Interviews: How can I make an impact remotely? Security edition- Part 1

COVID-19 has quickly made working from home the new norm. I have viewed a lot of commentary giving hiring managers basic advice on how to interview candidates remotely, now, let’s flip the script and focus on those being interviewed.

Whilst aspects of this advice can be applied to other professional interviews, I have written this with cyber security practitioners in mind.  With years of experience helping security specialists find both contract and permanent positions, I am equipped with in-depth insight across several industry sectors.

The following advice centres on remote video conference interviews but most aspects can also be applied to telephone interviews:

Basically, the same core interview rules apply, but by being interviewed remotely, one can automatically be disadvantaged in the personality-based assessment criteria, such as team fit and rapport. It’s harder to get across our personality and build relationships when you are on the other side of a screen. Stats tell us that 65% of interviews fail during the soft skills assessment, so it is vital that you overcome this.

Decision factors like a firm handshake become redundant and strong eye contact can be a little strange if taken too far. However…

Some things don’t change

  • If your role involves dealing with the business or stakeholders in any capacity it is important to demonstrate to the interviewer your ability to “sell” the benefits of security to the business.
  • There is a common thought that there is little need to demonstrate your security business acumen if both your interviewer and the role are technical; this is a misconception.  It is likely that your interviewer faces off to the business as part of his or her duties. To have these skillsets within the team or represent yourself as another security champion, will only increase your chances of securing the position – assuming you are able to convey this.

 

It is more challenging to build rapport during a remote interview, an effective way to address this is during the question stage of the interview:

  • Be prepared with ready-made questions which are specific to the role and organisation.
  • There is no need to save the questions to the end, on the contrary, mixing your questions throughout the interview is more likely to turn it into a conversation where rapport is more likely to be formed.

Aesthetics

  • Presentation is always key- overly formal attire is not necessary and can be seen as misleading, after all – you wouldn’t be working away at home in your weekday best. A comfortable yet professional presentation is adequate.

Environment

  • The interviewer must be comfortable and reassured that you have a practical logistic set up to work from home with minimal distractions. A kitchen worktop will not do.  A home office, or even a private workable corner conveys the right impression, keep all other noise and potential disturbances to a minimum.  This also includes children and pets.
  • Whilst in the technology sector, working from home practices are not new; do not take this for granted.
  • The hiring manager immediately needs to have complete confidence in your ability and desire to separate your working deliverables from your personal obligations.

Bonus tip

…Find a Van Helsing

“In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Van Helsing was the oracle who educated the reader and the characters on how Dracula came to be, the signs of his victims, and ultimately how to defeat him.”

A Van Helsing can shed a unique light on the interviewer, the team or the organisation…. something you are not going to find on their website.  Your Van Helsing may be an associate, a former colleague or an educated recruiter.  He or she will be able to give insight into the challenges you are likely to face in the role, and perhaps provide input on off the grid projects.  This exclusive knowledge will demonstrate your investigative skills – a trait necessary in any line of security work.

We have heard of the skills shortage in security for many years, but that does not make hiring managers any less selective as to whom they recruit.  With COVID-19 ­­­motivating more remote interviews we must not be complacent.  We need to use every technique at our disposal to convey our potential suitability to the role.

Part 2 coming soon….

 

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