Career Notes

Updated January 31, 2024

This page contains a collection of notes compiled from many sources and many contributors to polish up your resume, prepare for an interview, ask great questions, and negotiate a solid salary.

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 or want; look for keywords, experience, requirements, certifications, skills, tools, software, etc.
  • Once you see the patterns, plan your training and experience around them.
    • 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 certification.
    • 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- to 3-year future 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, and 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:

  • Quality over quantity
  • Focused approach
  • Use your network
  1. Find a job listing
  2. Research the company. Is it somewhere you would like to work?
  3. Target your resume for the job listing, address all requirements in your resume, and identify any gaps
  4. Identify the hiring manager and recruiter
  5. Identify anyone you know who 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.
  6. Reach out to the recruiter and mention the ad number (or name) and the referral name
  7. 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, requesting to stay in touch.
  8. Conduct industry research: salary ranges, company financials, competitors, mission/vision statements, core values, and strategic goals
  9. Follow-up

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 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 made progress, stop and 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.

Interview Preparation

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, and their personalities; 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. Be able to convey that you’ll be profitable for the company (you’ll earn the organization more than you cost). Provide credible proof that you can perform.

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 about what makes a perfect candidate and describe how you fit that role.

Inside the mind of a hiring manager

Consider the hiring manager’s perspective; think how they think so you can align everything in your approach to job searching in your resume and interview answers to be a likable, safe, and reliable choice. People want to work with others who they know, like, and trust. Be that person, not only when interviewing, but in life.

  • What do you know about our company?
  • Can you quickly take on some of the workload?
  • How do solve problems?
  • Will you bring another helpful perspective to our group?
  • Can you work with different people without feeling attacked by others?
  • Will you respond by belittling the other person?
  • How are you a good fit for our company and team culture?
  • How do you stay up-to-date with cybersecurity and cybercrime?
  • Are your clothes and the way you speak very different from ours?

Be the best “you” you can be

The best candidates set themselves apart in our competitive job markets. While you need to stay authentic to who you are, know that you must convey your best qualities. If you don’t possess these qualities yet, work on yourself to improve. Get noticed and keep these characteristics in mind throughout your career.

  • Adaptability: Technologies and industry trends change quickly. Highlight instances where you successfully navigated change, adopted new tools or contributed to the adaptability of a team or project.
  • Communication: Employers value candidates who can convey ideas, articulate strategies, and foster a positive team environment because these skills make businesses operate more efficiently. Share examples of communication skills, how you effectively led meetings, produced compelling reports, or facilitated cross-departmental collaboration.
  • Project Solving: Businesses need individuals who can analyze complex situations, develop innovative solutions, and implement them efficiently. Describe specific challenges you have faced and the creative solutions you developed. Emphasize the positive outcomes.
  • Leadership: leaders inspire their peers and contribute to a motivated and high-performing team. Detail instances where you led on projects, mentored colleagues, or positively influenced team dynamics.
  • Results Driven: Quantify achievements. Give specific numbers and emphasize how your efforts directly impacted key performance indicators (KPIs) or contributed to the company’s bottom line.
  • Innovative Thinking: Bring fresh perspectives, propose creative solutions, and foster a culture of continuous improvement. Highlight instances where your ideas led to improvements, cost savings, or customer experiences.
  • Tech Savvy: Proficiency with technology is necessary and valuable. Businesses seek candidates who are comfortable with digital tools and can leverage them for efficiency. Highlight specific technologies or tools you’ve mastered, emphasizing how they optimized workflows or achieved marketing goals.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Understand and navigate interpersonal dynamics with empathy and respect. Share instances where your emotional intelligence contributed to successful collaborations, conflict resolution, or team cohesion.
  • Strategic Vision: Discuss how your personal goals and career aspirations align with the company’s mission and vision for a shared purpose. Showcase your commitment to contributing to long-term success.
  • Growth Mindset: Companies seek those who commit to continuous learning to stay updated on trends and advancements. Highlight your commitment to professional development, certifications, courses, or industry conferences attended.

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 the news and check their social media
  • Understand the industry, major developments, changes, crises, etc.

