasks or steps were taken to deal with it?
- What skills or actions were required? What software or techniques were used?
- What was the measurable result?
- Tell me about yourself (Likelihood to be asked: 94%)
- Convey you’re prepared and that you want the job, avoid a life story, 5-8 sentences why your experience makes you an ideal fit
- Positive summary of skills, professional accomplishments, and personal experience that casts you in the most appealing light for the job. Talk about promotions, highlight your successes, and quantify your achievements.
- Tell me about a challenge or conflict you faced at work and how you dealt with it (82%)
- Choose one that you’re proud of and within a professional context
- What’s the most challenging project you’ve designed and executed?
- What are your greatest strengths? (91%)
- Reinforce work experience and long-term career goals
- Speak to what makes you a unique, valuable candidate to the job
- Pick 2-3 specific things and a sample answer you really believe make you stand out for the particular job or company
- Tell a story like “I’m usually the colleague in the room who brings everyone together when there are disagreements over strategy or business plans.”
- How did you hear about this position? (84%)
- Demonstrate your interest in the company, drop a hint that you’ve done some research
- What are your greatest weaknesses? (80%)
- Convey you’re real and right for the job, don’t BS with platitudes or canned response, talk about a flaw that is a tradeoff of a strength
- Think work in progress
- Show how you can add value
- Skills, abilities, or attributes required for the job should not be listed as weakness
- Identify and share how you’ve transformed weakness into strength
- Highlight steps you are taking to improve current weaknesses
- Avoid strong negative words: failure, embarrassment, inept, disaster, or hate
- Genuinely try to improve weaknesses and talk about: class, training, volunteering, shadowing, professional orgs, tools/software to hone skills like time management, organization. or collaboration
- Idea: I tend to ‘over research’ anything I’m working on
- Read: www.theladders.com/career-advice/what-are-your-weaknesses-job-interviews
- Walk me through your resume
- Convey skills, why you changed jobs (compelling answer), don’t bash past job/boss
- What’s your story?
- Not the same as “Walk me through your resume…” rather tell the story of how you arrived where you are today—mention events that changed your trajectory or were impactful
- Why are you interested in working for us?
- Enthusiastically emphasize the merits and aspects of the position itself to convey interest – less about rehashing how your background and work experience fits. Demonstrate enthusiasm about the work you’re about to do. Actually wanting to do a certain job counts for a lot.
- This is a test to see how much you understand about the larger context and employer. Think about the interviewer’s perspective and about the company goals. Show that you understand and align with the company’s mission, values, or something about its culture. Make the interviewer feel good about where they work and that you really want to join them.
- The interviewer wants to know whether you care enough about this position and the business to take the time to do your homework. Be aware of the business’s major initiatives, mission, and qualities
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
- Convey you’re not looking for a stop-gap job, don’t disqualify yourself, say that you like the work and want to continue
- Some say the right answers is “right here with this company”
- Demonstrate ambition to grow
- Why do you want to leave your current company? Why are you looking for a new job?
- Careful with skeletons and baggage, don’t incriminate yourself, frame this as org change – nothing to do with you
- Inspired by the company’s mission, seeking new, exciting challenges. How experience in the current role really lends itself to pushing the envelope at the new role. Looking forward to leveraging that experience to help bring org’s goals to fruition
- Spin the best story possible without being defensive. Casual and confident so the interviewer concludes “Ok, no big deal.”
- “I enjoy the work environment of my current job, but I feel that it isn’t challenging enough. I’m looking for an opportunity to better use my skills, and I think that [position] at [company] will allow me to do this.”
- “This job is such a perfect fit for me that I couldn’t pass it up. I believe I could be very successful in this role because of my skills in X, Y, and Z, and I am excited about the opportunity.”
- “I believe I can contribute in a meaningful way to the success of [this company], and that my skills and personal values match this position perfectly. When we meet in person, I think you’ll see that I’m a great fit for this job and the company.”
- What is your greatest achievement? OR Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of OR What is your most significant career accomplishment, and why?
- Allows the hiring manager to preview your contributions to the company. Describe the situation thoroughly without getting bogged down in irrelevant details.
- Tell a story, how you took a leap of faith switching industries; awards, price, looking forward to setting new records for myself.
- The examples you give should cover four key areas: The challenge (or opportunity) faced, actions taken, results achieved, lessons learned
- What can you offer us that someone else can’t?
- Tell about a risk you took and failed. What did you learn?
- How do you deal with pressure and stress?
- Convey competence to deal with difficulty. This question tends to come with high-pressure, stressful jobs or companies – they want to know whether you’ll be able to handle tough situations.
