Cybersecurity Careers: 7 Video Interviewing Tips

NWG is publishing a series of blogs related to obtaining a career in cybersecurity. This blog is the second installment. The first article can be found here.

The rise of remote work has led to an increase in the number of job interviews conducted over conferencing applications. While this can be a convenient and efficient way to interview candidates, it also presents some unique challenges. As discussed in this post, we recently had over 400 applications for our advertised Junior Penetration Tester role. After a couple rounds of ranking those applications, we had narrowed it down to around 25 individuals. We scheduled the first interview for 30 minutes to have an informal conversation, getting to know each other, asking about their interests and what drew them to penetration testing/cybersecurity, and inviting questions. About half of the applicants made it to the second round, where it was a little more structured, and included another 30 minutes where we asked a series of technical and behavioral questions. We also tacked on an hour of lab time at the end, designed less as a skills assessment and more of an insight into the applicants' reasoning and problem solving skills.

Each applicant displayed their unique set of strengths and weaknesses during these interviews, and we thought we'd share some of the hits and misses we saw along the way. As with the resume discussion, most of these tips should apply to just about any type of interview.

1.  Be Prepared

Know the job you're applying for and perform some research about the company. If possible, have the role's job description in front of you as a quick reference. This should also help with asking thoughtful questions to stand out, as discussed below. Most applicants were prepared, at least knowing enough about pentesting in general to follow along. There were a couple of head-scratching moments though, like one candidate who told us "cybersecurity isn't really my passion."

2.  Be On Time

More specifically, by “on time,” we mean 5-10 minutes early. If you're running late and need to move the interview to another time, let the interviewer know as early as possible. If you contact me two hours after you didn't show up for your scheduled interview time to let me know you slept through your alarm, I'm going to have to pass on rescheduling the interview.

3.  Stage Your Space

Everyone's living spaces are different and vary in size, but putting in some effort to make the environment as professional as possible goes a long way. Adding a fake background through the conferencing application is always an option as well. Do your best to keep the space as free from distractions as you can.

4.  Make Sure the Technology Works 

You should know well in advance the platform being used for the call - Zoom, Google, Teams, GoToMeeting, etc. Download the software you need, make sure your audio and video are compatible and setup ahead of time, etc. Two minutes before the meeting is probably too late to start troubleshooting your tech.

5.  Dress Appropriately

Here are a few articles discussing proper attire choices:

6.  Stand Out in a Positive Way

This one is pretty open-ended, but here are some examples of ways you can make the interviewer remember you:

Answer interview questions concisely but completely.  Practice this skill! A question you may be asked during an interview might be "what is an IP address?" A typical answer might be "a number on a computer that lets it talk to other computers," but a standout answer could be "an IP address (Internet Protocol address) is a numerical label assigned to each device connected to a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. IP addresses are typically written in a dotted decimal notation, such as"

Another example question might be "what was it about the pentesting job description that caught your eye?" A typical answer might be "It sounded cool to hack things," while a standout answer could be "I took a couple of programming courses in college, and one of my instructors mentioned ethical hacking. I asked her more about it, and it turned out she also taught a cybersecurity course. She got me started on HackTheBox and TryHackMe, where I've now achieved my goal of being in the top 10% of users on those platforms. I would love to be able to apply some of those experiences to a career where I'm able to help companies improve their security."

Ask thoughtful questions when the interviewer turns it over to you.  Remember that you are interviewing them to see if their company is a good fit for your values as well. There are tons of "go-to" questions you can ask if you don't generate any ideas before or during the interview. Some examples:

  • “Can you tell me more about the company culture and values?”
  • “What are the key challenges and opportunities in this role?”
  • “Can you provide more detail about the team and their roles?”
  • “What are the potential career growth opportunities in this position?”
  • “What are the key metrics for success in this position?”

Those are great questions to ask, but sometimes come off feeling a little canned. I appreciate it when applicants break out questions pertaining to topics we discussed during our meeting.  Things like:

  • "You mentioned your team performs purple team engagements. I've heard that term, but could you give more detail on what those are?"
  • "I understand this is a remote role, and you have employees throughout the US. How do you stay connected and make sure the team members don't feel isolated?"

Send a follow-up email where appropriate.  Just a simple "Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today" message goes a long way. Including something you learned or even referencing a discussion that took place during the interview is a bonus that might make you stand out.

7. Relax and Learn

Don't sweat it if you bomb an interview or you end up not liking the company. Use the interview process as a learning experience. I tend to take a good amount of notes during the course of an interview (on both sides of the hiring process!) and usually do a quick brain dump of everything that just happened after the interview is over. Note the areas where you were strong and felt confident, as well as those topics you need to work on. With each interview under your belt, your confidence will naturally grow and lead to more confidence in your ability to land that dream job!

I hope this advice helps job seekers everywhere. As we continue to grow at NetWorks Group, we look forward to seeing more quality candidates.


Published By: Mike Walker, VP of Ethical Hacking, NetWorks Group

Publish Date:  July 12, 2023

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