Prepare follow-on questions

Prepare follow-up 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 and uncertainty, and builds confidence before 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. The video feels awkward, yet it 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 appears 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 and coworkers or explaining why you were fired. Show you can maintain a positive, resilient and 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 an interview around 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday (Mondays are stressful, and Fridays can be distracting)
  • Wear blue to associate as a team player
  • Taylor to the interviewer’s generation:
    • Gen Y (20–30 years old): Bring visual samples and highlight the ability to multitask
    • Gen X (30–50): Emphasize creativity; mention how work-life balance contributes to your success
    • Baby Boomer (50–70): Show your work hard and demonstrate respect for their achievements
  • Hiring managers play “not to lose.” Subtly communicate that you understand this; be a safe bet
  • Convey “I got this” and “I got your back”
  • Hold your palms open to show sincerity
  • Steeple hands to show confidence 
  • Find something in common
  • Physically mirror the interviewer some, but not too much, as that can become creepy
  • Compliment the interviewer and the organization without self-promoting
  • Speak expressively
  • Speak faster when summarizing and slower when presenting new material
  • Eye contact when you first meet
  • Focus on future potential, less so on 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 am I 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

Cover Letter

  • Overall, be VERY specific about who you are and 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 and consistency
  • Summary: you are the right candidate, and you have the experience, education, and drive
  • Opening: why this job is exciting to you and what you bring to the table
    • Example: “I have avidly followed the release of X (something notable) over the last year, and when the Y position came up 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 have been proven by <facts>”
  • Include details indicating the specific skills that match the job posting, and 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 the 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 I thank you again for your consideration.
  • Always export in PDF

Top Cover Letter Words

Under budget
Diversity and Inclusion
Describe yourself with non-cliché adjectives, i.e. 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 can do for a future employer.
  • Interests: What do you like to do in your free time? This adds humanity to an otherwise work-focused bio.
  • If appropriate, show personality, a strong first line (hook), a testimonial, show work, and a call to action

Resume writing, language, format, and overall flow

  • Priority #1: tell your story—not merely your work experience but also what you’ve learned and the accomplishments you’re most proud of

Resume Structure

  • The general structure of a resume contains the following sections, and they answer implied questions:
    • The summary statement tells the hiring manager whether he/she can put you in front of executives
    • The skills section suggests the quality of communication that you’re going to have with your new peers
    • Job history gives the hiring manager an idea of how well you’ll write a status report for him/her
    • Photo or personal information tells the hiring manager whether you understand that they have constraints in decision-making
    • Spelling and grammar suggest how thoughtful you are about what you deliver to

Achievements, successes, and how you made a difference or were a valued contributor

  • Focus on impact and accomplishments; metrics (wherever possible) are key. “Accomplished x, as measured by y, by doing z”
  • Spend less space on listing job descriptions, duties, or staff size
  • It is more effective to share facts and figures and prove achievements rather than list platitudes
  • On-time performance, waste reduction, under budget, exceeded goal stats
  • Quantifiable metrics in hours, endpoints, tickets, incidents, dollars, etc. “Responded to X incidents on average per week across an enterprise Active Directory network of over 200,000+ end-users, including account lockouts, malware, and phishing emails.”
  • Convey passion and enthusiasm for what you do
  • Everyone is already unique; tell why you’re better
    • What makes you unique? What can you offer that the other candidates cannot?
  • Accomplishments matter more than how long you’ve done something
  • Written like a news article: the best at the top to hook the reader
  • Limit to 5 or 6 bullet points
  • Convey the process of working through a problem (communicate/articulate)
  • Who the person is, what they’re working on, and what is the impact
  • Have a logical flow: most recent first, big hitters first
  • Don’t data dump
  • Only include bullets that are representative, meaningful, or tailored to the role you’re applying to. Ask: will the employer care?
  • Community Involvement
  • Filter for only relevant skills

Throughout the resume, list the following skills:

  • Problem-solving skills: a potential employer wants to know that you can handle complex or dynamic issues that arise with aplomb
  • Critical thinking skills: Employers want people who can think critically, come up with creative solutions, think ahead, and plot a course for a project or team.
  • Communication skills: active listening, communicating your needs, the ability to deliver feedback professionally, and being comfortable presenting to a group (public speaking).
  • Time management: Organized and on-task fmeans work is reliably completed on time
  • Project management skills: many companies exist in perpetual projects; this is a strong transferable skill, that exemplifies how you can lead a project or small team.