- Describe a stressful situation you had to deal with at work
- Tell me about a time you handled a challenging situation with a customer or client OR How would you deal with an angry customer?
- Share about a time when you had to make a risky decision.
- Share a time when you worked well under pressure
- How do you approach work-life balance?
- Why was there a gap in your employment between these two dates?
- Must be honest about this
- When you’re working on multiple projects, how do you keep yourself organized and on track?
- Explain how you prioritize, keep calendar, to-do lists, or technology
- Tell me about a time you met a goal and how you got there
- They want to know that when tasks are put before you, you are able to achieve them. They also want to know your strategies and if you align with their org
- Share a time when you made an unpopular decision at work and the results
- In decision-making roles, not all decisions are popular among employees. The employer wants to know that you are willing to make tough decisions at the risk of being unpopular.
- Tell how you handled a difficult situation
- Demonstrating rationale for making this decision gives insight into your judgment and thought process. Walk her through the pros and cons and the different aspects you considered before coming to closure to show that you’re thoughtful and understand the ramifications and impact.
- Give an example of a time you convinced your team to come together to work on a task or project they weren’t happy about and how you got them on board
- Give an example of a time when you were part of a team you were proud of
- Give an example of a time when you were part of a team where everyone didn’t pull their own weight. What did you do?
- Tell about a time you went above and beyond for your job
- Tell about a time when you went above and beyond the requirements or someone’s expectations for a project
- Share an example of a time you were able to motivate and inspire your coworkers
- Tell me about a time when you had to work with a coworker whose personality was starkly different than yours
- What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
- How do you set and achieve goals?
- Give an example of a time you developed a solution to a challenge at work
- Give an example of a time you reached an important goal and how you achieved it
- How do you approach meeting tight turnaround times and deadlines?
- Give an example of a time when you had to resolve a customer complaint
- Give an example of a time when it was vital to make a good impression on a client
- Share an example of a time when a customer was pleased with your service and why
- How do you prioritize customer needs when serving a large customer or client base?
- Are you willing to relocate or travel?
- Tell about a time you made a mistake
- They want to know that you’re self-aware, can own up to your mistakes, and have the know-how to course correct when a mistake occurs
- Share about a time when you did not meet a deadline
- Describe a time when you chose to postpone making a decision
- Provide an example of a time when you could have been a better active listener
- Tell about a time when you had to demonstrate strong leadership skills
- Share a time when you were able to inspire and motivate your employees or coworkers
- Share a time when you successfully persuaded others to see things your way on a topic
- What was your biggest failure?
- What is your dream job?
- What would you accomplish in the first 30/60/90 days on the job?
- Discuss your educational background
- Describe yourself
- How would your colleagues describe you?
- Combine personality-fit and work-style, showcase your interpersonal strengths, reflect on the way you add to the team
- Why should we hire you? OR Why this job at this company?
- Share an emotional connection, tell a story, tell how you “get them”
- Describe your most important qualities and what sets you apart in terms of how you work and what you produce. Back up these qualities with examples why you’re the best person for the role. “My unique experience in [X] will prove beneficial. I can bring a fresh perspective to the table.”
- Do your homework and prep work, better than “you’re the best”
- Mention something you like about the people, the mission, and the work
- Have you ever worked remotely?
- What were some of the challenges you faced?
- Where do you prefer to work?
- Why do you want to work from home?
- What do you like/dislike about working in an office/from home?
- How do you plan on communicating with a remote team?
- Frame answers in professional advantages (avoid personal advantages): more productive working from home or the idea of working without geographical limitations
- Have you worked with a distributed team? How did it go? (Or, How will you deal with the challenges?)
- How do you stay focused on your tasks?
- How do you switch off from work?
- Are you interviewing with other companies?
- Focus on this position, not the others; show enthusiasm, flatter them a bit. Don’t name-drop, be honest, be brief.
- Tell about a time when you identified a new, unusual, or different approach for addressing a problem or task
- Describe a project or idea (not necessarily your own) that was implemented or carried out successfully primarily because of your efforts
- What makes you better than other candidates?
- What makes you valuable? Where will you fit into their team?
- Give me your understanding of the role and explain how your experience matches up
- A test for your understanding of the role and fit
- Be brief, give three points about how your experience fits
- Why have you changed jobs so often (if applicable)?
- Hiring managers get worried when they see someone that can’t hold a job down without hopping every year or two. The investment of time and money to hire someone new means they want to ensure you are not fickle or immature about your choices. Provide context about job changes that weren’t your fault (e.g. you moved across the country to be with your spouse, a company closed because you burned it down, etc.) Put the interviewer at ease.
