Sunday, March 8, 2009

Your First Computer Forensic Job Interview

You have always wanted to work in computer forensics and now finally you have been invited to an interview. How should you prepare? Well, the first thing to do is to get the interview into perspective and develop the right mindset. Let me say right now that you will not be successful at some interviews for a broad spectrum of reasons outside your control from not having the right technical skills through to the interviewer having just had a major argument with their partner ten minutes before you walk in to the room.
If you don’t get the job, it really isn’t the end of the world so learn from the experience and use it at the next interview. Looking through the statistics of the 50+ computer forensic candidates we have placed into their first role, over 60% of candidates were successful at their second or third interviews, often due to learning from an unsuccessful first interview.
Computer Forensic job interviews take all sorts of formats with some very technical, but most tend to be a mix of assessing three key areas: technical skills, competencies and personality. I will discuss all three separately , but - and keep this quiet - in my experience, as long as you can demonstrate a certain technical level, interviews at this level often come down to the interviewing manager liking you personally. This actually this makes sense as the company is really buying your potential at this time and they want to take someone in whom they can invest time and money.
However, the interviewer will not feel positive towards you if you cannot answer any of their technical/competency related questions so that is your first area to prepare:
1, Technical questions.
The technical level you need to demonstrate varies considerably depending on the job and organisation. Just make sure you do all the obvious things like researching the areas mentioned on the job description, read the forums, listen to the podcasts etc to ensure you are fully updated on current technical thinking and advances.
The golden rule here is not to try and bluff your way through when you don’t know the answer. If you don’t know the answer to a technical question please just say so but then suggest areas where you may go to find the answer if you were asked the question in a work environment.
If you are not technically strong enough for a role, there really is nothing you can do about it on the day.
2, Competencies
Most interviewers will concentrate their questions around the following competencies: Interpersonal skills, problem solving and decision making, planning and organising, information handling and analysis, written/oral communication skills, teamworking.
All you need to do is to prepare three/four examples of each before the interview. Really try to balance the examples from different aspects of your life such as College, work experience, hobbies, private research and any other aspects of your life. This preparation should avoid you having to desperately think of new examples under pressure on the day.
3, Personality
Remember, if the interviewer doesn’t like you then it is very unlikely that you will be successful. When answering technical questions it can become easy to become almost robotic in our answers and, in my experience, more people fail computer forensic interviews for not allowing their personality to come through than for any other reason.
Think about it: if you get the job you will often be spending days/nights at a time with the interviewer under pressurised conditions far away from home. This isn’t the time to run through your stand up comedy routine but do be yourself and interesting/interested.
Get excited, prepare well, be yourself and good luck!
David Sullivan

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