Words to use

Critical Thinker
Detail oriented
Self-taught or in my own time
Team player
Willing to do whatever it takes

Words to avoid

Extensive experience
Responsible (rather, write achievements)
Team player
Track record

In general, avoid:

  • Weak action verbs
  • Too many details about interests, hobbies, personal information, or things unrelated to your work experience
  • Company-specific (insider) terms, acronyms, and lingo
  • Non-professional email address
  • Salary information
  • Don’t include a list of references or “References available upon request,” as this is assumed
  • Avoid verbs like assisted, helped, collaborated, and worked with to describe accomplishments. These dilute accomplishments and suggest that some of your work is attributable to other people. The prospective employer wants to know what you are capable of, not the team you worked with

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.
  • The summary contains a few sentences that start with the job title and how you and the hiring manager are both going to win when you join the team
    • I focused my training on…
    • Match to the job description
    • Looking for a company where I can contribute my security skills and grow the team for many years to come

Summary Examples

  • I am a trained security analyst with a strong background in business operations. I focused my training on digital forensics and application security assessments. I’m looking for an opportunity in a boutique consulting firm to generate revenue and grow my security skills for many years to come.
  • Strong IT help desk technician, looking for a deeper role in vulnerability management. I have supported every aspect of endpoint detection and response and helped identify and remove indicators of compromise. I’m looking for my next full-time opportunity at a large technology company in the greater Seattle area to grow myself and my new team.

2. Professional Skills

Ensure relevant skills match or complement those required for the job role

Malware Analysis
Application & Interface Security
Risk Analysis
Python Scripting
Intrusion Detection
Change Control & Configuration
Data Security & Information Lifecycle mgmt.
Cloud Security
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 the RESULTS achieved and responsibilities you 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

  • A bulleted list of courses taken and degrees earned
  • List relevant certifications after education
  • If certifications are recent and 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

  • Consistent: headings, line spacing, date formats, font sizes, font styles, past tense (present tense for your current role, optional), bullet point usage, 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

Pre-Interview Prep

  • Get sleep
  • Don’t caffeinate more than normal
  • Well in advance, consider recording yourself asking and answering some of the questions below. Watch your face and listen to the way you speak. Do you come across as confident, put-together, and likable?
  • Write some notes about your thoughts on the organization, any questions you may have, and answers to some of the 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 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 or phone interview.
  • Be open-minded; you may not land the job, you may bomb the interview, and 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

  • Interview questions are designed to discover the way a candidate answers a question is more important than the correctness of the answer
  • Behavioral questions illustrate soft skills
  • If you don’t know the answer to something, be honest and say you don’t know. But, offer to follow up later with the correct answer
  • Watch out for questions that prompt “go into as much technical depth as you’re comfortable with.”

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?

SHARE method: Situation > Hindrances > Action > Results > Evaluate

  • S: Describe the situation
  • H: Explain the hindrances that made the situation challenging
  • A: What action did you take and why
  • R: Explain the results and why the action taken was a good choice
  • E: Evaluate results; compare or contrast results with what might have happened if you chose an alternate course of action

Tell me about yourself (Likelihood to be asked: 94%)