- If you were in my shoes, what attributes would you look for in hiring for this role?
- Who are our competitors?
- What motivates you? What gets you up in the morning?
- What’s your availability?
- Who’s your mentor?
- Why do you think you can help this company grow?”
- Answer how you, specifically, can contribute to the team/company mission
- Tell about a time when you disagreed or had a conflict with your boss or peer
- Highlighted that you are mature and capable of working with a variety of people, even if you don’t always see eye-to-eye
- Describe your approach to dealing with it
- How would you improve this company/specific operation?
- Your vision for improving the company is the reason you are hired. Prepare ideas for how you’d make something related to the position in question better.
- Don’t disparage how the company is currently doing things
- Demonstrate that you’ve thought about this question and have innovative ideas.
- Example: I’ve considered the way this department operates and would work to streamline the process…”
- Tell us about an idea you started that involved collaboration with your colleagues that improved the business
- When you had extra time available at your last job, describe ways you found to make your job more efficient
- What processes or techniques have you learned to make a job easier, or to be more effective? What was your discovery process and how did you implement your idea?
- At times you may be asked to do many things at once, tell me how you would decide what is most important and why
- How do you react when faced with many hurdles while trying to achieve a goal? How do you overcome the hurdles?
- Tell me a time when you identified a problem with a process and what steps did you take to improve the problem?
- Give me an example of a new idea you suggested to your manager within the last six months.Describe steps you have taken to implement your idea
- Everyone has good and bad days at work. Think back to a really good day you had and tell me why it was a good day.
- How do you handle situations where there is conflict among your team members?
- Tell about a time when you had to rely solely on written communication to prove a point or get your ideas across
- Describe a time when the tone of written communication was misinterpreted and how you handled it
- Tell about a time when you gave a successful presentation and what made it a success
- Do you tend to take your work home with you?
- People who leave work at work are better off because they set boundaries. The hiring manager wants to know that you’re dedicated and available, but that you’re not going to get quickly overwhelmed and burned out. Briefly explain that you’re available when you need to be but respect your own work-life balance.
- What do you do in your free time?
- Convey that you’re normal, well-rounded, don’t be boring, tell about a different hobby
- What was the last book you read for fun?
- What are you reading now?
- Convey that you’re intellectually curious and have particular interests.
- Would you work holidays/weekends?
- What is your ideal work environment?
- What are your top three soft skills?
- What is the name of our CEO?
- What are your career goals?
- What would your direct reports say about you?
- What were your bosses’ strengths/weaknesses?
- NEVER disparage
- If I called your previous boss, why would they tell me I should hire you?
- Are you a leader or a follower?
- What is your working style?
- Introvert, extrovert, do things match up?
- What is your ideal company size?
- Do you thrive in smaller or larger organizations? Speak to the size of the hiring company.
- What are your co-worker pet peeves?
- What is your favorite website?
- What makes you uncomfortable?
- What are some of your leadership experiences?
- How would you fire someone?
- What do you like the most and least about working in this industry?
- Would you work 40+ hours a week?
- What questions haven’t I asked you?
- What questions do you have for me?
- What are your salary requirements?
- See: Interview salary negotiation below
- Tell me a fun fact about yourself
- Be genuine, don’t overthink, not too personal, try to relate to the job position
- Famous people who share your birthday
- A well-known person you’d love to sit at a dinner party with
- The most money you’ve ever won playing a game
- Your favorite movie or movie star and why
- A “hidden” talent
- Your fondest childhood memory
- The first movie you remember seeing
- A superpower you’d love to have
- The weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you
- The strangest coincidence you’ve ever experienced
- Your favorite teacher, book, food, game and why
- The first childhood book you remember reading
- An idiosyncrasy about you
- One thing about you that annoys your friends
- Your high school nicknames
- How you learned that Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy weren’t real
- A story behind a scar
- How you broke a bone
- Your volunteer work
- Your hobbies outside of work
- A new skill you picked up recently
- The story behind your first pet
- Your current pet’s name
- Your favorite genre of music and why
- The first concert, music show, or play you attended
- Your passion projects
- The things you’re really good at, like a sport or game
- You have an identical twin
- Random facts you know
- A conspiracy theory you find fascinating
- A superstition you’re interested in
- Something interesting you can do
- Where you’re from, what you love about it, and what you dislike about it
- The number of places you lived growing up
- If you were a military child, how many moves you made
- The best place you visited growing up
- Your favorite travel destination
- How many states you have visited
- The farthest drive you’ve ever taken
- The weirdest place you’ve ever fallen asleep
- How many schools you attended
- The story of the worst job interview you ever had and what you learned
- The first funny thing a relative ever did to you
- A humiliating story that makes everyone laugh when they hear it
- An irrational fear you have
- The worst date you ever experienced
Question to ask the interviewer about the role:
- Can you give examples of people who previously held this role, but were a bad fit, and why?
