Interview Questions to Anticipate and Ask in Your Cleared Job Search

Posted by Ashley Jones
interview questions

Cleared job interviews can sometimes feel like a high-stakes performance, with an audience judging your every word. If you have interview stage fright, don’t worry – we’ll share the script with you, including common interview questions, so you can prepare for your big debut and gain rave reviews from your interviewers.

While there’s no way to see into the future and know exactly what will be covered in an interview, there’s a lot you can anticipate and rehearse for. Hear from guests on our podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who’s Hiring & How, to learn what cleared employers are asking in interviews and what they expect from you.

Interview Questions Employers Are Asking

Individual recruiters and hiring managers may approach interviews differently, but at the end of the day, they’re all trying to gauge how you would fit into their role and team. Consider the following insights from cleared employers to better understand what they aim to learn from the interview questions they ask candidates.


I’m looking for strong problem-solving skills, critical thinking, good communication, and a great attitude,” shares Mary Toxey, COO and Co-Founder of BasisPath. “Finding those qualities, those intangibles, are significantly more valuable to me and BasisPath than any degree or certification that you have.”

“And that’s the reason why usually our first interview is centered more around that type of a conversation,” admits Mary Toxey. “And then if we need more technical information or it’s really important to understand the technical skill level of a candidate, they’ll do a second interview that’s more technical. But we usually won’t get past go if we don’t isolate some of those key qualities that are important.”

First, I want to try to get to know the person,” explains Mary Toxey. “I’m trying to figure out what it is that I think they care about. So there are questions that are geared towards trying to differentiate if this person has an interest in maybe a particular mission that we might be supporting and where their interests lie. That way, I can try to match them up with the right contract and the right program.”

“And then, I do ask scenario-based questions, but nothing that you generally see on the internet,” says Mary Toxey. “Getting them to tell me a little bit about themselves and their experience on a more informal level will then help me be able to generate questions on how they handle certain situations or people.”


The first question I always ask is, tell me a little bit about yourself,” says Shae Gee, former Chief People Officer of Paragon Cyber Solutions. “Don’t tell me what’s in the resume — I can see that — but tell me a little bit about yourself. And that really goes to, how comfortable are they speaking about themselves. Is it going to be straight personal? Or is it going to be, this is what I can do for you? There’s a lot you can get out of that first question based on their personality and how they carry themselves.”

And my next question is always, so what do you know about Paragon,” asks Shae Gee. “It’s not too difficult to do a search on Paragon to be able to tell what we do.”

“We had one individual that interviewed with us, and he had zero clue what Paragon was about,” cautions Shae Gee. “He didn’t do his homework.”


“We’re looking for you as a good fit for the team, more so than the technical knowledge,” says Matt O’Hara, Red Cyber Program Manager at Valiant. “Oftentimes, I’m looking for the soft skills that you bring to the team. Are you a good team player? Are you willing to work with others? Can you provide mentorship and leadership to other people, possibly in the future, as you progress down the road?”

“And another question I always ask people is, where do you want to be 10 years from now,” shares Matt O’Hara. “I ask that because maybe we can help you achieve your goals along the way. Or maybe we can help set you up for that path, because I know everyone’s not gonna be an operator or technician forever. Interests change and people naturally want to progress in their roles. And if I can help you do that, then that’s something that I would like to be part of as well.”


So as you prepare for your interviews, think about how you would answer questions that help employers get to know you beyond your technical skills or experience. Prepare for interview questions such as:

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?

Interview Questions You Should Ask Employers

Just as employers are assessing your suitability for the role, you should be evaluating whether the company is the right fit for you. Asking insightful questions demonstrates your interest and helps you gather crucial information to make an informed decision.

Understanding the company’s culture, expectations, and opportunities for career growth is key to determining if the role aligns with your cleared career goals. Asking the right questions can also show employers that you are proactive and engaged.

