Sometimes in interview you have to answer questions based on some SCENARIOS.

These puzzle like scenarios were developed by Peter Herzog, managing director of the Institute for Security and Open Methodologies, to screen and train applicants for positions in network security. People responsible for security need to be able to think outside the box because the threats they are hired to thwart always come from people who operate outside the box. These scenarios have proved very effective in identifying applicants who have the creativity, analytical expertise, and observation skills that make for excellent security administrators, according to Herzog. The four steps in each scenario are carefully constructed to force candidates to think creatively. These are Herzog’s general instructions:

In these scenarios, you are asked to assume different professions from electrician to postal worker to doctor and then answer the questions accordingly. Within each of these professions, I will ask you to describe methods for performing a task. Each scenario has four questions. Your answers should be brief and to the point.


You are an electrician. In front of you is a light hanging from the ceiling, and behind you is a light switch on the wall. The light is currently on.

  1. List 10 ways to turn off the light.
  2. List 10 components of a functioning light.
  3. List 10 ways to tell if the light is off.
  4. List 10 ways to prevent someone from being able to turn off the light.

Herzog looks for candidates who have the fluidity of mind and confidence under stress to quickly rattle off plausible answers. Answers are rarely right or wrong, although some answers are clearly better than others. Herzog expects obvious answers as well as more creative ones. What he looks for most is a display that the candidate has a deep understanding of the processes involved. “They need to show me that they know there’s a big picture behind a lightbulb,” he says. For example, here are the five most common responses to the first question (10 ways to turn off the light):

  1. Turn switch off.
  2. Break bulb.
  3. Rip out wiring.
  4. Overload electricity.
  5. Cut electricity to room.

The opportunities for conversation are rich. Some candidates come up with answers that are profound. For example, here’s a response from a candidate with an understanding of social engineering:

Pay someone to turn off the light.

Is this candidate being cute or actually revealing an epistemological paradox about light:

Close your eyes.

Other responses reveal the special expertise of candidates. One with a background in quantum physics offered:

Devise an instrument to cancel the light by emitting light of the exact wavelength but opposite phase of the light from the light bulb.


You are a postal carrier for an independent express postal service. You have a book-sized package to deliver.

  1. List 10 ways to identify the receiver of the package.
  2. List 10 things that would stop you from delivering the package.
  3. List 10 reasons for delivering the package at all.
  4. List 10 ways to identify the sender of the package.


You own an independent record store, which grew out of your intense fascination with music. The success of your store depends on your customers, who are also music enthusiasts.

  1. List 10 ways to categorize the records in the store.
  2. List 10 ways to identify the musical tastes of a customer.
  3. List 10 ways to protect your inventory from theft.
  4. List 10 things that would influence a customer not to buy from you.


You are a soldier in full field gear during wartime. You are stationed at the only bridge that crosses over a gorge.

  1. List 10 ways to prepare for the coming enemy.
  2. List 10 ways to prevent the enemy from crossing the bridge.
  3. List 10 ways to discern friendly bridge users from the enemy.
  4. List 10 problems the enemy could cause if they crossed the bridge.

Herzog recalls one pertinent response to question 1: Build a million bridges over the gorge and line all but one of the bridges with explosive mines. Only the allies know which bridge is safe to cross. This answer corresponds to an actual network security strategy for wireless net-works, which protects one true node by constructing millions of virtual nodes that lead to nothing.


You are a licensed safety inspector for an independent occupational safety consortium. You have been brought to a large factory to review the safety of the machine tools due to a high number of accidents.

  1. List 10 questions you would ask the foreman of this factory.
  2. List 10 concerns the employees may have with the current rise in accidents.
  3. List 10 changes that would make the factory a safer place to work.
  4. List 10 concerns the employees may have with the implemented changes.


You work telephone help desk support for a large corporation dedicated to assisting its employees with support questions worldwide. You are the front line of defense, which means you receive all support matters.

  1. List 10 questions you may ask to diagnose the problem.
  2. List 10 resources you could use to solve the problem.
  3. List 10 concerns the caller may have with following your advice.
  4. List 10 ways you can assure better service.


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