- What have past employees done to succeed in this position?
- What’s the biggest pain point in the company/office/on your team, and what could I do to address it if I started tomorrow?
- Why is the position open?
- How would you describe an ideal candidate and how do I compare?
- What is your definition of success for this role?
- Can you describe the typical day-to-day responsibilities of this position?
- What is the rhythm to the work around here?
- What are the biggest challenges I’ll face in the first 90 days, and how will success be measured?
- What are the challenges of this position? (or challenges facing the company)
- What are some critical projects that I would be tackling in this position?
- What are some important things that you want to see accomplished in this position?
- Will I need any training before settling into the job?
- Is this a new position? If not, why did the person before me leave this role?
- Do you expect the responsibilities to change in the next year?
- Would I be representing the company at industry or trade shows?
- What are performance expectations for this position over the next year?
- Will I be working closely with other team members in this role?
- Are there other departments that I will need to interface with?
- What are the most likely career paths for this position? OR What do the career paths of those who have held this position look like?
- How many hours do you expect this role to work per week?
- What impact does this role have on the company’s success?
- How long does it usually take for new employees to get up to speed?
- Does the company hold yearly performance reviews? What do they look like?
- Who would I report to? Are those people on the same or different teams?
- Beyond hard skills, what soft skills would serve the company and position best?
- Can you give me an example of how I would collaborate with my manager?
- What are the ways the company creates a collaborative atmosphere in the workspace?
- What’s your timeline for making a decision, and when can I expect to hear back from you?
- What are the next steps in the hiring process?
- Can you tell me what steps need to be completed before your company can extend an offer?
- Will I have an opportunity to meet those who would be part of my staff during the interview process?
- Tell me about a time when the CEO/VP/Director/leadership had security’s back
- This asks whether security culture is prioritized from the top
- How does the organization deal with security failure?
- Is there a business culture of “move fast and break things”?
- Moving fast and ignoring maintenance could mean less focus on security
- Can you describe the security awareness program?
- Is it deeply embedded or a token annual training? Ask what the interviewer says it is like from their perspective.
- What’s the number one complaint you hear from your security team?
- What is the budget for this role?
- Is there anything we haven’t covered that is important to know about working here?
- Brief, conclusive pitch about how you’re motivated and capable because your past experiences have prepared you well for the tasks at hand. “Given my experience in [X], I am confident that I’m the right person for this job.”
- What does leadership really think about the team you’re on, and its performance/results? What are some things leadership would look to change or improve within this team?
- This can help you learn about the team’s impact and performance within the company
- What does the onboarding process look like?
- How much freedom for decision making do individual contributors have?
- What are the expected/core work hours?
- What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 30/60/90 days?
- What management style does my immediate manager and their manager have? (micro vs macro, flexible vs. strict)
- How can I develop in my new role / what opportunities are offered?
- How are differences of opinions resolved?
- Who sets the priorities / schedule?
- What happens after pushback? (“this can’t be done in the projected time”)
- What happens when the team misses a target?
- How long has the longest team member been there?
Questions about me:
- Is there anything in my background that makes you cautious?
- Have I answered all of your questions?
- Do you need me to clarify or elaborate on anything I said or written in my resume?
- Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?
- Is there anything else I can provide to help you make your decision?
- How does my background compare to other candidates you’re interviewing?
- What haven’t I asked that most candidates did ask?
- If you chose not to hire me, what would be the reason?
Questions about the company
- How do you see the company/team growing over the next few years?
- How often does this company give salary raises to its employees?
- How do you evaluate success here?
- What kinds of people are successful—and unsuccessful—at this company?
- What type of employee tends to succeed here? What qualities are the most important for doing well and advancing?
- What kind of professional development benefits are offered?
- company-wide resources for learning, like ebooks subscriptions, or online courses
- continuing infosec education and professional development
- budget and time to work on certification study/testing
- What do you like most about the company?
- Are there opportunities for advancement in this position?
- Where do you think the company is headed in the next 5-10 years? How would this role contribute to that vision?
- Does the company provide time off and budget to attend conferences?
- What are some of the challenges facing the company right now?
- What do current or past employees in this role find the most rewarding and challenging about the position?
- I read about how the company was founded. Can you tell me more?
- Does the company plan to release new products or services in the next year?
- How would you score the company on living up to its core values? What’s the one thing you’re working to improve?
- Is there anyone else I need to meet with? OR Is there anyone else you would like me to meet?
