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Top 20 Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) interview questions for 2021

CISO stands for Chief Information Security Officer. It is a senior-level position where you have to develop and implement the strategies to protect the valuable information assets of your organization from both internal and external threats. This position is high in-demand these days and if you’re also looking to make your career in this C-level position, here are the top 20 interview questions that may be asked from you during your interview.

1. Tell me about yourself

Ans. This is the most common question asked by the interviewer in any sort of interview whether it is for HR, IT, sales, etc. By this question, the interview does not want to know about your personal life. He/she wants to know what brought you to the interview you're giving. You can share your previous work experience if any, your skills, achievements, etc.

2. Tell me about a time when you had to collaborate with stakeholders to establish an information security risk management program

Ans. By this question, the interviewer is trying to understand if you've previously worked with stakeholders and can collaborate and establish an information security risk management program that addresses their needs.

3. Why should we hire you for this profile?

Ans. While answering this question, you should highlight why do you think you're the right candidate for the organization. You should highlight your previous work experience and the skills you possess that make you different from other candidates. Rather than completely "reading" your resume, you should also focus and highlight things that are not mentioned in the resume but are worth sharing.

4. Why do you want to work with us?

Ans. When this question comes up, you have to exhibit to the interviewer why are you interested to work with them. You have to differentiate what makes you more interested to work in this company rather than other companies. You can tell them how your skills and the skills the company requires for this profile are aligning.

5. How do you describe your management style?

Ans. This is a tough question. Through this question, the interviewer not only wants to understand your management style but is also looking if you will fit into the company's environment. Hence, you have to be very discreet while answering this question. Study the company's culture beforehand and then based on the management style you relate with most, tell them how your management style will benefit the organization. You can also quote some examples from your previous organizations where you have worked, if any, as in how this management style helped the organization.

6. What is your weakness?

Ans. While answering this question, you should avoid saying that you don't have any weakness because we all have some sort of weakness. Also, while mentioning your weakness, don't tell them a weakness that is directly related to your profile. Here, you have to give a very smart answer. Tell them a weakness that is ultimately your strength. For example, "I am a very disciplined person and hence, working within the deadline is imperative for me. Due to this, sometimes I take too much work pressure.

7. Give me an example of a new technology you want to implement for information security.

Ans. When this question comes up, it is a great time to show how well informed you are about the current trends and technology and will also help you to show your creative side. You should know about the technology the company is currently using in their organization and hence, relating to that you can answer which new technology you can bring that can help the organization in doing their business efficiently. For example, you can talk about how you can bring AI and ML into the organization to detect security threats. If the company is already using it, then, what more they can do with the technology.

8. If you were going to encrypt and compress data for a transmission, which would you do first?

Ans. You should compress the data first before encrypting it because encryption destroys the pattern of the data while compression is done based on the pattern of the data. So, if the pattern is destroyed before it is compressed, compression will not happen.

9. What is the first question you ask when a breach occurs?

Ans. You should ask “when did the breach occur”.

10. What challenges are you looking for in this chief information security officer position?

Ans. This is yet another tricky question. In this question, you have to highlight your skills and abilities and how with these skills and abilities, you can overcome the challenges.

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11. What do you consider to be key attributes of a CISO?

Ans. Key attributes of a CISO are strong program planning skills, thorough security knowledge, strong leadership skills, and adaptability.

12. What KPIs or metrics do you use to measure the effectiveness of an information security program?

Ans. This question also requires you to highlight your skills and qualities. The best way to answer this question is to use a two-factor approach – productivity and recovery. A good information security program improves the productivity of the work while at the same time providing quick recovery without hampering the productivity or shareholder's interest.

13. What field experience do you have for a Chief Information Security Officer position?

Ans. While answering this question, you have to highlight your previous work experience. Tell them about the programs that you developed and the modules you have worked on. Try to relate your experience with the position you’re applying for. It will help the organization understand how your previous work experience will benefit the organization’s current goals.

14. How would you handle a security risk assessment?

Ans. Through this question, the interviewer is trying to identify your technical skills so be very discreet while answering this question. You can give example from your previous work experience, if any, where you did the same work and how it benefitted the organization.

15. What kind of salary are you expecting?

Ans. Be honest while answering your question. You should self-analyze yourself and then prepare the answer to this question. Based on your work experience and skills, if you think you deserve a particular amount, go for it. Don’t hesitate to share it with the interviewer.

16. How comfortable are you with executive decision-making?

Ans. Share the experience when you made an executive decision or similar level of decision and how fruitful it was for the organization you decided for. If you have never made such decisions, then you can answer this question honestly that you have never made such decisions in the past but based on the knowledge and skills you have, you think that you can make some good decisions for their organization.

17. Have you ever been involved in an audit and how did it go?

Ans. If you have been involved in an audit before, share your experience with them as to how you were cooperative with the auditor and how you helped them in extracting information about the company. If you have never been involved in the audit, then, it's okay. Be honest and tell them.

18. Have you ever been faced with a situation where you had to modify a security policy and why?

Ans. This question is the same as before. CISO is required to change the security policy at times for security reasons. Hence, you have to share your experience if you have ever done that before. What was the security reason, what policy did you make, and how did it help the organization you made the policy for. If you have never encountered any such situation before, simply tell them honestly.

19. Board meetings are important for our organization. Are you able to address the board about technical matters in a way they can understand?

Ans. You should confidently say “yes” to this question. CISO is required to convey to the board members how he/she is utilizing their money and protecting the assets of the organization. Good communication skills, confidence, and presentation skills are a must while addressing the board members.

20. What mistakes have you learned while working as a chief information security officer?

Ans. Don’t be embarrassed when this question comes up. It is not to judge you but to understand how you can turn your mistakes into your strengths. We all make mistakes so it’s okay to highlight them. Tell them honestly about it and what you learned about those mistakes while you worked as a CISO in your previous organization(s).

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