  • Convey that you’re prepared and that you want the job. Avoid a life story, and explain in 5-8 sentences why your experience makes you an ideal fit
  • Discuss a few relevant skills or experiences, as well as some of the work that you enjoy that aligns with the job requirements
  • A 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 about what makes you a unique, valuable candidate for the job
    • Pick 2-3 specific things and a sample answer you believe makes 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? OR What interests you in the company? (84%)
    • Demonstrate your interest in the company, and drop a hint that you’ve done some research (you did research the company, right?)
  • What are your greatest weaknesses? (80%)
    • Convey you’re real and right for the job, don’t BS with platitudes or canned responses, and 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 your current weaknesses
    • Avoid strong negative words: failure, embarrassment, ineptness, disaster, or hate
    • Genuinely try to improve weaknesses and talk about classes, training, volunteering, shadowing, professional organizations, and tools/software to hone skills like time management and organization. or collaboration
    • Idea: I tend to ‘over-research’ anything I’m working on
    • Read:
  • Tell me about a challenging situation and how you overcame it
  • Walk me through your resume
    • Convey your skills, and why you changed jobs (compelling answer), and don’t bash your 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? (variation of: Why do you want to work here?)
    • Enthusiastically emphasize the merits and aspects of the position itself to convey interest—less about rehashing how your background and work experience fit. Demonstrate enthusiasm about the work you’re about to do. 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 the company’s 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 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
    • What relevant experience from your current position would help you in this role?
    • Give sincere answers about being part of a team and serving customers
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
    • Convey that you’re not looking for a stop-gap job, don’t disqualify yourself, and say that you like the work and want to continue
    • Some say the right answer 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?
    • Be Careful with skeletons and baggage, don’t incriminate yourself, and frame this in a positive way
    • Tell how your experience in the current role contributes to the new role. Looking forward to leveraging that experience to help bring org’s goals to fruition, how you can contribute mightily to the company’s bottom line
    • Spin the best story possible without being defensive. Casual and confident so that the interviewer concludes “Ok, no big deal.”
    • Tell how you’re inspired by the company’s mission, seeking new, exciting challenges,
    • “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 [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.”
    • Seeking professional development, showing a commitment to personal/professional growth, and new skills, take on challenging responsibilities. List specific skills or experience that transfer.
    • Transition to a role with greater impact. Discuss limitations in your current role, align experience and desire to prospective employer
    • You are seeking a better cultural fit that aligns with values or work style. List the type of culture you thrive in.
    • Work-life balance, be specific what it means to you, how seeking balance enhances your performance
    • Relocating
    • Seeking more challenge (ambition), discuss if you’ve reached a plateau in learning or challenge
    • Organizational changes, focus on positives
  • 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 about 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 you receive tasks, you can 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 me how you handled a difficult situation
    • Demonstrating the 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.
  • How would you handle a difficult coworker?
  • 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 weight. What did you do?
  • Tell about a time you went above and beyond for your job
    1. Tell about the experience
    2. Talk about what you learned
    3. Tell me you grew as a professional
    4. Talk about how you will apply the experience going forward (how your growth and expertise benefits the employer)
  • 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
  • What makes a person a good leader or manager?
  • Which of the following do you think is the most important thing we should consider when hiring a new person: degree, certifications, or previous work experience?
  • Describe yourself
  • How would your colleagues describe you?
    • Combine personality fit and work style, showcase your interpersonal strengths, and reflect on the way you add to the team
  • Why should we hire you? OR Why this job at this company?
    • THIS is the opportunity to convey your value to the company
    • Craft your value proposition, you bring skills, qualification, specific experience, or a combination of these to the role “For the past X years, I’ve honed my skills in X, specializing in X, that have consistently exceeded performance benchmarks”
    • Highlight your strengths (skills, experience), offer a quantifiable example how you applied strengths to achieve results “At my last job…”
    • Connect with the organization’s needs; link how your skills help achieve their goals (after thoroughly researching the company), use keywords and phrases from the job listing “My experience in X, coupled with my passion for X, aligns perfectly with your goals”
    • Close with enthusiasm “I’m excited about the opportunity to bring my expertise in X to drive X for <company>
    • Share an emotional connection, tell a story, tell how you “get them”
    • Describe your most important qualities and what sets you apart in work and what you produce. Back up these qualities with examples of 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
  • What is a typical workday like for you?
  • What excites you about coming to work each day?
  • 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?
  • 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
  • At this stage in your career, what are you looking for in your next opportunity? How does this role and the company culture align with your expectations?
  • Describe a specific example of how your work affected your company’s bottom line.
  • What attributes does your ideal manager possess?
  • What assistance do you typically receive from others you work alongside? How integral is having support and a shared workload to your success?
  • What makes you better than other candidates?
    • What makes you valuable? Where will you fit into their team?
  • Do you prefer working as an individual contributor or as part of a 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 who 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 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?
  • What is your planned career path if you are selected for this position?
  • Tell me about a time when you identified a problem with a process and what steps you took 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 work-life balance.
  • What do you do in your free time?
    • Convey that you’re normal, and well-rounded, don’t be boring, and 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 or current coworkers say about you?
  • What would your current coworkers say is your [best | worst] quality?
  • 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 makes a person a good leader or manager?
  • What is your working style?
    • Introvert or 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 coworker’s 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?
  • How do you like to spend your weekends?
  • What questions haven’t I asked you?
  • What questions do you have for me?
  • What are your salary requirements?
    • See the interview salary negotiation below
  • Tell me a fun fact about yourself
    • Be genuine, don’t overthink, don’t get too personal, and 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 did you learn that Santa Claus, 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 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 did you make?
    • The best place you visited growing up
    • Your favorite travel destination
    • How many states have you visited
    • The farthest drive you’ve ever taken
    • The weirdest place you’ve ever fallen asleep
    • How many schools have 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
  • Focus on this position, not the others; show enthusiasm, and flatter them a bit. Don’t name-drop, be honest, and be brief.