- What are some of the problems your company faces right now, and what is your department doing to solve them?
- I read X about your CEO. Can you tell me more about this?
- What do you think are challenges to integrating myself into the company, should I get the job?
- What is the promotion process like? How are requirements / expectations communicated?
- What is the performance review process like?
- Are there social events or team building activities?
- Why did the company decide to hire an outsider over promoting an internal employee?
- How would you describe the company culture?
- What does work-life balance mean here?
- What are the big challenges you see coming up?
- What have you identified as your competitive advantage?
- What’s the best/worst aspects of working in this role, team, or company?
- Would you describe the work environment as casual or more formal?
- Are there any fun/interesting company-wide or office traditions?
- Do employees tend to do things together, for example, outside of the office?
- Who do you consider your major competitors? How are you better?
- Describe a recent success or win
Questions about the interviewer
- What do you like most about working for this company?
- How long have you worked for this company?
- What keeps you at the company?
- Are you excited about the company’s growth potential?
- Who have you promoted and why?
- Has the company changed significantly since you were hired?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- How do you help your team grow professionally?
- When your staff comes to you with conflicts, how do you respond?
- What’s your staff turnover rate? What are you doing to reduce it?
- What’s one of the most interesting projects or opportunities that you’ve worked on?
- What are your largest challenges, and how can I help overcome them?
- How can I ensure I have a positive impact on your challenge?
- Do you tend to take your work home with you?
- Tell about your most successful employee, what do they do differently?
- Tell about a disagreement or conflict on the team. (every team has conflicts, “we don’t have conflict” may mean different opinions aren’t welcome)
- Tell me about a time a team member changed your mind. (is leader open to different opinions)
- Tell me about someone you are proud of. (Reveals behaviors and skills they value, attitude on developing people, celebrating success)
- Do you fully disconnect during holidays and vacations?
- How did you start your last team meeting? (jump into the agenda or activity/conversation to learn more about each other)
- Tell me about the last person you recognized
- How do you focus on your own growth and development? (Articles, podcasts, books, mentors, courses, or coaches? If they are not developing themselves, your opportunity for development may be neglected.)
Questions about the company culture
Get a sense of the culture so it doesn’t kill you from the inside out. Big corporations have big corporation problems; Boutiques have Founder problems; Is there a “club” mentality among the senior employees? Try to gauge if you will outgrow the company (which limits your growth)
- Your website described your culture like ____. Can you provide an example?
- What is the best part about working here?
Questions if you sense you are not getting the job
Come from a proactive, seeking advice perspective. You may only have one opportunity to ask, take this shot if you sense things are not going positively.
- What additional skills or experience do you wish I had that would make me a better fit?
- What can I do to best prepare myself for this position if it becomes available in the future?
- Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?
Technical interview study in information security:
- 7-layer OSI/4-layer TCP model
- OWASP top 10
- CIA triad
- Incident response cycle
- Common TCP and UDP ports
- Windows and Active Directory attacks, vulnerabilities, exploits, and privilege escalation
- Malware classifications (virus, trojan, worm, etc.)
- Threat classifications (nation state, script kiddie, etc.)
- Vulnerability classifications (buffer overflow, misconfiguration, privilege escalation, remote code execution, etc.)
- Read through the job requirement and look for keywords
- CISSP materials help make a well-rounded infosec practitioner
- Understand some of the tech-heavy certifications
- Understand common types of attacks (social engineering, attacks against zero day vulnerabilities) and countermeasures (training, firewalls, blinky boxes, logging, etc.)
- Tools for the particular role
What to study for managerial interview in information security:
- Risk management
- Regulations (HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA)
- Industry standards (PCI)
- Project management
- Brain-dump everything you can recall as soon as possible
- Were there technical or personal questions that were a struggle? (learn these)
- Did you freeze during any point or for any question? (prepare more so these are automatic)
- What are your opinions about the org, people, or challenges, how can you best help them?
- Even if you think you bombed, form a followup note so you can at least get valuable feedback from the interviewer(s). (think: what can you do to better prepare for such a position in the future?)
Writing a post-interview thank you note
- Address the interviewer by name
- Thank them immediately, keeps you top of mind
- Thank interviewer and any individuals or groups who gave you special help or attention during the interview
- Name of the specific job for which you interviewed
- Your impression of the opportunity
- Your confidence that you can perform the job well
- An offer to provide further information or answer further questions
- Include a personal compliment, attribute something specific to the interviewer (role, team, vision)
- Reiterate what you bring to the table by clearly stating why you’re perfect for the role
Example email subjects:
- Thank you, [INTERVIEWER]
- [POSITION] Interview — [YOUR NAME]
- I enjoyed meeting you today!
