The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the traditional workplace and thrust us into a “future workforce,” nearly overnight. We went from onsite college recruiting fairs and conferences to virtual everything. Long-standing tips and recommendations for new grads may no longer be applicable as we embark on this uncharted territory. While the business world continues to grapple with best practices, we hope to provide you with some useful recommendations as you begin your search for a full-time role or internship.
Now more than ever, companies are relying on social media not only to identify but also to vet talent. You need to invest the same effort into all your external-facing professional social media pages as you do into your resume. Peruse profiles of people in similar roles to ensure that you are including valuable information. Use the “skills” section to populate any programming languages, tools, and technologies with which you have experience. Be sure to follow companies you are interested in and join groups with like-minded cyber-professionals. When you identify a role or company of interest, take the step of reaching out and introducing yourself to the recruiter, hiring manager, or members of the team. This is a great way to network! Ask a friend to take a photograph for your profile in lieu of using a selfie. Be sure to have someone else spell-check for you before you finalize your profile.
Once your profile is set, stay active by checking your feed regularly and sharing interesting content. Remember, this is not Facebook, so you can connect with people you don’t know and add a note such as “I read your article on the future of cybersecurity and would like to connect,” or “I am a recent grad from your alma mater and looking to enter the same field; I’d love to connect.” Finally, consider asking professors, lab partners, or club leaders to post recommendations on your profile. They will provide recruiters and interviewers with a quick look at why you would be a great addition to the team.
There is a fine balance between confidence and arrogance, and the most successful applicants demonstrate humility and honesty. From the minute you speak to someone, whether a recruiter or other company representative, the interview process has begun. Take every opportunity to show us who you are–and not just your technical skills, either! While we certainly want to check out your Github page and learn about your CTF club, we also want to know that you are a trustworthy person that would be nice to work with.
Today’s companies want people to bring their “authentic” selves to work. This concept can seem a bit elusive, but here are some topics that you may want to be able to speak to:
- Why security? What brought you to this industry and why are you passionate about it?
- Do you have other interests or skills? (music, volunteer work, sports, community involvement, gardening, travel, etc.)
- What was your hardest class and why?
- What kind of work environment would you thrive in?
- Why did you apply to work here?
Preparing for the Interview
Although you will not be doing a traditional onsite interview, you should prepare as if you were! You might find it helpful to do some research, as Blayne Dreier, Staff Security Engineer, suggests: “Ask for a list of interviewers ahead of the interview. Look them up and learn about their interests and relate your experiences to theirs. Passion and relatability are everything.”
Verify ahead of time that your microphone and camera are working. Plan ahead to take your interview calls in a quiet place, and mute your cell phone. Limit interruptions by informing everyone who shares your space about the interview, so that they can be respectful. If the interview is being held on Zoom or Google-meet, assume that your video should be on. Make sure that you have an appropriate space or simply change the background. Interviewers don’t need to see unmade beds or laundry piles.
Lastly, psych yourself up! Get a good night’s sleep, exercise, or do some mindful meditation to help you focus and stay calm. Remind yourself of how far you have come and envision yourself being successful. Then be on time and crush that interview!
Interview Tips from the Pros
What is your advice for a candidate interviewing for a security engineer or internship role?
“Know the company you are interviewing for. Know their values, culture, and which of your own personality traits really tie into them. Try to emphasize those traits while you’re interviewing. Outside of technical knowledge, I am looking for tenacity, a love of learning, and willingness to be open and honest.” Steve Knabe, Senior Security Engineer
“Be vocal during your interview. A well-designed technical interview does not measure your ability to recite facts. Instead, it’s meant to assess your reasoning, critical thinking, and communication skills. To be successful, you need to continually convey your observations to the interviewer through verbal communication. Your goal should be to make your thoughts transparent and leave no part of the assessment to the interpretation of the interviewer.” Blayne Dreier, Staff Security Engineer
“Come prepared with a few questions for the end of the interview to get a better understanding of the type of role it is and to demonstrate some interest or curiosity about the work.” Thomas Hendrickson, Lead Security Engineer
Any suggestions of what not to do?
“Technical interviews are generally organized into three stages: (1) Initial greeting and conversation, (2) Technical assessment, (3) Candidate questions. Avoid over-indexing on any one stage. During stage 1, be inviting, but don’t carry the initial conversation on too long. During stage 2, stay focused, but don’t get trapped inside your own head and forget that the goal is to communicate with the interviewer. During stage 3, ask thoughtful, unique questions. Understand that this interviewer has likely conducted many other interviews. They will have a more favorable view of your interview experience if you’ve piqued their interest with novel questions and insights. Additionally, respond to the interviewers’ answers with intelligent commentary. “Cool, thanks.” doesn’t make the interviewer feel like they provided a particularly valuable response to your question.” Blayne Dreier
“My suggestion is not to treat the virtual interview casually, for example, showing up in pajamas and eating during the interview.” Thomas Hendrickson
“Don’t shut down/go unresponsive if you get stuck on a problem (keep talking out loud about your problem solving), don’t just give up/etc. (always try to have a positive outlook) ie: I’ve never done this, but I should be able to with a few hints.” Steve Knabe
It’s a wrap
Once the interview is complete thank your interviewers, and connect with them on LinkedIn. Follow-up with an email to each interviewer and feel free to share what you enjoyed and/or learned. Be sure to also follow up with your recruiter and reiterate your interest. Ask what the timeline looks like as well as whether there will be any additional steps in the process. If you have any outstanding questions this is the time to address them.
Remember that whether you land the job or not, it is important to leave a positive impression! The cybersecurity industry is small, and your professional network is going to be a resource for you throughout your career.
To learn more about Praetorian and our opportunities, check out our career page!