Top 15 privacy manager interview questions and answers
Your next job will not be your last. Privacy provides many job opportunities and is an important topic for every individual and cybersecurity professional. Use this article to help you make the interview process successful and land your privacy manager job.
Every organization does privacy differently
A privacy manager in one organization may be called something else at another, such as:
- Privacy officer
- Data privacy officer
- Data compliance manager
- Privacy compliance manager
- Privacy program manager
- Compliance manager
- Privacy analyst
- Privacy professional
Or some combination of those words. A privacy manager's resume can look different, depending on a professional’s role and experience. Generally, “privacy analyst” or “privacy professional” implies an entry-level job, while “manager” usually means a mid-level job, and “officer” is above manager. Mid-level positions exercise managerial influence over programs and people and require more experience and qualifications.
Since every organization is different, it is essential to improve your understanding of privacy, research the organization and see its advertised opening and privacy structure.
Privacy interview questions
Privacy is a rapidly evolving field; people who practice it and interview will have diverse perspectives. You never know what questions you might get or what they might emphasize.
In this article, we ask and answer some privacy-specific questions. Employers want knowledgeable job candidates, but they are looking for more than someone who can regurgitate the “right answer” in an interview.
Above all, remember that you are preparing for a job interview, not a private oral exam.
In an oral exam, you will never see the examiner again. They are purely assessing knowledge and the ability to articulate it verbally.
In a job interview, they assess if you are the right person and a good fit for the organization. Knowledge is certainly important but not the only factor.
Here is a sample of the top interview questions:
1. Do you have any privacy certifications?
If you don’t yet, consider getting a privacy certification from the International Association of Privacy Professionals, including the CIPP/US and CIPM, and see the Infosec learning paths. Many job listings strongly encourage such credentials.
2. Can you summarize how you have gained your knowledge of privacy?
Think of ways you have improved your knowledge — and can continue to — through self-study, reading articles and books, taking courses, webinars, conferences, formal education and work experience.
3. What experience do you have in privacy?
Think about your work and how it might relate to data privacy, even if it was not specifically called “privacy.” Remember that every privacy law and framework has a security component. So if you have cybersecurity or incident response experience, you are working in areas of privacy already.
4. What are some similarities and differences between privacy and cybersecurity?
Privacy includes the whole suite of actions relating to consumer data, data about people and how that data is collected, stored, used and shared. Cybersecurity focuses on protecting organizations from cybercrime and other threats, including protecting that consumer data. So the two fields overlap but also have areas that are separate.
5. What are the similarities and differences between legal privacy requirements and cybersecurity requirements?
As this privacy vs. information security and cybersecurity Venn diagram shows, the laws track the fields with areas of overlap but also distinction. Every privacy law or regulation will have cybersecurity requirements for keeping consumer data secure and notifying consumers and the government if it is breached. But the privacy law will also impose additional requirements relating to collecting, using, and sharing consumer data and ensuring the consumer has notice and choice about this.
6. What are some important privacy laws and regulations to be aware of?
Consider that the United States' approach to privacy is a mix of federal and state law plus sector-specific rules. So first, we want to consider U.S. laws and regulations, including the FTC Act as it is applied to privacy, and laws and regulations for specific sectors such as finance, health, education and more. Then we need to consider the growing number of state privacy laws, including from California, Virginia, Colorado, Utah, Connecticut and more coming.
7. What are some of the most important aspects of managing a privacy program?
This is a tough one, but you should touch on the importance of understanding the applicable laws and regulations and creating a good program with sound policies and procedures that comply with those laws. Take a look at the Five Components for Policy Work in my Corporate Security Policies Learning Path, which gives a fresh look at a building and updating organization programs and governance documents. You will need to assess the organization’s practices and compliance with the law and internal rules. It will also include properly responding to consumer and regulatory inquiries and creating a process of continual improvement in this complex and evolving area.
8. What do you think privacy should mean for individuals? Or, What does privacy mean to you?
This is where you share your thoughts, and hopefully, you have a nuanced appreciation for privacy, and you will not say something like “privacy is dead.” Individuals need to make many choices about privacy every day, including the technology we use, how we use it, what options are configured, and whether to share with the world what we ate for our recent meal or what our family members are doing.
9. Why should privacy be important for our organization?
Another opportunity for a nuanced response. Privacy is a legal requirement, so doing it properly means avoiding expensive legal and regulatory issues that are also bad for reputation. Privacy can be a selling point for customers, clients and organizations that respect consumer privacy could gain a boost. Good organizations comply with legal requirements and use their information assets efficiently, which is good for business.
11. Why must we protect consumer data from a data breach?
Here, you may want to touch upon main points such as:
- It’s the right thing to do
- To protect the consumer
- To protect the organization
- To comply with laws and regulations
- To save from expensive and damaging consequences.
12. If consumer data is stolen, what might the thieves do with it?
Stolen consumer data can be sold, resold and used to commit identity theft, other theft or even ransom the victim.
13. Does consumer information have value? How can our organization balance properly using information about consumers with privacy requirements?
Information about consumers has great value. Organizations collect, store, share, sell or use consumer data because it has value for marketing, advertising and other business purposes. Privacy laws and regulations limit that and provide consumers with rights, including a degree of notice and choice about using and sharing their data. Organizations must comply with legal requirements and consumer choice when collecting and using consumer information.
14. What is the last article or book you read about privacy? And what was the last webinar or talked you attended relating to privacy?
It would be good to have read or watched something recently that you can summarize. It mIt may relate to your study towards a privacy certification. A book, an article on the Infosec site, an article from the IAPP site or a video course or privacy webinar where professionals shared their knowledge.
15. That question on something, and you just don’t know the answer
Here they ask you a question, and you are stumped.
First, you should panic.
Just kidding. Let’s face it, life is full of questions or problems that will initially stump you.
If we were storming the beaches of Normandy or raiding Osama bin Laden's compound, we would have to make instant decisions without research. Hesitation would be costly.
But life and work usually afford us the luxury of time and research.
So if you are stumped — and sometimes the pressure of an interview causes us to forget things — you can begin by talking through where you might get information and what process you might use to solve that problem. What you might do to research and learn the information and your decision-making process.
If they are asking you about a detail (how is “personal information” defined, what is the definition of X, what does Law Y say, etc.), then your response could indicate that you don’t currently know or remember the answer, but indicate where you might go to find the information. Reliable sources of information might include the actual law or regulation, IAPP resources, company policies and legal counsel to help interpret if needed.
If they ask you about more general matters and you don’t know the exact answer, you can talk through the process you might use to arrive at the correct answer. This would include consulting appropriate resources (laws, policies, references), consulting with appropriate people, and working through the process. It probably would include weighing the various concerns that go with difficult privacy decisions.
You’re on your way to building your privacy manager resume!
As you prepare for that privacy manager interview, remember that answering the questions “perfectly” does not get you the job. They want someone knowledgeable on privacy but needs someone who is a good fit for the organization.
Think about how much time you must prepare and budget accordingly. Review the questions in this article so you’re confident.
Also, remember that this next interview will not be your last, so think about how you can continually improve yourself for those interviews, not just for this privacy manager job, but the job you may do in five, 10, or even 20 years.