Questions 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 did the person who held this role before me do that was appreciated but not required based on the job description?
  • 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?
  • How can the selected candidate make your life easier?
  • What characteristics do the top performers in this role share?
  • How can I best suit the needs of my direct counterparts?
  • What’s the company’s (or team’s) three-year, five-year, and 10-year plan?
  • What traits or values are necessary to do well in this company?
  • What type of person would NOT be successful in this role, and why?
  • Is there a common theme among employees who under perform?
  • What is your definition of success for this role?
  • What are the typical milestones or achievements that indicate success in this position?
  • Can you describe the typical day-to-day responsibilities of this position?
  • What is the rhythm of the work around here?
  • How successful is the team? (where are its strengths and weaknesses?)
  • What are the biggest challenges I’ll face in the first 90 days, and how will success be measured?
  • What are your expectations in the first 90 days?
  • What could I do in my first 30 days to add the most value?
  • What are the challenges of this position? (or challenges facing the company)
    • What are some of the big challenges this role faces?
  • 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?
  • Of all the responsibilities we discussed, what would be the biggest win for this role in the first year?
  • Would I be representing the company at industry or trade shows?
  • What are the performance expectations for this position over the next year?
  • Will I be working closely with other team members in this role?
    • Can you tell me about the people I’ll be working with?
  • 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?
    • Where are you in the hiring process, and what is the next step for me?
  • Can you tell me what steps I need to complete 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 failures?
  • 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 main 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?
    • A 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
  • Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?
  • What does the onboarding process look like? When do you expect a new hire to be fully up to speed?
  • Is there an official offboarding process with exit interviews? If so, have any changes been implemented based on those?
  • 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 do 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 opinion resolved?
  • Who sets the priorities and schedule?
  • What happens after a 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 wrote 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 the other candidates you’re interviewing?
  • What haven’t I asked that most candidates have asked?
  • If you chose not to hire me, what would be the reason?

Questions about the company

  • Can you tell me about my future team?
  • 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?
  • If you could change one thing about this company, what would it be?
  • What changes have been implemented based on employee suggestions?
  • 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 ebook 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 [biggest] challenges facing the team, department, or company right now?
  • What do current or past employees in this role find 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?
  • What are your greatest concerns, and what problems could I help solve?
  • I read X about your CEO. Can you tell me more about this?
  • What do you think are the 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 are 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 or hiring manager

  • What is the most significant or positive thing that has happened to you at this company?
    • Best to ask the hiring manager, this question talks about a very positive event and it mentally associates you to that positive thought. Ask near the end of the conversation for full effect.
  • 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 joined?
  • 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 employees; 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 the leader open to different opinions)
  • Tell me about someone you are proud of. (Reveals behaviors and skills they value, attitude toward developing people, and celebration of 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 growth and development? (Articles, podcasts, books, mentors, courses, or coaches? If they are not developing themselves, your opportunity for development may be neglected).
  • Looking back to when you joined the company, how did you ensure your first 90 days were successful?

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 as ____. Can you provide an example?
  • What is the best part (your favorite thing) about working here?
  • Is there an official/unofficial mentorship program to foster professional growth/development?
  • What are some recent initiatives the company has taken to promote employee well-being?
    • Highlights company values, and reveals priorities beyond profits

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 well.

  • 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 requirements 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

