NSA Interview Questions & Reviews
Getting an Interview
Consulting Psychologist Interview (Positive Experience; Average Interview)
I applied online - interviewed at NSA in March 2013.
Interview Details – Program director called me on the telephone for an impromptu interview. Asked a few questions related to my background, then asked me competency-based questions & how I would apply each response. He reviewed the organization, hiring process, and next steps. Told me I should hear from a recruiter within the next month.
Interview Question – Discussing specific details regarding the job. I applied for a different job than one he felt I may be more qualified for, one which was not yet posted. therefore I was unable to speak to speak to specific job requirements. Answer Question
Negotiation Details – Received a job offer, but after several months of investigation my federal clearance was denied
Very Difficult Interview
Program Manager Interview (Positive Experience; Very Difficult Interview)
I applied through a recruiter and the process took 12 months - interviewed at NSA in January 2010.
Interview Details – Outstanding opportunity- I wish I didn't have to move to take it.
Reason for Declining – Move impossible under the circumstances
Software Developer Interview (Positive Experience; Average Interview)
I applied online and the process took a day - interviewed at NSA in October 2011.
Interview Details – I first had a phone interview. Within two to three weeks, I was contacted to schedule an on-site interview. The phone interview lasted about 30 minutes. The on-site interview lasted about 45 minutes. The easiness of the interview may give the appearance that the position is not very competitive, but don't let this fool you. The interviewer was a lady.
Before the on-site interview, I was asked in an email by another non-HR NSA employee to provide my transcripts and two recent letters of recommendation indicating my technical skills - within about a month. Note that many NSA employees cannot receive external non-NSA email for security reasons, so the only reliable way to get the transcripts and letters to them is by postal mail at the mailing address provided to you.
For your own safety, you want to assume that all your telephone calls are carefully monitored while you are undergoing job processing. There is no hard evidence that I have to indicate that this actually happens, but it would be foolish to assume otherwise.
- Which programming language are you most comfortable with? Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 with regard to your skills in Java, C++, and any other programming languages you like. View Answer
- How would you deal with a person in a team who is not producing the necessary work? What size teams have you worked in? Answer Question
- Write the algorithm for Fizzbuzz in your programming language of choice. (Google it.) (The detailed problem definition was worded differently. You always want to read it carefully to ensure the stated problem definition matches Fizzbuzz.) You will be provided one side of a letter-sized paper on which to write the solution. View Answer
- Explain how you dealt with a technical disagreement on the job. View Answer
- How much time would it take for a cannonball to fall to the depth of the Mariana trench? Write your answer with your reasoning on the provided paper. Do not make extensive use of physics equations. View Answer
Signals Analyst Interview (Neutral Experience; Difficult Interview)
I applied online and the process took a day - interviewed at NSA in December 2011.
Interview Details – The job title of this position is SIGINT Informaticist, which apparently is a type of Signals Analyst. The hiring process is quite slow and takes one or more months to cross every step. Other past interview postings will provide you the basics and I won't repeat them here. The 1:1 interview lasted about 45 minutes. I was not asked for transcripts, recommendations, or letters of recommendation. I'll list below the questions that you can expect to be asked for this position. During the interview, you can be misled into thinking that they are interested in you, but unless they give you explicit and immediate feedback to this effect, I would assume otherwise. My impression is that it is quite competitive.
Flex hours and a casual dress code were mentioned. After two years of work, you have some freedom of alternating time with education, though I wouldn't risk asking about this particular possibility. This is because they might like for you to stay on the job rather than take paid time off for further education.
For your own safety, you want to assume that all your telephone calls are carefully monitored while you are undergoing job processing. There is no hard evidence that I have to indicate that this actually happens, but it would be foolish to assume the opposite.
- How would you approach the problem of detecting anomalous data from say 1000 data points that are either (A) audio files, or (B) natural language text, or (C) any given data format/source. Answer Question
- Indicate your experience with scalability technologies, including Hadoop / MapReduce. View Answer
- Which programming language are you best skilled in? How do you feel about software engineering? View Answer
- In the various projects that you have worked on, what size teams have you worked with? Answer Question
- What are the sizes of some large datasets that you have worked with? View Answer
Very Easy Interview
Software Developer Interview (Negative Experience; Very Easy Interview)
I applied online and the process took 3 months - interviewed at NSA in May 2011.
Interview Details – You will be contacted by email to arrange a screening interview, Just to see if you have the minimum qualifications to get a TS. Completely nontechnical, use common sense when answer and tell the truth. Then you generally will get flow out to there friendship annex for your operational interview, which is a hour long and completely depends on the person interview you. But generally if you are a decent CS or CE you should do fine. The hard part really is the getting your clearance.
Interview Question – In one of the operational interviews, a devloper asked me to write a well known program called FIZZBUZZ. You can google it and it should come up. Answer Question
Front Desk Lead Interview (Positive Experience; Easy Interview)
The process took 3 days - interviewed at NSA in June 2008.
Interview Details – Simple interview easy to talk to interviewer tour of company met employees job was explained in detail
simple interview easy to talk to management job explained in detail returned a few days later to sit on a day at the job before accepting.
Negotiation Details – Easy
Semester Intern Interview (Positive Experience; Easy Interview)
I applied through college or university and the process took 2 days - interviewed at NSA in October 2009.
Interview Details – The interview was really laid back, at least for me. I interviewed with two professionals, both asked me more behavioral questions than technical. Then again, I have alot of technical experience that I provided for them to reference on my resume. They asked me questions, wrote down my responses. I took opportunities to ask them questions about the work environment, etc., to which they were more than happy and excited to answer. Really, because of the nature of their work, they can't go into detail about what you will be doing, nor will you be able to get a good response when you ask about it. Your best bet is to do a lot of online research about the NSA before you consider this job.
Interview Question – So, tell me about yourself? View Answer
Intern Interview (Positive Experience; Easy Interview)
The process took a day - interviewed at NSA in June 2007.
Interview Details – The biggest factor was ensuring my security clearance and looking into my background. The personality test was done completely on a computer. There was a short one on one interview but it wasn't anything substantial at all and seemed more like a chance for me to ask questions. For full time jobs I'm sure that there would be a more in depth personal interview.
Engineer Interview (Positive Experience; Easy Interview)
I applied online and the process took 6 months - interviewed at NSA in April 2009.
Interview Details – Basically if you pass the initial screening process (HR folks who select the best candidates), then you're on your way to Maryland for interviews and psych/polygraph eval. If you pass the security clearance eval, then more than likely you'll have the job (90+% confidence). For new hires, there aren't many technical questions, even for Engineers. For others with experience, I can't say.
Interview Question – Have you done anything illegal that was never reported officially or on record? View Answer
Negotiation Details – For new hires, no true negotiation is available. For those with professional experience, salaries are generally in the range of your previous job.