December often finds security professionals planning for a career change in the following year. Lack of preparation is the primary reason well-qualified candidates fail in an interview. This means security leaders should plan their job search strategies now, not next year.

One way to kick that preparation off is to understand how companies approach security executive interviews.

Organizations continually develop and improve upon carefully constructed candidate assessment processes designed to aid them in selection of well-matched candidates. These models quickly weed out candidates who are not adequately prepared for the experience.

One common interview method is known as the iceberg model. It is designed to identify components that are visible such as observable behaviors, knowledge and skills — the tip of the iceberg. It also explores components below the iceberg’s water line, such as traits, characteristics, attitudes and beliefs. This method is used both for internal and external candidate assessments of various competencies in hiring, promotions and performance management.

The goal is to gain both an accurate picture of the candidate and the candidate’s cultural alignment with the organization.

Organizations invest heavily in training their human resources and talent acquisition teams on this interview strategy. They may also use well-documented assessment instruments designed for use in conjunction with the interview process. The goal is to gain both an accurate picture of the candidate and the candidate’s cultural alignment with the organization.

Candidates often focus solely on their skills and knowledge of the tactical and operational aspects of a role when prepping for an interview. If the organization you are going to interview with uses the iceberg model, this narrow focus is only the first 10% seen above the waterline. It does not consider the more critical elements of the interview — the remaining 90% that is underwater.

Companies using this interview method develop a specific set of selection competencies. Candidates will be asked questions designed to assess if you show those abilities the organization has determined are critical for success.

Following are common examples of soft skills you should prepare to address in a security job interview.

  • Concern for Effectiveness: An underlying concern for doing things better.
  • Initiative: Willingness to go beyond what is required. Act before being asked.
  • Enthusiasm for Work: Passion for the job. Working hard and energetically.
  • Self-Confidence: Ability to succeed, reach challenging goals and overcome obstacles.
  • Concern for Impact: Self-awareness of the impression you make on others.
  • Conceptual Thinking: Ability to draw thought-out conclusions based on assessment of experiences and observations of seemingly unrelated information. Draw analytical conclusions not clearly apparent.
  • Analytical Thinking: Logical thinking in seeing relationships between cause and effect. Plan to anticipate and evaluate systematically.
  • Interpersonal Astuteness: Understanding of others’ desires, strengths and weaknesses. Interpret the concerns of others.
  • Effective Communication: Ability to effectively present and engage both formally and informally. Ability to read your audience, recognize time constraints and be able to present the right amount of information needed.
  • Listening Skills: Actively being interested in what others communicate. Being interested in their message. Directly answering the questions that are asked without interjecting your message or agenda.
  • Flexibility: Willingness to shift strategies and accept other viewpoints.
  • Innate Curiosity: Desire to learn and explore. Creativity, imagination, problem-solving and adaptation.
  • Influence: Building credibility through cross functional relationships to achieve goals and effect positive change without authority or control.
  • Customer and Stakeholder Focus: Initiative-taking engagement and understanding of others’ needs and priorities. Find opportunities to be a trusted partner/advisor.

Take time between now and the new year to think about how you would describe yourself in an interview that seeks insight into these soft skill areas. Then, meet us back here in January for insight into a multi-step interview process and what questions you should expect to be asked.