Technical interview question examples

  • Explain how HTTPS works to keep data secure
    • prepare for “explain in non-technical terms to an end user”
  • Explain the CIA triad
  • Explain how a buffer overflow works
    • prepare for “explain in non-technical terms to an end user”
    • how do you fix a buffer overflow vulnerability?
  • Discuss the risk management framework
  • What are the best ways to secure [computer, network, virtual machine, mobile device, IoT device, etc.]
  • Explain the difference between a threat, vulnerability, and risk to a [technical or non-technical] person
  • What is the difference between a stateful and a non-stateful firewall?
  • Compare and contrast; explain when each is used
    • TCP and UDP
    • IDS and IPS
    • HIDS and NIDS
    • Symmetric and asymmetric encryption
  • Discuss PKI
  • How can you achieve confidentiality in email, how to achieve integrity?
  • How does a {____} attack work, and how can it be prevented?
    • Brute force
    • Man in the middle
    • Denial of service (and distributed DOS)
  • What is port scanning? (why is it used, and how can it be prevented?)
  • Explain the layers of the OSI model and explain the different technologies used at each
  • Explain what a VPN is and why it is used
  • Discuss the differences between a white hat, black hat, and gray hat hacker
  • What is 2FA, and how does it improve security?
  • What is salting, why is it used, and how does it work?
  • What is residual risk, and what are the four types of risk actions you can perform (mitigate, transfer, avoid, and accept)?
  • What is exfiltration and describe ways an attacker could perform this?
  • Name X common cyberattacks, and how could each be prevented?
  • How does cross-site scripting work? How can it be prevented?
  • What are the risks of using public Wi-Fi?
  • What’s the difference between a stream and a block cipher? When are they each used?
  • What is an IP and MAC address, and how are each used?
  • Does session hijacking work (for a technical and non-technical user)?
  • How does an SQL injection work (for a technical and non-technical user)? How would this be prevented?
  • What is a honeypot?
  • What is the importance of performing penetration tests?
  • What is the importance of performing vulnerability scanning? How is it different than penetration testing?
  • How does a denial-of-service attack work (to a non-technical user), and how could it be prevented?
  • What is technical debt? How do you best manage it?
  • Explain how a botnet works
  • Explain the difference:
    • brute force attack, dictionary attack, hybrid attack
    • virus, worm, trojan

Managerial interview study in information security

  • Risk management
  • GRC
  • Regulations (HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA)
  • Industry standards (PCI)
  • BC/DR
  • Project management

Post Interview

  • 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 at any point or for any questions? (prepare more so these are automatic)
  • What are your opinions about the organization, people, or challenges, and how can you best help them?
  • Even if you think you bombed, make a follow-up 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; it keeps you top of mind
  • Thank the 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 and 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


Agent Smith,

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] 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. Be careful with the tone to avoid coming across as demanding or aggressive; be polite, courteous, and considerate.

Agent Smith,

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.”


Thomas Anderson

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 decicion by [DATE].

Please let me know if you have any further questions for me. I look forward to speaking with you soon.


Thomas Anderson

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.


Thomas Anderson

Writing a resignation letter

The information security field is smaller than it seems. It pays to avoid burning bridges and 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
  • 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 in the future

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 the salary with 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 information, 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 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 their 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 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 have in mind”
  • “I’m willing to consider an offer you think is fair”
  • “I usually reserve salary discussions 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”
  • “Tell me more about what the budget for this position is based on…”
  • “What can I do to support you in moving more in my direction?”
  • “It seems you might be surprised by my request. Please tell me more about that…”
  • “I’m very excited about the position and know I would be the right fit for the team. I’m excited about your offer and know that I’ll bring a lot of value to the table based on my experience that we discussed during the interviews. Can we explore a slightly higher starting salary of $623,496.95. My market research showed that is the industry average for this area, and I’m confident you’ll be pleased with how much I can contribute to the team and department.”

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 the list at the bottom of this page:

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.

The general framework for negotiating salary is:

  • Confirm your interest in the job and show gratitude for having the opportunity
  • Reframe several pain points that you discussed with the interviewer as goals you want to achieve
  • Reiterate your experience and that you are the solution
  • Ask for an amount
  • Close the employer by offering a return on their investment, and assure them that you’ll give back in return. Offer an example that you’re serious “I am prepared to formally withdraw from other interview processes”

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 of 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 several people and chosen 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.”

Counter-offer example

Dear [Hiring Manager Name],

Thank you again for offering me the [Job Title] position at [Company Name]. I’m excited about the opportunity to contribute my skills and experience to your team.

I’ve carefully reviewed the offer and would like to discuss the possibility of [state your specific request, e.g., adjusting the starting salary]. My research suggests that the average salary for this position with my qualifications in [city/region] is closer to [your target salary]. Given my [highlight specific skills and experience], I believe that [explain how your contribution/experience adds value to the company].

I’m very interested in joining [Company Name] and am confident I can make a significant impact. I’m open to discussing alternative options like [benefits].

Other negotiation points (some may not be purely salary or income-related):

  • 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

Hello [Recipient],

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.

<Your Name>

Decline an offer

Decline template 1:

<Interviewer name>,

Thank you for connecting with me today to discuss the <title> role at <company>. It was a pleasure learning more about the company and the vision for the team. The role (or culture, or location, etc.) is not a fit for me now; however, I would like to stay in touch. If you are open to it, please connect with me on LinkedIn here.


