How to Ace Your Next Job Interview: Tips from a Security Professional
I want to share some tips on how to ace your next interview. Last week, Gourry, Loops, and I were on the Hacker Hangouts podcast pretending to interview Gourry as a potential candidate for a security position (where I lovingly and purposely referred to him with the wrong name). During our conversation, we talked about our past experiences with interviews, how to make a good impression, and offer tips for navigating the interview process. Here’s what I learned from our conversation.
Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses
The first tip is to understand your strengths and weaknesses when entering the job market. It’s important to focus on finding a good fit between the company and yourself, rather than worrying about salary. Not saying salary is not important (it is), however, a good fit will lead to a higher salary. Often you may get the silly question about strengths and weaknesses. When asked, try using humor to break the ice. Showing your personality and sense of humor can help you stand out from other candidates.
Consider When You Bring Up Salary and Benefits
I used a poor analogy during the podcast, whereas Gourry saved me with a better one. Expanding on it. Salary is much like talking about the number of children you want at the start of a date. While not that awkward when you are older or know what you are really looking for, it is much more awkward and off-putting when you are young and on a first date. If you are inexperienced and looking for a first job or you are "negotiating" from a place of desperation wait to bring up salary. Whereas, if you have a job or you know what you are looking for, tossing out salary early can avoid wasting time. As a plus for waiting, typically as a candidate your greatest leverage is once the company decides they want to hire you. They do not want to "waste" time looking for the next person if they like you.
Be Honest and Resilient During Interviews
Another tip is to be honest and resilient when answering questions during an interview. Don’t prepare answers in advance; instead, have an honest conversation with the interviewer to determine if the job is a good fit. It's okay to admit when you don't know the answer to a technical question, but also be open to learning new things and being challenged.
Be Prepared for Technical Questions
When interviewing for a security position, you may be asked technical questions that you don’t know the answer to. Or ridiculous questions like, "How many windows are there in New York City?" In this case, asking clarifying questions. Oftentimes interviewers are looking for you to think through the problem and not simply jump into it. Hearing how a candidate thinks is incredibly helpful. Remember that the interviewer is not only looking for your technical expertise, but also your ability to think critically and problem-solve. And pro-tip, if you are asked something about a previous employer that you do not want to talk about, chances are you are under and NDA and you can mention that.
Handle Unstructured Interviews With Humor and Simple Responses
When it comes to unstructured interviews, such as with senior engineers, it can be a bit intimidating. But don't worry, try to using humor and simple responses to help you navigate these types of interviews. It can also be helpful to push back on questions and make sure you understand what the interviewer is looking for.
Marketing is Important When Applying for Jobs
When applying for a job, it is important to stand out in order to catch the attention of the hiring manager. This can be done by including a profile at the top of your resume which tells a story about your background and what you are good at. Additionally, don’t feel obligated to jump through all of the hoops for a position if it isn’t worth your time, e.g., a company requiring cover letters or other quizzes or labs.
Reach Out To People You Know
Networking is key when it comes to getting your foot in the door. Reach out to people you know who work in the industry or who have connections in the company you’re interested in. Even if they are a recent acquaintance or a new LinkedIn connection, they might get a referral bonus so reach out and be bold.
Interviews can be intimidating, but they don’t have to be if you follow these tips. Understand your strengths and weaknesses, be honest and resilient during interviews, be prepared for technical questions, handle unstructured interviews with humor and simple responses, make sure your resume stands out with marketing tactics, reach out to people you know. Remember, the key is to be yourself and showcase your unique skills and experiences. Good luck on your next interview and hack on!
Check out the full Podcast - Interviews: Crush or Be Crushed (Psst, Gourry gets crushed)