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Focus: 5 ways to prep for your IT interview.

The story

While at a previous employer, my client was hiring for a Security Architect role. My colleague submitted a candidate who received an interview request. A reduction in workforce 4 weeks prior had left the candidate unemployed. Since he had been there for more than 12 years, this layoff caught him off guard.

The candidate’s qualifications exceeded the requirements for the Security Architect position. That wasn’t the challenge. Rather it was that he refused to conduct an interview preparation call. His reasoning was that he had 15+ years of experience and he hired professionals before, so he knew how to interview. Against my better judgment, my colleague convinced me to schedule the interview.

A couple of days later we started the phone interview on our conference line. I introduced the Vice President of Information Security to the Security Architect candidate. The VP began the interview by asking the candidate, “Why are you interested in this position?” There was a long awkward silence on the conference line. He finally replied, “Umm, well I recently lost my job and I need a new one.”

In short, that answer didn’t make a good first impression. Sharing anything about an interest in the role or the mission of the organization would have been better. Unfortunately, this set the tone for the rest of the interview. After several more basic questions, the VP of Information Security ended the call. The conversation lasted a total of 10 minutes. It was clear that the Security Architect had not prepared. Subsequently, he was not selected to move forward to the next round of interviews.  He would have benefited from some interview preparation.

The Problem

Lack of interview preparation is a common pitfall among candidates. It would be equal to not tying your shoes before a race. A professional athlete prepares for a big race. In most cases, they practice for several months before the event. The athletes cover different aspects by running sprints, long-distance, and stretching. That commitment allows them to perform their best when they are on the “big stage.” Likewise, covering the essentials beforehand helps you achieve your best in the interview. As a result, this simple step can have a significant impact on the outcome. While it may seem common sense to some, others may not see it as an essential step in the interview process.

Also, the problem does not only exist for those in the early stages of their career but many times leaders as well. Leaders think their many years of experience have prepared them to interview well. Conversely, this can hinder them. Their interview skills may be rusty, which is why quality interview preparation is essential.

The Solution

When preparing for an interview, spend at least 1/2 an hour to 1-hour preparing. As a rule, spend this amount of time for each round of interviews.  While this might sound like a significant amount of time, think about the impact the role may have on your life. How would the position advance your career? work-life balance? or the ability to provide for your family? Answering these questions should motivate you to take the time to prepare for your interviews.

A quality recruiter should help you prepare. It’s a recruiters responsibility to provide essential information as well as feedback to help you perform your best during the interview. If you find yourself in a position where this isn’t the case, it’s time to find a new recruiter. Your recruiter must provide you insight, to prepare you as much as possible. The more familiar and comfortable you are with the role, the higher the likelihood of success.

As a recruiter, I viewed my role to be my candidate’s interview coach when they interview with my clients. We’d spend 20-30+ minutes on each interview preparation call. Preparation varies depending on the type and round of interview. First-round phone interviews and final face-to-face interviews are entirely different. Therefore they require different prep steps to succeed. Regardless, there are always 5 things you should do to prep before an interview.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Chief Information Officer (CIO) or a Desktop Support professional. Preparing for every interview in the hiring process is necessary. Even if you are an “expert interviewer” it’s always good to brush up and stay on top of the latest interview tactics.

I want to share 5 essential steps in preparing for an interview. However, it is not an all-inclusive list of items and techniques that I cover in my preparation calls. Rather a starting point to expand on.

Make sure you check back for my next post on the most critical preparation step.

5 Essential Steps to Prepare for an IT Interview

Preparing for an interview is a must. I can’t emphasize how essential it is for you to prepare for every interview. No matter how well you think prior interviews have gone, don’t stop preparing until you get the offer.

The 5 essential steps are:

· Research

· Block extra time

· Reason for interviewing

· Mental Preparation

· Preparing Questions



Research doesn’t have to take up tons of time. Take 15-20 minutes the day before your interview. Start by going to the company website to learn more about them. Review the executive team, mission statement, and charitable efforts. Gather as much information that you think is relevant to having an interview. Also, having this research helps you to make an informed decision on the opportunity.

Next, go to LinkedIn and run a search to find the professionals you will be interviewing with. Get a better understanding of their background and experience. Look for points on commonality, interests, or mutual connections. If you find something relevant, be sure to weave it into your interview. Finally, check other related social media sites and Glassdoor reviews.

While researching, begin formulating questions about the company based on your research. Write them down so you can bring them up during your interview. I will provide a couple of questions that I recommend asking at the end of an interview. All this research should aid you in determining your reason for interviewing.