<Your name> 

Decline template 2:
Hello, <Recipient>,

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!

<Your Name>

Decline template 3:

Dear Hiring Manager:
Thank you for the time and effort you spent considering me for a position as seminar leader. I appreciate you and your staff. I am grateful for your offer of employment.

Because I was so impressed with Large Corp., the decision was difficult. After much thought and careful deliberation, I have decided not to accept your offer.

I wish you and Large Corp. the best continued success. I hope our paths will cross again in the future.
Thank you again for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, Me

Decline template 4:

Dear Hiring Manager:

Thank you very much for offering me the position. After careful consideration, I regret that I must decline your offer. Although you were most encouraging in <some positive note> within Large Company, I have accepted another opportunity that is more in line with my skills and career goals.

I enjoyed meeting you and the rest of your team. You have been most kind and gracious throughout the interview process, and I only wish that circumstances allowed me to accept your offer.

Best wishes for your continued success.

Sincerely, Me

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.

Kind regards,

[Your Name]

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>.

[Your Name]

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.

[Your Name]

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?

[Your Name]

Responding to rejection

Your main goal is to get the job. A secondary goal, in case you don’t get the offer, is to learn why. Our field revolves around “feedback loops,” where we inject what we learn back into processes to, hopefully, improve. Careers are no different.

  • If you don’t hear back from the recruiter or hiring manager for a reasonable amount of time, ask for this feedback. Remember, it may not be all about you; the organization may have budget issues, the job posting closed without filling it, or they’re going out of business and you dodged a huge bullet.
  • If you do hear back, in an email or phone, and you’re told that you did not get the job, gently ask them why they passed. Most will offer a gentle “we’ve decided to go in another direction… pursue other candidates… etc.” That really doesn’t help. The organization does not owe you an answer, but you should ask, and it may open up a great conversation and allow you to explain something.

Your better response may be:

  • “I appreciate your diplomatic response, but it doesn’t help me. I would like to know what I may have said or done wrong. There’s a reason you passed on me and I’d like to know why. It would help me, so in future interviews, I can correct or adjust how I present myself. I greatly appreciate your feedback.”
  • “I’m disappointed to hear that I wasn’t selected for the position. I was very interested in the role and I thought I would be a good fit. Can you share any feedback with me about why I wasn’t chosen?”
  • “I understand that I wasn’t selected for the position, and I want to thank you for taking the time to interview me. I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills and knowledge, so if you’re willing, I’d appreciate any feedback you have about how I could have improved my chances of getting the job.”
  • “I’m curious to know what factors went into the decision to select another candidate. Was there anything about my qualifications or experience that didn’t meet your expectations? Any feedback you can provide would be helpful as I continue my job search.”
  • Be polite and professional, and thank the interviewer for their time and consideration
  • Be specific: “What skills or experience did the successful candidate have that I did not?” or “What could I have done differently to improve my chances of getting the job?” or my favorite, “What can I do right now to better prepare for this type of job in the future?”
  • Example email template requesting feedback
    Subject: Request for Interview Feedback – Position at ABC Company

    Hi [Hiring Manager’s Name],
    You recently interviewed me for the [Title] position – I was the applicant who [memorable to remind them who you are]. While I’m disappointed that I wasn’t selected, I greatly appreciate having had the opportunity to speak with you. With my job search continuing, I would very much appreciate some feedback on my interview performance. If I made any mistakes, I’d like to know so I can correct them in future interviews. Or if you found my skills lacking in some way, it would be really helpful to know what areas to focus on. A sentence or two could make all the difference in my career development.

    Thank you once again for your time and consideration.

    Warm regards,
    [Your Name]
  • Be open to this feedback; it may sting, so use it as a pivot to grow rather than a reason to grovel. If you don’t get feedback or they don’t want to get into details, don’t take it personally.

Appropriate follow-up

If you have not heard back from the organization within two weeks or their stated time frame of +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 twice as good at what I do, or for the project to go twice 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 do more often?
  • What can I do to make you more effective?
  • How do I help you get an [excellent, gold star, leading] on your review next year?

One-on-one meeting questions

Questions and talking points for your manager’s one-on-one meetings

Ask for guidance and input on something you’re having difficulty with

  • I have challenges/struggles with X. Can you help me think about navigating and addressing X successfully?
  • Could you suggest any ideas/thoughts around how I could get more support (people, time, funding) to help with Y?
  • What do you think of my idea Z? Do you have any suggestions to improve it? Might you have an alternative idea I should consider?

