Getting a job in identity and access management is both rewarding and challenging, but candidates who know what interview questions to prepare for have a much higher chance of successfully obtaining employment. After all, employers interview an average of five people per hire. To actually get a job, you will need to demonstrate your technical and interpersonal skills in a live interview.
If you are new to the identity and access management field, preparing for an interview may seem like a daunting task. You will need to be prepared to handle difficult questions and objections without breaking down. However, understanding some of the main questions that employers tend to ask ahead of time will give you an enormous advantage. You will, therefore, be able to exude the confidence that ultimately makes an employer confident in hiring you.
Common IAM Job Titles
Before getting into common identity and access management job interview questions, it is first important to understand some of the main types of IAM job titles and requirements.
IAM directors have the most senior level of responsibility in a company’s management organization. When an organization is large enough to need an IAM director, there are usually a large number of users and their access need to be managed to protect systems and data. It is not uncommon for IAM directors to be responsible for managing the access of over 10,000 users. As a result, IAM directors need both technical knowledge and high-level executive management skills.
High-Level Duties: IAM directors are responsible for working directly with C-level executives, managing the strategic direction of a company’s IAM organization, and recruiting and vetting competent talent.
Education required: An undergraduate degree is almost always required for IAM directors. Holding an MBA will significantly increase your odds of getting a job. You should also have a strong technical background and possess several years of experience in IAM.
Who can apply: Candidates with a background in both executive-level management and IAM can be considered for this role.
Certification: IAM directors may consider pursuing the Certified Identity Governance Expert (CIGE) and/or Certified Identity and Access Manager (CIAM) designations.
IAM managers have a role that is similar to IAM directors. Managers usually have several team members who they are directly responsible for overseeing. Consequently, IAM managers need a strong technical background to understand the projects that their employees are responsible for. Companies also usually make managers responsible for making decisions about how access-related security practices are implemented.
High-Level Duties: Major duties include directly managing employees and making complex decisions with serious implications for an organization.
Education required: An undergraduate degree is required for most jobs. Candidates with a strong background in management are preferred.
Who can apply: Candidates with a background in both management and IAM can apply.
Certification: IAM managers may consider pursuing the Certified Identity and Access Manager (CIAM) and/or Certified Identity Management Professional (CIMP) designations.
IAM architects design and plan systems that will be used to control access in an organization. Architects essentially work as researchers who design solutions that will achieve an organization’s objectives. Some managers assign one project to each IAM architect, but many of today’s architects work together in a team.
High-Level Duties: This role mostly centers around researching and designing access solutions.
Education required: Almost all IAM architect roles require at least an associate’s degree, but candidates with bachelor’s degrees are preferred.
Who can apply: People with strong technical and interpersonal skills can apply.
Certification: IAM architects may consider pursuing the Certified Identity Management Professional (CIMP) and/or Certified Access Management Specialist (CAMS) designations.
IAM engineers work hand-in-hand with IAM architects to develop new IAM and access systems. Unlike architects, IAM engineers are tasked with actually developing and implementing an access system.
High-Level Duties: IAM engineers focus on coding new applications, working with IAM architects, and managing complex data systems.
Education required: A bachelor’s degree is usually required since most employers only want to hire a licensed engineer.
Who can apply: People with a very strong background in the technical aspects of IAM can apply.
Certification: IAM engineers may consider pursuing the Certified Identity Management Professional (CIMP) and/or Certified Identity and Security Technologist (CIST) designations.
Common Job Interview Questions
Now that you know what role you will be applying for, you can start to consider some of the questions that your potential employer is likely to ask in an interview. Make sure that you study the identity and access management job interview questions in the following section so that you will be prepared for your interview.
Describe your experience in identity and access management.
Employers will usually begin interviews by simply asking you to provide a concise overview of your career experience. Your interviewer usually asks such a question out of genuine curiosity, but keep in mind that this question is also used to look for signs of dishonestly in your resume. Employers would want to know if your experience matches the IAM job requirements; assessing risks, managing a program, developing or implementing a system, project management, etc.
What resources did you use to train for your role?
The best employees take the initiative to learn on their own. Employers will want to know about online courses that you have taken and other training that you have done on your own. Pursuing professional IAM certifications from Identity Management Institute is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to the IAM industry and career.
If I was not a tech person, how would you explain the importance of controlling system access?
Most roles require a person who can explain technical matters to people who do not have a strong tech background. Consequently, you can expect an employer to ask a question that attempts to gauge your ability to explain the bottom line. Employers also often ask this question to assess your interpersonal skills since even your team members might not always understand the specifics of your tasks.
How do you manage difficult deadlines?
Deadlines are crucial in IAM. If you are applying for a management position, employers will want to assess how effectively you can manage challenging deadlines.
Describe a relevant project that you have been part of.
If you are new to IAM, some employers will only be interested in whether you have some practical experience. After all, there are very few viable candidates available to fill most IAM jobs. Before doing an interview, you should create a list of projects that you have completed. You could even consider putting your work online so that you can show your potential employer if you are asked to verify your experience.
What words have your coworkers used to describe you?
People who care about other people in the workplace are usually sensitive to how their former coworkers have described them. If you are immediately able to articulate what your coworkers think about you, the odds of you being an effective team player are much higher.
What actions do you take on a regular basis to keep your skills current?
When employers directly ask what you do to stay abreast of technological advancement, they are usually a company that is rapidly adapting to change. As a result, you should try to position yourself as an innovator for the remainder of the interview if you are asked this question.
Questions for Cloud-Related Roles
Describe when you would use AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.
This is one of the most difficult identity management job interview questions. If you are knowledgeable in cloud platforms, you should be able to clearly articulate cases when each major provider’s services are appropriate. Smart employers, therefore, will usually try to immediately put you on the spot to test the depth of your knowledge. Although this question is difficult, the good news is that it can be easily prepared for by conducting a bit of preliminary research.
Explain what differentiates Amazon EC2 from Amazon S3.
Employers who are interested in working with a particular cloud provider’s services will often dig deeper to assess the strength of your knowledge in working with a particular platform. Amazon’s services have the highest market share, so you should make sure that you are completely familiar with its services before walking into your interview. However, you can prepare for similar questions by simply studying and experimenting with each of the services of the main cloud providers.
Other IAM Job Interview Questions
Below are 20 additional identity and access management job interview questions to help you prepare for your next IAM job interview. Some of these may not apply to the role your are applying for, therefore, it is important to consider the ones that are closely aligned with your next IAM job.
- Do you have experience with identity directory services such as Active Directory? Please expand.
- Do you have cloud identity and access management experience? Which cloud platforms do you have experience with?
- Do you manage customer identity in addition to employee and other internal identities?
- Do you have experience implementing IAM solutions and products such as SSO and multi-factor authentication?
- What is the role of regulations and regulatory compliance in IAM? Please expand.
- Do you have experience managing third party service providers?
- Have you been involved in vendor or system selection process?
- Have you performed access re-certification? What tools do you use or what is your strategy?
- Do you engage with other departments such as Legal and compliance? How do you manage the internal relationships?
- Have you supported internal and external audits?
- Have you been engaged in request for proposal projects?
- Have you supported client requests for information? What is the most efficient method to support RFI?
- What IAM technology are you familiar and have experience with?
- Do you have experience with IAM product design, architecture, and configuration?
- Have you developed IAM policies and procedures? Please expand.
- What are some of the major IAM threats and risks that organizations face? Please list a few.
- How can you leverage automation and AI in your IAM job?
- What is the most challenging aspect of an IAM specialist or manager? (depending on the job)
- What do your consider to be your technical strength?
- What do you like most in an IAM job?