40+ Crucial Cybersecurity Interview Questions

Your organization’s cybersecurity experts are your best line of defense against cyber threats and breaches, but hiring the right people for the job can be a challenge. Are you vetting your candidates the right way?

To help you assess your candidates with confidence, we’ve put together a list of more than 40 cybersecurity questions to use in your next interview. There are some sample answers, to give candidates a general framework for an answer and managers a sense of what a candidate may respond with.

Let’s get started!

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Cybersecurity Interview Questions: Covering the Essentials

Whether you’re interviewing an entry-level cybersecurity analyst, an experienced security architect, or anything in between, it’s important to cover a range of topics that assess the full scope of their knowledge, skills, and experience.

Your interview questions should touch on things like:

  • Background, experience, and goals
  • Basic security topics like malware, networks, and effective risk management
  • Standard security policies and compliance
  • Industry trends and news
  • Penetration testing and vulnerability assessments
  • Implementation of security strategies and solutions
  • Soft skills like collaboration and communication

Cybersecurity Interview Questions on Background and Dedication

Before you assess a candidate’s skills, you should spend some time inquiring about their background, work experience, and other factors.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. Can you tell me a little about your background in cybersecurity?
  2. How many years of experience do you have in cybersecurity?
  3. Why is cybersecurity an essential aspect of every business?
  4. How do you stay on top of cybersecurity news, trends, and threats?
  5. How do you continue to develop yourself professionally? Can you describe any certifications or training programs you’ve pursued?

6. What motivated you to pursue a career in cybersecurity?

It’s important to understand what drives an individual towards a career. By asking this question, candidates are afforded an opportunity to provide a genuine response that showcases their passion for the cybersecurity field.

Sample Answer: I have always had a deep passion for technology and a desire to make an impact on the digital world. As I became aware of growing cyber threats, I felt compelled to help build defenses for digital assets. I have a strong sense of duty when it comes to safeguarding sensitive information and have found that the rapidly evolving cybersecurity landscape offers endless opportunities for continued learning, problem-solving, and even ethical hacking.

7. Are you proficient in any software, tools, or security platforms?

There are endless cybersecurity tools and platforms available depending on the organization and an individual’s role within a cybersecurity team. Asking this question helps hiring managers understand the proficiencies and knowledge gaps of a potential candidate to ensure alignment.

Sample Answer: A candidate should use this as a chance to share the operating systems (Linux, Windows), penetration testing tools (Metasploit, Nmap), security information and event management (SIEM) platforms, network security tools, vulnerability assessment tools, and other incident response applications that help them in their day-to-day job.

9. What are your long-term career goals in cybersecurity? How do you plan to achieve those?

Ask this question to assess a candidate’s ambition and dedication to the field of cyber security. Be sure that the candidate’s ideal career path aligns with what is offered within your organization.

Sample Answer: My long-term career goals in cybersecurity are centered on continuous growth, making an impact, being recognized as a cybersecurity expert, and contributing to the ever-evolving landscape of digital security.

Related: 7 Tips for Conducting Effective IT Interviews

Cybersecurity Interview Questions on Soft Skills

Soft skills are often overlooked in the hiring process, but they could mean the difference between a good candidate and a great one.

And for cybersecurity candidates specifically, they need these skills to communicate effectively with stakeholders, to solve problems, to adapt to new technologies and threats, and to manage emotions in high-pressure situations.

Here are some interview questions that touch on these abilities:

  1. How do you work with team members who have different technical backgrounds and skill levels?
  2. What three qualities are most important for an expert in cybersecurity? How do you demonstrate those qualities in your professional life?
  3. How do you respond to constructive feedback? How do you go about offering constructive feedback?
  4. How do you manage stress?
  5. Tell me about a time you failed to meet a deadline. How did you remedy the situation?
  6. What are your strengths when it comes to cybersecurity? Do you have any weaknesses?
  7. Can you describe a time when you had to make a quick decision in response to a cybersecurity incident or threat?
  8. Have you ever had to think creatively to solve a security issue? If so, what was the outcome?

18. How do you communicate technical information to stakeholders without a technical background?

Cybersecurity teams work with stakeholders across the organization who have varying levels of technical proficiency. Asking this question helps ascertain whether an individual can bridge the gap between technical complexities and non-technical stakeholders.

Sample Answer: I understand that translating technical information to non-technical stakeholders is an essential aspect of my role in cybersecurity. It’s important to ensure that everyone, regardless of their technical background, can comprehend the significance of security issues and the actions needed to address them. I approach this by:

  • Using plain language
  • Meeting stakeholders where they’re at
  • Offering visual aids and regular updates
  • Focusing on the “why and the “what”
  • Creating a feedback loop

19. What tools or methods do you use to manage your time and meet deadlines?

Assess the technology stack and methodologies cybersecurity individuals use to effectively manage their time, especially when juggling competing deadlines.

Sample Answer: I employ several tools and methods to stay organized and ensure I meet deadlines effectively, such as task management tools like Jira or Asana, calendar apps and time-blocking techniques, collaboration, and communication tools. Depending on the project, I may follow project management methodologies like Agile or Scrum to break down complex tasks into manageable sprints.