Clarify priorities and expectations

Gauge whether you’re on track and working efficiently, and ensure you and your manager are on the same page. Clarify tasks that need your most focused attention from their point of view.

  • Given what is on my plate, what should I prioritize right now, and can you help me understand why?
  • As you review my workload, am I taking on the right projects and tasks?
  • Am I on track to meet my goals and your expectations from your perspective? Is any refocusing necessary?
  • Is there any context I may be missing about my projects? For example, what is the reasoning for Project X?

Align with the organization and its strategy

Understand how your role relates to the broader strategic goals of the organization and the way leaders are thinking about the future.

  • What is going on further up the tree (or in other parts of the organization) that would be helpful for me to know as I work on my key tasks?
  • To better help me understand the big picture, how does the work I’m doing or the assignment you just gave me fit into the broader goals and strategy?
  • Is there anything that the management team is working on or considering that you think I should know about at present, given its potential impact on my role?
  • What is new in our strategic priorities as a company that you feel I should know about if anything?

Growth Opportunities and Career Advancement

Think about professional short-term and long-term goals and the steps you should take to get there.

  • I value your counsel. What can I do to prepare myself for greater opportunities or to pursue X interests of mine?
  • As you reflect on where the organization is going, do you have any thoughts on how I should improve and develop to best align?
  • What strengths do you think I have, and how might they be helpful in the future?
  • From your perspective, what should I target as my next career move, and why do you recommend it?
  • How can we make sure that my skillset is put to the best use to support the team and the organization?
  • How can we make sure that my full potential is achieved?

Performance Feedback

Periodically check in and calibrate

  • Am I meeting your expectations? What is your perspective on my work performance?
  • What feedback can you share about how I’m doing at X or Y tasks?
  • Do you feel I have any spots I’m overlooking when it comes to A or B?
  • As you reflect on what I do at work, what should I start, stop, or continue doing?

Build a Relationship

Build and nurture a relationship with your manager, and connect personally

  • How is your day going?
  • How are things going for you overall? Are you doing ok?
  • What is something you are excited about outside of work?
  • Is there anything you would like to know about me? (Be prepared with “I don’t feel comfortable sharing that, but here’s something else.”)

Offer Support

Consider ways you can help managers achieve their goals and fulfill their roles. Managers need assistance, reassurance, and support to optimize their efficiency and performance. You expect your manager to support you and see how you can lend them a hand. This increases the chances of you getting what you need.

  • What are your priorities over the next X days? What can I do to help you?
  • Where can I offer you support?
  • Is there anything keeping you up at night that I can help with?

Negotiate Promotions

  1. Let your manager know that you desire to move to the next level.
  2. Get their advice and have a conversation about what it takes to get a promotion.
  3. Identify 3 big accomplishments that you need to have this year. Preselecting three helps prioritize and stay on track. This helps you focus your time, energy, and attention despite distractions.
  4. Determine who you need to have on board and start building relationships with them. Map these people out:
    1. Some may need time to build relationships
    2. Some who you may know but who don’t understand the value you bring will need to further develop those relationships
    3. Some have strong relationships; you want to leverage those to help with the other two categories of people
  5. Presenting why you deserve a raise:
    1. “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?”
  6. Handling pushback
    1. “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. It is 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.”

Other resources Interactive tools and data that track and trend information security jobs and the workforce, drill down to the state or metro area An excellent resource that walks through some infosec-appropriate resume information With the recent rise of generative AI, these tools are proving to help you write and revise your resume. Give it a try, but keep in mind that it still needs proofreading and manual revision.
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 is a Twitch stream that covers many career-related topics with a focus on job hunting. Streams on Tuesdays 7-9 pm ET and Fridays 1-3 pm ET. Free resume templates Writing a solid LinkedIn About/summary

Sites offering job postings, inside chatter, and other info to help research an employer

Salary comparison

Applicant tracking testing sites

Run your resume through any of these to test its readability by various ATS algorithms:

2023 salary-collection survey; these usually originate from each year:
The results are here:

Give Your Two Weeks’ Notice Without Burning Bridges:

Optimize Your Answers to Tech Job Interview Questions:

Dice Ultimate Guide to a Successful Tech Career:

Dice Resources and Tools for Creating the Perfect Tech Resume