- Thanks for the interview
- [YOUR NAME], a quick follow up
Thank you for meeting with me today to discuss the [POSITION] Matrix Reality Simulation Developer role at [COMPANY] Meta Cortex. It was a pleasure learning more about you and your vision for the team. I know I have the technical skills and team-oriented personality needed to be successful in this position and I look forward to the opportunity to prove myself to you.
Thomas Anderson (“Neo”)
Dear Agent Smith,
I enjoyed sitting down with you today to discuss the [POSITION] Matrix Reality Simulation Developer role at [COMPANY] Meta Cortex. After hearing more about the position, I feel that my previous [X] years of experience as a [EXPERIENCE] a computer hacking tool developer is the perfect fit for your needs.
Additionally, the current issue you discussed around [NOTABLE CONVERSATION EXAMPLE FROM INTERVIEW] [preventing people from taking red pills] is something I am excited to tackle. In fact, in my previous role, I was able to [QUANTIFY SOMETHING].
In addition to my experience, I will bring to your team strong communication skills and a background in [VALUABLE SKILL] believing things I see appear on my screen and following their suggestions blindly.
Thank you for taking the time to interview me today. Please reach out if you have any further questions for me throughout the hiring process.
Thomas Anderson (“Neo”)
If you don’t receive a response within two weeks or the time the interviewer told you plus two days, write a follow-up message that reminds the interviewer that you’re awaiting their response. Careful with the tone to avoid coming across as demanding or aggressive, be police, courteous, and considerate:
I enjoyed speaking with you on [DAY]. I thought I would check in on the status of your decision because you mentioned that your team would be making a final choice by [DATE]. Please let me know if you have any other questions for me. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”
Thank you for considering me for the role of [ROLE]. I thought I would touch base with you about your hiring decision, as you mentioned that you would be making a decision by [DATE].
Please let me know if you have any further questions for me. I look forward to speaking with you soon.
If you wish to withdraw your application for the position, and you’re certain it is not a good fit, send a note letting them know. This provides closure and comes across professionally and confidently:
Dear Agent Smith,
Thank you for considering me for the role of [ROLE] Developer at Meta Cortex. After careful thought, I have decided to withdraw myself from consideration.
I appreciate the time you spent speaking with me [DAY], and I wish you and your team all the best.
Writing a resignation letter
The information security field is smaller than it seems. It pays to avoid burning bridges, to leave people and their organizations better than you found them. A few tips on writing a resignation letter:
- Start on a positive note, regardless of the circumstances under which you are leaving
- Point out how you have benefited from working for the company
- Say something complimentary about the company
- Make a positive comment about the people with whom you have worked with
- Explain why you are leaving in an objective, factual tone
- Avoid angry recriminations because your resignation letter remains on file with the company and could haunt you in the future—particularly if you need a reference or your career path comes back to the company some time in the
Interview salary negotiation
If asked about the salary you require or are expecting, say it depends on the overall compensation and benefits. Think “full package” rather than simply the base salary. Stating a figure slots you into a range that is difficult to negotiate out of. Avoid framing salary to what you earned in the past. You may get a response stating the benefits offered or that they need a general number. Try tactfully, to turn the question around:
“I’d rather learn more about your company and understand more about the job I’d be doing before naming an exact figure or estimating a range. It sounds like you’re trying to see if we’re in the right range so we don’t both waste our time—is that correct?”
Most likely this will be a yes. Then follow up with something like:
“You must have a range that you’ve budgeted for this position, correct?”
Again, it should be a yes. Pause here and don’t say anything else – they may answer with the range. If they don’t volunteer any, you follow up with:
“Well, if you tell me what the range is, even though I don’t know enough to state exactly what my salary requirements are, I can tell you whether or not it matches up to what I’m looking for.”
If the employer asks you to name a number, there’s no reason they shouldn’t expect to name one as well—or even first. Get them to name their number first.
“I can’t really name an exact figure because it depends on the overall compensation package, but I’m generally looking for something between $<low> and $<high>, depending on the overall compensation package”
If you’re asked about current salary, technically it’s none of their business, but don’t say that. Turn the question around:
- “I’m not comfortable sharing that information, but I’m very excited about this job”
- “Since I’m uncertain of the market conditions, could you share with me your pay range and I can tell you if it’s in my range”
- “My current employer is very generous, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with your organization”
- “Sorry, is that required information? I’m really looking for a place that values me for my contributions and is looking to pay what they feel is the market rate. Are you able to do that?”
- “That’s a very interesting question. How much do you think someone like me will be worth in today’s market?”
