How to nail a remote interview for one of cybersecurity's many open jobs — even without much experience — according to McAfee's HR chief

How to nail a remote interview for one of cybersecurity's many open jobs — even without much experience — according to McAfee's HR chief
McAfee's chief human resources officer, Chatelle Lynch.McAfee
  • McAfee Chief People Officer Chatelle Lynch has overseen the hiring of hundreds of cybersecurity professionals.
  • Lynch says that the plentiful openings in cybersecurity mean that specific experience requirements are not necessarily rigid.
  • Preparing for an interview by understanding the company and current trends may make up for gaps in job experience, she says.
  • Candidates should rehearse video conference interviews with a friend and meticulously go over their technical preparations – from lighting to document projection.

As many industries have shed jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, cybersecurity continues to add them. One recent study shows 350,000 open jobs in the industry (and you can see them mapped city-by-city on a US-funded online jobs site).

So the question isn't whether there are jobs. The question is how to land one remotely.

Chatelle Lynch, chief people officer at McAfee who has overseen the hiring of hundreds of cybersecurity professionals, says candidates need to prep in two main areas:

  • Prepare to discuss cybersecurity in specific and timely ways – whatever your experience level.
  • Prepare for interviews in ways that focus on video-conference interviews, which are different from presenting yourself as convincing and impressive in person.

Here is Lynch's advice for landing a job in cybersecurity remotely — as McAfee itself has more than 100 openings right now:

Don't let the absence of experience or a degree deter you

"It's no secret that the demand for cybersecurity staff has steadily grown over the past decade," she says. "This means opportunity, so if you don't have a degree, don't let that slow you down. You may have unique work experience or relevant certifications, alternative learning, or transferable skills that you need to make sure you highlight when applying and interviewing."


Lynch says employers' qualifications are often more flexible than they appear – and veterans, IT workers, and even gamers may be able to apply their skills.

2"Don't be afraid to make your case on how you are qualified during interviews. I find that prior military service, IT experience, and relevant volunteer or hobbyist activities – such as gaming – are a good foundation for cybersecurity roles."

Research the company where you are applying

Longterm cybersecurity experience may not be required, but current understanding of a company or industry are, Lynch says. "Research the company you are joining, and know why you want to join a cybersecurity company. I always ask candidates that and it is evident right away if they have done any research."

Cybersecurity fills the headlines of news sites these days, and being able to discuss current events in the industry helps candidates connect with interviewers, she says. "Be aware of relevant current events. Has there been a recent cybersecurity incident in the news?"

This doesn't have to be cyber-geek discussion on the latest hot topic in security research either, Lynch says.


"Has a high-profile celebrity been involved in a cyber scandal?" McAfee publishes a list of the "most dangerous celebrities" each year, and Lynch says understanding the connection between cybersecurity and popular culture can be an ice-breaker than shows a candidate is astute.

Get comfortable interviewing in front of your computer

Lynch urges candidates to practice video-conference interviews with a friend who can give feedback.

"Do a mock interview," she says. "A virtual interview can be daunting without practice. It's not as easy to read body language, so when you practice, look for cues from the interviewer, pause more often than usual, and listen. Remember to talk directly into the camera since it's the closest to eye contact you can get."

It's good to have work samples ready to project and discuss, Lynch says, and you should rehearse doing that, as well. However, sharing confidential materials in an interview for a cybersecurity job could be a fatal error. "Sharing any past work considered confidential won't be received well. Cybersecurity companies take a culture of security very seriously."

You have to be your own video producer, Lynch says, which will show off your tech knowledge as well as making a good personal impression. "Make sure your video camera is properly positioned," she urges. "Take a moment to see what your camera is picking up. Look at your lighting and avoid bright windows or lights located behind you."


With any tech interview, you really want your equipment and WiFi to work well, or it reflects badly on your abilities. "Try rebooting your router and computer for a fresh connection," Lynch says.

Tap into your emotional intelligence

Honesty and authenticity are very important, Lynch says, and that means being forthcoming, not just impressive. "Don't embellish your experience, own it. Talk positively about your path and the choices you have made in your career. If you've been laid off in the past, say that. Sometimes roles just don't work out, but that doesn't mean you won't be a better match for the next role or company."

Emotional intelligence – the ability to perceptively connect with others – is a huge asset worth developing, she believes.

"Look right at the camera and actively listen. Share stories about who you are, not just what you do. Converse, relate, and empathize with your interviewer. Candidates who express genuine curiosity in how the company is navigating this unprecedented time are of heightened interest. Emotional intelligence is something I look for in what's considered 'normal' times, but amidst the coronavirus pandemic, I find it more important than ever."