Block extra time

Clock disintegrating - Time is precious during a cyber security interview

Blocking extra time on your calendar for the actual interview is essential. Finding spare time can be difficult as we are all busy and have full calendars, but you will be glad that you had the extra time. For example, if the interview is 30 minutes block off 45 minutes. This small bit of time is essential for two reasons.

Extra time will prevent anxiety caused by rushing to get to the interview. As a recruiter of 15+ years, I can say that a candidate running into an interview out of breath is never a good first impression. Interviewing is already stressful enough. There’s no need to add stress by scrambling to get there on time.

If your interview is onsite, make sure you use Google maps to determine how long it will take to get there. Give yourself extra time in case you hit traffic or get lost. You can always wait in your car if you arrive too early. Also, the spare time will benefit you if the interview runs over the allotted time slot. Many good interviews tend to run over the scheduled time. If a hiring authority is willing to keep talking with you, it’s a good sign.

Reason for interviewing

Dice with the letters WHY - Why are you having a cyber security interview

The reason for interviewing may seem obvious if you’re currently unemployed. But don’t fall into the trap of not preparing an answer like the candidate in my story. Failing to provide a good reason can hurt how a hiring authority views you. Your reason should come from your research, personal goals, or the position description.

For example, when reviewing the company’s website, you may find a charitable cause they support that’s important to you. Maybe you believe in the mission or values of the organization.  Someone could have told you that it was a fantastic place to work. Reviewing the prospectus, you see they have high growth plans, etc. These goals are different for everyone and based on personal preferences towards company culture and work environments.

The position description may require a specific area in which you’re a subject matter expert that you can add value. You could be looking for your next challenging opportunity to grow in a particular technology stack.  From a career progression standpoint, the role might be the next logical step.

Whatever your reason for interviewing, have a solid answer prepared for your interview.

Mentally prepare

Business man crossing the finish line

Practice your soft skills and put yourself in the shoes of the hiring authority. If you were in hiring for the role what type of questions you would ask? What kind of answers would you want to hear from prospective candidates? Rehearse your answers out loud or with a trusted advisor until they feel natural.

An important aspect of mental preparation for an interview is to visualize success. Professional athletes visualize making the game-winning shot or crossing the finish line. Athletes are also able to re-frame the emotions they feel before a competition. It is essential while visualizing that you focus on your feelings. Imagine in your mind the feelings that you will have after a great interview.

If you tend to get nervous before an interview, there are a couple of techniques to overcome it. You can use your body language to your advantage. Hold your hands in the air like an athlete winning an Olympic race. Similar to the movie Rocky when Stallone reached the top of the stairs. However, I don’t recommend doing this in the lobby while waiting for your interview!  Also, research has also shown that placing your hands in a steeple position has psychological benefits before a task.

Preparing questions

Light in the form of a question mark - Great questions to ask during cyber security interview

Asking questions at the end of the interview shows an interest in the role and a desire to learn more. If you don’t ask questions at the end, you might leave doubt if your interest is genuine. As a result of your research, you should have some question already prepared. In addition to those questions below, I have provided a pair that I recommend and the reasons why they’re important.

How will you determine if someone is successful in this role?

The question will help you understand the role at a deeper level.  Success goes beyond the tangible skills or certifications the position requires. Furthermore, you can make sure that the goals for the job are realistic.

Do you have any concerns or doubts about my background?

I recommend that you ask this question at the end of all your interviews. If there is a concern or doubt and you do not address them, you will not move forward in the hiring process. This question allows you to overcome them before concluding the interview. In short, there is a reason why I call this the “lifesaver” question.


These 5 preparation techniques will not only help you to prepare for your interview. They will also help to portray you in the best and most professional light possible. Be on the lookout for my future post discussing the most critical interview prep step. The Elevator Background Pitch! It is so important that it deserves its own blog post. Above all, an interview is a sales opportunity in that you are selling your background to the position. After reading it, you’ll know precisely how to start selling your qualifications at the beginning of every interview.

As always please share, like, or comment below if you found this beneficial. If you disagree that’s great too! We’re always open to learning and enjoy discussing these topics with others.

Interested in what’s possible for you?  Here are two ways we can work together so you can gain an Unfair Advantage!  One-on-one coaching sessions to focus on a particular area or customized coaching packages to provide a long-term comprehensive solution.  Not ready to dive in, but want to dip your toe in the water?  Schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation call to see if we’re a match.

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