- “I’m excited to work at a company where I can maximize both my compensation and my contribution. While I’m not sharing my compensation today, I am excited to hear what you’re offering.”
- “Well, I’m not going to share that information with you because it’s private. If you can share where you are in terms of compensation for this role, I’ll be able to tell you whether it lines up with the market after I’ve interviewed a few other organizations…”
- “I’d prefer not to say what my current salary is. You see, if it’s higher than what you expect to offer for this job, I wouldn’t want that to eliminate me from being considered. I might be willing to accept less for the right position. If my current salary is lower than what this job pays, I wouldn’t want to sell myself short. I’m hopeful you can understand.”
- “Can you tell me the salary band for this level? I’d be happy to let you know if it’s within my range and we can discuss specific numbers later when I’ve met the team.”
- “I would love to better understand the job so I can share more appropriate salary expectations further along in our conversation”
- “I am flexible for the right role”
- “I am flexible and would love to hear what you had in mind”
- “I’m willing to consider an offer you think is fair”
- “I usually reserve salary discussion for when I’m receiving a job offer – is that the case here?”
- “What is the budget allocated for this role?”
- “I’d like my compensation package to be in line with what you would pay someone with my experience at your company. What does that range look like here?” [don’t limit yourself if your skill is in high demand and short supply, which raises your value]
- “Do share what you had in mind, and I can share my feedback”
These are honest answers that attempt to avoid the question without offending. You can also state that you’d prefer not to answer that question or that you’re under a confidentiality agreement with your employer and can’t talk about the exact salary.
If you must name a number, make it as variable as possible. Talk about bonuses or benefits, or how the overall compensation package is valued at x dollars. Have a rough idea of what others in the same field or same role earn. See the following resources and use Glassdoor or other search tools, see list at the bottom of this page:
- With this research completed, use it as leverage “I’ve done some research on average compensation for this role, and it looks like the range is ____ to _____. With my experience, I believe I should fall somewhere between the mid-max range.” This avoids looking greedy.
Once you have an offer, you almost always want to counter it. Counter as high as your stomach allows. Coming closer to their number generally backfires. As long as you are tactful and respectful, it’s unlikely that the offer will be completely withdrawn. The organization has already invested time and thought into you, they’re already committed to working with you. The worst-case scenario is they stay firm on the offer and tell you to take it or leave it. If the offer is withdrawn, and you want it, respond that you made a mistake and after weighing everything you realize that their original offer was more than fair.
When you counter higher, you’ll often get a response with a higher offer. You can accept this, but in most cases, counter one more time. Be careful and tactful.
- “I’d like to work for your company. The job sounds great and I’m excited to work with your team, but I’m a bit unsure on whether the numbers will work out. If you can offer X dollars, I can be sure and commit to it today.”
- “I’m thrilled about this offer and I really want to work with you. I know you’ve interviewed a number of people and chose me, so it’s great to be in a place where we both want the same thing.”
- “Understanding the market and given my experience, I believe that [$X] is fair.”
Other negotiation points:
- Flexible start date
- Greater 401(k) contribution
- More vacation or paid time off
- Flexible hours or work-from-home days
- Relocation to another branch or office
- A signing bonus
- A performance bonus later in the year
- Equity or stock options
- Home office set-up stipend
- Phone, Internet, or co-working space reimbursements
- Professional development or external training opportunities
- Opportunities to present at industry conferences
- Child care
- A direct report or budget for freelance talent
- A better job title
- Travel expense reimbursement
- Know your negotiable and non-negotiable asks
Negative answer, if they don’t budge: “That’s interesting. Can you tell me more about the reasoning behind that?”
You don’t get paid what you’re worth, you get paid what you negotiate.
Be paid for what you know, rather than what you do.
Responding to offers
Accept a job offer
Thank you once more for sharing the offer’s details with me earlier. I’ve gone over the terms and am thrilled to join your company as a <title>. I’m really excited about this opportunity and can’t wait to start on <date>!
Please let me know what the next steps are and if you require any additional documentation or information from me.
Decline an offer
Decline template 1:
Thank you for connecting with me today to discuss the <title> role at <company>. It was a pleasure learning more about the company and vision for the team. The role (or culture, or location, etc) is not a fit for me at this time, however, I would like to stay in touch. If you are open to it, please connect with me on LinkedIn here.
Decline template 2:
Thank you once again for allowing me to meet the team last week. It was great to learn more about the <title> position, and I was thrilled to be offered the job. However, after much thought, I’ve decided that this position isn’t the best fit for my career goals at this time.
It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, and I hope we’ll be able to collaborate again in the future. Please keep in touch!
