You’ve spent years honing your skills in the trenches of in-house security, helped identify and fix numerous blind spots, and vulnerabilities. Now you’re ready for a new challenge by joining a consulting firm as a coveted red teamer. This is an exciting opportunity to apply your expertise in a new context and help hundreds of organizations strengthen their security posture. To ensure you ace the interview process, I’ve compiled some key pointers to help you prepare for your interview in consulting domain. Before diving into the interview preparation, it’s essential to understand the key differences between in-house security roles and red team consulting positions.
Research the firm you’re applying to and the types of clients they work with, as this information will help you tailor your responses during the interview. Familiarize yourself with the industries they serve, the size of their clients, and any notable projects or case studies on their website or in public domain.
Understand the differences in scope of work
It is important to understand that the scope of in-house security assessments is very different than having to encounter a variety of client environments, security controls and complexities. Do prepare yourself with some labs, CTFs, simulations etc. & play around different controls, C2 and scenarios in a black box approach. There are multiple institutes/ organisations providing such resources, such as Hack The Box, PTA Labs, Offensive Security, Altered Security. When doing technical preparations, always think one day as a consultant you will be entering an unknown territory, in pitch dark with trip wires all over the place. PREPARE WELL & DON’T ASSUME it to be walk in the park.
Brush up on your technical skills
While you may already have a strong foundation in information security, it’s crucial to brush your technical skills before the interview. Red team consulting roles often involve a wider range of technologies, so make sure you’re comfortable with:
- MITRE ATT&CK Lifecycle/ Kill-Chain
- Network/ Web Penetration Testing
- Security tooling and industry standard frameworks
Upskill and Continuous Learning
When you are working in-house the upskilling may depend a lot on what is working out for you. I have often met folks who tend to believe if it’s not broken, why fix it. In consulting side, it’s a different mindset. One thing that works with one client might absolutely not work with another the next month. So there is a continuous learning curve. You might have to spin something new, do lots of research during an engagement because the software on the other side is spanking new in its glory or your payloads are encountering a hostile environment like never before. Ensure you’re prepared by practicing common scenarios in a lab environment, or reading/ researching about it and understanding the underlying problem. Further, discuss your specific technical skills and tools you’ve used in-house, and explain how they could be beneficial in a consulting environment.
Demonstrate passion for Continuous learning; research and keeping yourself upto date on what’s happening in the real world is must. Client may even ask you - “simulate the TTP similar to what happened last month in that headline attack”.
Communications and Soft Skills
In a consulting role, having strong communication and interpersonal skills is just as important as your technical expertise. Be prepared to discuss how you’ve worked with teams, managed projects, and presented findings to stakeholders in your previous in-house role. Practice explaining complex security concepts in simple terms, as this will be crucial when working with clients. Communication style and details are very different; while the in-house roles rely on working relatioship with business stakeholders, and would not involve you introducing yourself, start from scratch, and would focus more on associated risk with new findings. You are not representing a company and probably they know you by now, very well, hopefully for the good reasons.
In consulting, there is often a huge component of educating the customer & sharing where you are coming from. To a client, you are an expert and a single point of contact for how and why you did, what you did. You help them connect the dots on its relationship with attacks in real world. Be verbose, clear and confident. Further, within the in-house simulations, you have a lot (if not full) visibility on teams, technical trust boundaries and controls. You know how to collaborate with the internal teams for efficiency, timelines and identifying risks. With consulting, you are “the expert” paid highly for working out all the complex stuff yourself, while the client is receiving a dense and distilled information. There might be opportunities for collaboration with client but often you will be doing the heavy lifting.
In-house roles you are within reach if your business owner walk in, even after the project is finished but in a consulting role, the clients would like to ask and discuss as much as possible within the project timelines before you close the project, or lose access to the udnerlying data. Strong communication skills are vital in a consulting role, as you’ll also need to articulate complex security concepts to various audiences, from technical colleagues to non-technical clients. Emphasize your communication skills by discussing:
- How you’ve presented security findings and recommendations to stakeholders
- Instances where you’ve translated technical jargon into understandable language for non-technical team members
- Any experience in creating well-structured written reports or documentation
In consulting, you are working across industries - Health, Finance, Gaming, Manufacturing etc. so, a good having a breadth of knowledge, while specialising in few sectors would go a long way.
Prepare for Behavioral Questions
Red team consulting interviews can often include behavioral questions to assess your teamwork, communication, and problem-solving abilities. Be ready to discuss specific examples from your in-house security role, such as:
- A time when you faced a significant challenge and how you overcame it
- How you’ve collaborated with cross-functional teams to improve security
- Instances where you’ve trained or mentored colleagues
- How you’ve communicated complex security issues to non-technical stakeholders
I am looking for what brings you here in the interview, what excites you and what value can you bring to the table. There will be multiple opportunities to learn, upskill but what I am looking for is how can you improve our current team strength.
Emphasize transferable skills
Highlight the transferable skills you’ve gained in your in-house red team/ security role that will be valuable in a consulting context, such as:
- Strong collaboration and teamwork abilities
- Effective communication with both technical and non-technical stakeholders
- Project management and prioritization skills
- Adaptability and the ability to learn new technologies quickly
Be prepared to talk about your work history and any projects you’ve completed in your in-house security role. Highlight your achievements, the challenges you’ve faced, and the lessons you’ve learned. This will demonstrate your experience and show how you can apply your expertise to consulting projects. Finally, come prepared with a list of questions about the consulting firm, its culture, and the red team role itself. This demonstrates your interest in the company and helps you evaluate if it’s the right fit for you.
By following these steps, you’ll be well-prepared for your red team consulting interview and on your way to transitioning from an in-house security role to an exciting new opportunity in consulting. Good luck!
Cover Image: Tim Marshall