“At the end, it’s always interesting to see what questions do they have,” admits Shae Gee. “Come to interviews with questions—one or two. You really have to do your research on what that question means to you as a person, and is that going to give you the answers you need to decide if you’re gonna go with Paragon?”

“One of the questions I’m always intrigued by when a candidate asks is, where do you see me fitting in, to either the team or the organization,” says Adam Fife, CEO of CenCore. “Because what that forces me to do as a hiring manager is, to stop and think, and visualize this candidate as a team member, as an employee, and then verbalize how I see that fitting.”

“So what ends up happening is, I then as the hiring manager, I’m now closing myself on you as the candidate,” explains Adam Fife. “Sometimes I’ll get asked that question and I realize as I’m trying to explain it to them that they actually probably aren’t a good fit. But that’s also a benefit, because you don’t want to go work somewhere where perhaps you’re not a good fit…But that’s one of my favorite questions.”


The questions you choose to ask in your interviews depend on what matters most to you in your career search. Some questions to consider asking employers include:

  • Where do you see me fitting in with the team?
  • Can you describe the company culture?
  • What are the main challenges the team is currently facing?
  • What are the key performance indicators for this role?
  • What opportunities for professional development do you offer?
  • How does the company support work-life balance?
  • How would you describe the management style here?
  • What are the company’s plans for growth and development?
  • How does the team typically collaborate?
  • What are the next steps in the interview process?

The Importance of Practice

“Be confident that you’re supposed to be in the room,” says Mike Barnum, Talent Acquisition Leader at Raytheon. “And I think a lot of that comes from practicing. Take notes, practice answering basic interview questions, and practice asking questions.”

Consider doing mock interviews with friends or mentors to practice responding to questions that are likely to come up. But keep in mind, even with practice, there may be questions you simply don’t know the answers to.

“As a prospective employee, you always want to be transparent in interviews,” urges Wayne Schmidt, CEO of MissionEdge Technologies. “If you don’t know a specific answer, don’t make it up, especially in technical interviews. It’s more likely than not that the people at the company will know that you didn’t know that answer, and you are trying to fudge it basically. Instead, tell me, ‘I don’t know.’ And tell me how you would go and find the answer that we’re looking for. That, to me, is a much more important skill.”

One Last Question: Asking for Feedback

And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback as you interview. Constructive criticism can help you identify areas for improvement and better prepare for future cleared opportunities.

“The biggest thing about interviewing that I would love to get across to everybody, that nobody does enough, is be prepared to ask for feedback on the spot,” suggests Mike Barnum. “It might be the last five minutes you talk to that person ever again. What do you have to lose? It could turn into, ‘Well, I was a little worried about this, so you could go in more depth on this.’ Draw the conversation out. It might be a simple misunderstanding like, ‘I misunderstood what you said there.’ So ask for feedback during the interview.”

“And for those that don’t quite make the cut, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not going to be a fit for a future role,” says Chad Clary, Senior Program Manager at V2X. “If you don’t get hired, always ask the person who interviewed you, ‘Could you give me some constructive feedback?’…If you know what you did wrong in an interview, or what gaps you need filled, hearing that information is really just going to make you a better person and make you a better-qualified candidate for the next time you’re up.”

By anticipating the types of interview questions employers are asking, crafting and practicing thoughtful responses, and preparing insightful questions of your own, you can enhance your chances of securing the right security-cleared job for you.


  • Ashley Jones

    Ashley Jones is ClearedJobs.Net's blog Editor and a cleared job search expert, dedicated to helping security-cleared job seekers and employers navigate job search and recruitment challenges. With in-depth experience assisting cleared job seekers and transitioning military personnel at in-person and virtual Cleared Job Fairs and military base hiring events, Ashley has a deep understanding of the unique needs of the cleared community. She is also the Editor of ClearedJobs.Net's job search podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who's Hiring & How.

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 08, 2024 1:22 pm

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