Asking for more time
Dear [Recipient Name],
Thank you for sharing the details of the offer for the <position title> position.
I hate to delay my formal response to the job offer, but I am carefully considering the terms and would need a few days before responding. Could I get back to you on the offer by [date]?
Thanks in advance.
Requesting more information
Hello [Recipient Name],
Thank you for considering me for the position of <position title>. I enjoyed the interview process, and I am looking forward to becoming a part of the team!
I had a few questions after reviewing the offer that I wanted to run by you, particularly about health insurance and paid leave. Is this something you’d be able to talk about soon? I’d really appreciate clarification of those terms, and I’m free to join a call at your earliest convenience. I’m free <when>.
Negotiating an offer
Hello [Recipient Name],
Thanks again for sharing the details of the offer with me earlier. Working with <company> is something that I’ve worked towards for a while, and I’m excited at the prospect of joining the team.
However, I have a few questions about the compensation package and would like to know when you would be available to talk about it.
Please let me know. Thanks for your help in advance.
Negotiate when you have another job offer
Hi [Recipient Name],
I was thrilled to receive the offer for the role of <title> at <Company>. Thank you for the smooth interview process and your patience in addressing all my concerns.
I wanted to let you know that I received another job offer unexpectedly this week, and while that position appeals to me as well, working with you would be my first choice. However, the salary offered was significantly higher than this offer. And that is making my decision difficult.
Is there any room for negotiation when it comes to the salary and benefits?
If you have not heard back from the organization within two weeks or their stated time frame +2 days, follow up.
Reviews/promotions: question to ask a current manager
Conversations with your current leadership to seek a promotion or raise:
- Where have I had the most impact over the past few months, from your perspective?
- What would it look like for me to be 2x as good at what I do, or for the project to go 2x as well?
- I’m working to get a better handle on my blind spots. What kinds of things, from your perspective, do I tend to miss or dismiss quickly?
- What’s hard for you in your job? (and how can you contribute)
- How do you prioritize your time? (so you can best align)
- What’s something interesting you’ve learned in your career that most people don’t know?
- You’re exceptional at X. How do you do it so well?
- What’s your biggest problem, and how can I help?
- I’d love to [learn/do/achieve] X. If you come across opportunities, will you keep an eye out for me?
- Can you help me do X?
- What is one thing I currently do that you would like me to continue to do?
- What is one thing I don’t do frequently enough that you think I should more often?
- What can I do to make you more effective?
- How do I help you get a [excellent, gold star, leading] on your review next year?
- Let your manager know that you desire to move to the next level.
- Get their advice and have a conversation about what it takes to get a promotion.
- Identify 3 big accomplishments that you need to have this year. Preselecting three helps prioritize and stay on track. This helps focus your time, energy, and attention despite distractions.
- Determine who you need to have on board and start building relationships with. Map these people out:
- Some may need time to build relationships
- Some you may know but they don’t understand the value you bring, you’ll need to further develop those relationships
- Some have strong relationships, you want to leverage those to help with the other two categories of people
- Presenting why you deserve a raise:
- “When compared to my colleagues with similar responsibilities, education, and titles, it appears that they are making [X%] more than I am. Would you support me in advocating for equity?”
- Handling pushback
- “I hear you, and according to my research, the average salary for my role is X dollars. Similar roles in our competitor’s company start at around Y dollars. With that in mind, I feel that my expected raise of Z dollars is a perfect reflection of my qualifications and experience.”
Good Reasons to ask for a raise are related to performance, not personal choices (like buying a McMansion and Lamborghini):
- Your performance increased
- Your workload increased
- You achieved challenging company goals
- You want to grow within the company
- You developed new (and relevant) skills
- You display initiative and leadership
- You mentor your subordinates
- Poor timing can be bad, avoid asking when things are in chaos, the company is struggling, the manager is under high stress, etc. Better to have this conversation when times are good.
- “I want to bring it to your attention that delaying this process is greatly hindering my productivity. I understand that you are really busy, but the later we have this conversation, the more our results will suffer and be harder to recover.”
Infosec Job Hunting (Part 1 of 5): How to Locate the Work You Want
How to Hunt for Jobs like a Hacker w/ Jason Blanchard
https://www.twitch.tv/banjocrashland a Twitch stream that covers many career-related topics with a focus on job hunting. Streams Tue 7-9pm ET and Fri 1-3pm ET
https://www.theladders.com/free-resume-templates Free resume templates
https://www.makeuseof.com/how-to-write-linkedin-summary/ Writing a solid LinkedIn About/summary
Sites offering job postings, inside chatter, and other info to help research an employer