Interview Tips: Prepare well before you take off!


Full article

I have been working in Information Security domain long enough to understand what is it about, and where most the candidates I interview fumble. So, if you have a technical skill-set, out-of-box thinking and the passion to work, you have an excellent chance to be hired. This article will help you to avoid common mistakes and make you present yourself better & sharper. Now, this blog post shall be covered in 3 parts - five common "preparation headsup" for the interview, five common points where you might stumble during your job meeting, and finally, some interview myths to bust; so hold on & sit tight.


You are looking out for jobs, or someone just contacts you for a position they think is suitable for you, or you are referred by your ex-colleague or a friend; what's your first reaction? If the name of the firm rings a positive bell, possibly excitement? Or, if you think you can pursue the lead further, you feel anxious? Great! You're human. Let's move on.

First thing first, ask yourself these questions,

  1. If the firm has a favourable impression, and the job description sounds right; do you foresee yourself working for with them?
  2. What is your motivation - work opportunities, position/ title, money, firm name, location etc.?

Please be clear-headed before you start preparing for the interview and discussion. Focus on two things - what do you know, and how your knowledge can help the company grow. You wouldn't have enough time to start something new, so focus on the things you already are skilled at. Let's prepare for the interview,

1. What does the company want?

Make sure you request and understand the job description. It is your first window to comprehend company's expectations. Read the details and make sure it has enough information for you to prepare yourself, and take a gut-feeling if you think you can be the right fit for the role.
Feel free to contact the firm, or the recruiter if the JD is not clear, and you would need more information. Most importantly be true to yourself, and the recruiter - time value is mutual and there's no point wasting time if the job-details are way off your league or interest. It's appreciated to humbly decline than being rejected and referred as "skill-bloating" wannabe.

2. Prepare a professional "looking" resume

Like a job-description is a window in the firm, the resume is in yours. Your resume shall prompt the reader to take the same gut feeling call - shall I contact this candidate or not? Make sure your resume has the following pointers,

  • Name and contact details (no need for passport number, house number etc.)
  • Your email address in sober format and avoid patterns of - angelboy, loverkid, fairyguy, or babydoll etc. You won't be "sounding" serious.
  • Your technical and management skills. Don't let the resume just talk about hacks & cracks without any insight into how well you manage your responsibilities.
  • Dedicate a section on the achievements with your previous firms, or outside your professional circle.
  • Initiatives that you undertook - small or significant, professionally, or during a probono assignment or something worth mention.
  • Finally, make sure the assignments and skills you have quoted in your resume are accurate to the best of your knowledge.
  • Don't be fancy with fonts! Stick to Times, Arial, Calibri and less colors. Try to align the resume on strict boundaries, tables and structure.
3. Focus on the things you know!

If the JD aligns with your skill-set, focus on the things you know and have been doing for last 'x' years. If your resume is short-listed, you already crossed the first stage. Now, the interviewer is not interested to see what you learned concerning this interview, but what you know well enough to contribute to the company. It's time to look back and realize what brought your here, and where are you heading to.

Don't fumble with your life coincidences & happy accidents - the employer is looking for your objective approach on how you foresee yourself. It is very important to understand that employer would like to use your skill-set for his profits, but what do you want to get in return - a good compensation, great recognition, trainings in new domains, travel, growth on the corporate ladder etc. Find your ambition, and reflect your tenacity in achieving it.

4. Research on the firm, their strengths and weaknesses.

While you are all sure of yourself, and basically ready to walk the talk; its time you learn about the firm you are going to for the interview. The relationship with your future employer is symbiotic mutualism and it is equally important for you to know your employer well-enough to take a decision for staying 1/3rd of your next race of life.

Focus on these points,

  • What is their core business?
  • What are the views on the company at different forums/ website. Don't trust them as hard facts but get some pointers to discuss with the firm during the interview.
  • What are the working hours, environment and culture within the company?
  • If you have a social connection working in this firm, it's time to send him a message.
  • If the location is new, do research on the location and make sure you have your goto-number in mind appropriate for the respective location.
  • If you have any preferences - using mac over windows, no night work, personal time off, medical concerns etc. do make a note and ask the interviewer/ recruiter before your technical rounds. It will save everyone's time.
5A. What are you going to wear?

If you're going for a face to face interview, make sure you dress nicely. Have a professional look, so the interviewer can take you seriously. Even if the company supports casual attire in office; you have to make "the first impression" so don't take out your torn jeans, and colorful shoes. Think about the position you want to be in next 5 years, and dress accordingly. Ironed clothes, groomed hair and face is always a welcome. After you have dressed nicely, pack a notepad, a pen and be ready.

5B. Telephonic Interview

If you have your inteviews on Skype, Telephone or anything virtual; please be ready with the topic. Do not attempt to search it online; as no matter how sneaky you think you are, you actions (pauses, fillers and typing sounds) would be suspicious. Be confident in what you are saying, have a strong reason and justification to your current position, your future objectives and approach towards a problem.

It's perfectly fine to "not know" something, to give your best guess but don't lie more than you can defend. It's smart to be manipulative as long as it doesn't defy your ethics on the job and you know you can honor it.

Next Steps: Preparing for the interview is job half done; now understand what to do during/post the interview?

Hope these tips will help you prepare for your next interview; and if you have any questions on security interviews, or support in the preparation; feel free to contact me

Best wishes.