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Top 30 Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Interview Questions and Answers ...


So you made it to what some may call the pinnacle of your Information Security career Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)…or at least the job interview! Any job interview can be tough but for the summit of your career, it will be the culmination of your acquired Information Security knowledge viewed through the lens of a “C” level executive. Regardless, this little fact should not dissuade you from knocking the interview out of the proverbial park. This article will help you to that end the Top 30 Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Interview Questions and Answers for 2018.

After the predictable icebreaker level of interview questions there are three main levels that this article will focus on Ground Level, Mid-Level, and Executive Level. If you are about to sit for an interview for this prestigious position, let this article be your guide and you should not have any problem landing the job of your dreams.

Level 1 Ground Level

This first level of questions will be beyond the quintessential “Tell me about yourself” kind of interview questions. The type that is considered Ground Level will focus a little more on your specific experience that will carry over to this position. With that said, do not sweat these questions as they should be fairly foundational for you at this point but still essential to the position. Let these questions be your guide and you will solidly ace this level of questions.

1. What is SSL?

Think of questions like these as a sort of softball technical question. Of course you know what SSL is standard security technology for creating an encrypted link between clients and servers. Knock this one out of the park, slugger.

2. What Port Do You Ping Over?

Second question in and you already have a trick question. The trick here should be apparent to you at this point in your career, though. Ping is a layer 3 protocol where as ports are elements of layer 4, but you already knew that.

3. Is Cloud Computing a Security Risk?

Even in 2018, cloud computing is still a risk. While there are many security risks involved with cloud computing it is really up to the cloud computing customer to ensure information security. These considerations really depend upon the nature of the business as well the data being stored so a good CISO would have to make these decisions on a case by case basis.

4. What Challenges Do You Foresee in This Position?

This question may seem very open ended but there are really just a filtering type of question. Employers want to filter out those who are not qualified and a good way to see if someone is qualified is if they can properly foresee issues that may arise on the job. Bring up any common issues that may have occurred in your last CISO position and then apply them to the specific organization that you are interviewing with.

5. What Mistakes Have You Learned From While Working as Chief Information Security Officer?

Do not think that this question is trying to find out if you have a high propensity for mistakes. We all make mistake the important thing is how you learn from them. The best kind of mistakes to bring up are ones that specifically involve your position as a CISO. Think of a question like this as a good opportunity to show that you can turn mistakes into strengths.

6. Board Meetings are Important For Our Organization. Are You Able to Address the Board About Technical Matters in a Way They Can Understand?

Without a doubt you need to convey that this is within your capabilities. Often times, even in 2018, Boards of Directors are made up of people who are not exactly tech savvy. As a CISO, you will need to address the board so they can understand and to address them in a way that is business focused.

7. Have You Ever Been Faced With a Situation Where You Had To Modify a Security Policy and Why?

As CISO, you are responsible for reviewing security policy. This infers that there will be times when you have to change a security policy for a security related reason. A good example to use would be when there was a recent wide scale threat, such as the WannaCry ransomware emergency that hit the scene a few years back. Many organizations responded by requiring data encryption from that point forward.

8. Have You Ever Been Involved in an Audit and How Did it Go?

Many organizations, especially those in highly regulated industries such as healthcare, are required to undergo regular audits. While this may sound scary to those without much experience, audits are really par for the course for organizations that are on top of their game. Unless otherwise, make sure to mention how easy it was and you basically just showed the auditors what they asked to see and everything went well. Again, if it did not go well bring up why and how you rectified the situation and what you learned.

9. How Would You Describe Your Management Style?

A question like this is supposed to give an interviewer a gauge on your management style. There are many different management styles and some work better than others. Part of this comes down to personal management style and the environment that they will manage. Use this question as an opportunity to sell your personal management style and how it will fit in with the overall organization environment.

10. Can You Describe an Example of a Security Issue At a Previous Position and How You Managed It?

Ok, this question can be thought of as a sort of extension of the last one but it definitely deserves to be its own question. What this one is trying to get at is how did you apply your management style to a situation and what was the result. A good example would be when there was a data breach at a previous organization and the steps that you took to rectify the situation and steps taken to prevent it in the future.

Level 2 Mid-level

So you made it to the second level of CISO interview questions, what this article refers to as Mid-level. This does not mean mid-level as in middle management, just intermediate in terms of difficulty. This level will focus more on your specific functional CISO knowledge and experience. Interviews can definitely be tough but do not lose any sleep over these questions, they are just a little more difficult.

11. Tell me about a Time When You Had to Collaborate With Stakeholders on Establish an Information Security Risk Management Program

Being a CISO means you will have to collaborate with key stakeholders in establishing information security risk management programs for the organization. What this question is looking for is that you have experience in collaborating with these stakeholders and that you have the ability to work with them in making a business-focused information security risk management program that addresses their needs. In some ways, being the CISO is like being the chief negotiator for the security team.

12. How Important is Security Awareness Training for Your Management Style?

Here, the interviewer is trying to get an impression of how important security awareness training will be to you if you indeed get the position. Of course, security awareness training should be paramount to your CISO management style. Recent studies have found that the propensity for a user to be security aware has to do with how much exposure they have to security awareness issues. A great way to expose them is with training so make sure to convey just how important security awareness training is to you.

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