SOC Analyst Interview: Common Questions

A Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst plays a critical role in today’s digital-first business world. Faced with growing cybersecurity threats, employers compete intensely to hire and pay the best-qualified candidates. And, they ask challenging questions to make sure they hire the best IT experts.

We’ll show you how to prepare for a future SOC Analyst interview, what questions you can expect, and what you need to land a new next-level cybersecurity career opportunity.

How to Prepare for Your SOC Analyst Interview

Next to the actual interview, in-depth preparation for the interview sets you up for success. Here are the best ways to get yourself interview-ready.

Consider SOC Analyst Certification

Certification as a SOC Analyst is worth considering. It’s not only a demonstration of your industry knowledge; it also shows your commitment to the cybersecurity profession and your willingness to enhance your expertise. Certification can also provide you with leverage to negotiate a higher salary and compensation package.

Six Essential Certifications for SOC Analysts

Six SOC Analyst certifications carry the most weight in the IT industry. The entry-level certifications include Security+ and CySA+ offered by CompTIA and the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) through the EC-Council.

Three other certifications require three to five years of industry experience and a deeper commitment to course study but carry more weight in job applications:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC).

Types of SOC Analyst Jobs Available

The role of SOC Analyst ranges from entry-level positions to full-scale cybersecurity management positions in business and government. Typically, the job includes system security analysis, monitoring internal and external networks, threat and risk assessment, managing cybersecurity incident response, and generally serving as an organization’s cybersecurity watchdog and advisor. It’s a busy and satisfying career.

Five Tips to Get Interview-Ready

Here are five tips to get ready for your next SOC Analyst job interview.

  1. Do your research on the company thoroughly. Get to know their mission and company values.
  2. Understand their business sector or marketplace, customers, and industry trends.
  3. Find out if they’ve suffered any recent cybersecurity challenges. Know everything you can about a couple of relevant incidents in the same industry sector and think about how companies need to be cybersecurity-proofing their operations.
  4. Prepare engaging questions and demonstrate your knowledge of the potential employer.
  5. Getting properly backgrounded shows your ability to carry out open-source intelligence, a valuable skill for any IT professional.

Tough SOC Interview Questions to Expect

Employers aren’t out to trip you up with “gotcha” questions, but they are focused on hiring candidates with in-depth cybersecurity knowledge, relevant experience, and the best answers to probing questions. So you can expect questions about your background and industry expertise, technical knowledge probing, and, most important, scenario-based questions.

General Questions – Your Cybersecurity Experience

These questions usually focus on your specific industry experience, your education and training, personal cybersecurity opinions, and a few general trends. In addition to the standard resume-related queries, here’s a list of a few possible questions to consider in advance:

  • What part of your job experience is most relevant to the position we’re discussing?
  • What’s been your biggest job-related challenge?
  • What do you use for your own security network at home?
  • Why do you want to work in our SOC?
  • What’s your career plan as a cybersecurity professional?
  • How do you keep yourself updated on the latest cybersecurity news and developments?
  • What are your thoughts on the biggest challenges companies face regarding cybersecurity?                          

Technical Knowledge & Expertise

Employers and your potential manager need to understand your level of technical knowledge and cybersecurity expertise. Here are some of the more challenging technology and industry questions to expect:

  • Can you explain the difference between policies, processes, and guidelines?
  • What do you know about AAA (Authentication, Authority, and Network Accounting)?
  • How do you define such terms as risk, threat, and vulnerability in a network?
  • How do you explain the differences between IDS (intrusion detection systems) and IPS (intrusion protection systems)?
  • Talk about the importance of cybersecurity frameworks?
  • What is SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) software, and how does it work? 
  • How can you protect against identity theft?
  • What are the best ways to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks?
  • How do you defend against DDOS attacks?
  • Any thoughts on the best solutions for brute-force attacks?
  • Explain the importance of DNS monitoring?
  • What are the best ways to secure a server?
  • What can you tell me about OSI layers and the importance of network layers?

If you know the answers to these cybersecurity and other related industry questions, you are well on your way to impressing a potential employer and landing your next SOC Analyst job.

Cybersecurity Scenario-Based Questions

Scenario-based questions are an excellent way for employers to test applicants’ broad technical knowledge and the ability to apply and solve problems creatively. Here are just a few of the scenario-based SOC questions you can anticipate:

  • What did you think of the Solar Winds incident, and what should companies do to prevent a similar attack in the future?
  • What is the most significant ransomware attack you’re aware of, and what do you think of the most important ways to prevent these attacks?
  • If there was an attack from a specific IP address, how would you defend a network?
  • How would you build a cyber-kill program to defend against a company’s network defenses?
  • When there’s a network data breach, what are the first steps to manage the incident?

A final thought about your next SOC analyst interview: don’t forget to ask the employer questions about their own cybersecurity threats and challenges, their worst threat penetration, and how they’re planning their defense against threats in the future.

SOC Analyst Career Opportunities

SOC analysts are in big demand. For example, in early March 2022, LinkedIn showed more than 17,000 SOC Analyst jobs with 889 newly opened. The salary for entry-level SOC analysts ranges from $50,000-$60,000. For experienced SOC analysts, says the average US salary is $94,054 but typically ranges between $80,112 and $112,665 depending on education, experience, certification, location, and size of the company.

Ready to Get Hired?

There’s no shortage of SOC Analyst job opportunities from entry-level to critical operations risk management roles and cybersecurity senior management positions. Check out our extensive overview of Security Operations Centers, detailed descriptions of the duties of a SOC analyst, and a full range of training options here.

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