20. How would you communicate the dangers of oversharing personal information on social media to someone who isn’t familiar with security best practices?

Cybersecurity personnel routinely communicate the dangers of sharing personal information using security best practices. It’s helpful to ask interview questions that gauge the approach candidates take to communicate and enforce social media best practices.

Sample Answer: I begin by expressing understanding and empathy for their desire to connect with friends and share their lives online. I then share relatable, real-life examples of the risks associated with oversharing on social media, such as stories of identity theft, scams, or privacy breaches. I make sure to clearly define what personal information is okay to share and share helpful privacy settings and security training to keep staff up-to-date on best practices.

21. How do you ensure that your team’s cybersecurity goals align with overall business objectives?

At the end of the day, it’s important to know that your cybersecurity teams support the overall business initiatives. Ask this question to assess how an individual incorporates their cybersecurity strategy into the larger business strategies.

Sample Answer: It’s important to align my cybersecurity efforts with larger business objectives. I do this by gaining a deep understanding of the organization’s overarching objectives and assessing the existing cybersecurity posture. I then collaborate with stakeholders to prioritize security risks based on their potential impact and establish clear security goals.

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Cybersecurity Interview Questions on Technical Skills and Knowledge

After you’ve asked your candidate about their background, goals, and soft skills, it’s time to dig into their technical capabilities.

There is currently a big cybersecurity skills gap through many organizations. These questions can help you identify if a candidate fills one of those gaps:

  1. Do you have experience with penetration testing?
  2. If you were a cybercriminal, how would you attempt to gain access to my personal information?
  3. Can you explain the concept of Defense in Depth? How can teams best implement this approach in their security practices?
  4. What is your understanding of network security?
  5. Can you explain the different layers of the OSI model?
  6. Can you explain the three components of the CIA triad?
  7. What’s the difference between a threat, a vulnerability, and an exploit?
  8. How do you evaluate and manage third-party security risks?
  9. Explain the four main types of VPNs and when to use them.
  10. Can you explain the difference between a virus, a worm, and a Trojan horse?
  11. What’s a man-in-the-middle, or an MTM, attack? How do you prevent it?
  12. What are some other common cyberattacks? Explain each and give examples.
  13. What are the differences between the risk management frameworks NIST and ISO?
  14. How would you secure a cloud-based infrastructure?
  15. How do you prevent brute force attacks?
  16. Say the mouse pointer on your computer screen starts to move on its own. How would you handle that?

38. What are some of the biggest security challenges that professionals in the industry face?

Cybersecurity professionals should always be staying on top of emerging trends and new threats. Asking this question helps hiring managers see first-hand which threats a candidate is monitoring and the steps they’re taking to navigate the industry’s biggest challenges.

Sample Answer: I try to keep pace with new attack vectors and techniques because I understand there is a shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals right now. With rapidly evolving technology and ever-changing regulations, cybersecurity teams need to remain extra vigilant and take steps to prepare for an increase in the complexity and volume of security incidents.

39. Do you have any strategies for implementing effective malware prevention while minimizing the impact on system performance?

Asking questions such as this one helps hiring managers see how candidates approach new implementations and the steps they take to reduce impact on the organization’s systems. Their answer can show how they take a micro and macro approach to implementing new security features.

Sample Answer: Implementing effective malware prevention while minimizing the impact on system performance is a delicate balance in cybersecurity. I try to use reputable antivirus and anti-malware software that offers real-time threat detection. I ensure all operating systems are up-to-date and control which applications are safe to run on the systems. Lastly, I use a combination of email security measures, web filtering, sandboxing, and firewalls to create a strong security posture.

40. In your opinion, how often should companies perform security audits?

This question is very subjective and can help hiring managers understand how much a candidate values audits and prioritizes them.

Sample Answer: I recognize the importance of conducting routine security audits on an ongoing basis. In addition to completing regulatory audits (for healthcare and finance industries), I conduct regular audits to assess the evolving threat landscape and keep critical data secure. If a company has an incident history, is installing new software, or is relying heavily on third-party vendors, I make sure to complete audits more often and thoroughly.

41. Can you give an example of a situation where you had to balance the confidentiality and availability of data?

Balancing the availability of data while securing its confidentiality is an ever-present challenge in cybersecurity. Asking a question such as this is important to see how candidates prioritize and manage this delicate balance.

Sample Answer: I was responsible for the cybersecurity of a financial institution, which handled sensitive customer financial data. While our primary focus was on data confidentiality, we also had to ensure the availability of the data for authorized users. Once, we encountered an issue where a critical system experienced performance degradation, and it was clear we needed to address the performance issue to maintain business operations, but we couldn’t compromise the confidentiality of the data. We did this with a comprehensive performance analysis, immediate mitigation of the issue, and ongoing monitoring.

Get Started on Hiring Cybersecurity Today

Hiring cybersecurity talent can be tough, but with the right interview questions on hand, you’ll be well on your way to building a top-notch team of skilled professionals.

Insight Global can help make hiring easy. As one the largest IT staffing agencies in America, we can find you quality cybersecurity candidates—fast.

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Updated November 2023