Top Identity and Access Management Engineer Interview Questions and Answers

Identity and access management (IAM) allows the “right users” to access the “right technology” (applications, databases, networks, etc. ) at the “right time. Is there a better way for people being interviewed to show that they are the “right fit” for these jobs?

IAM jobs come in a lot of different types, such as those at large companies, small to medium-sized businesses, and third-party service providers. IAM system architect, IAM system engineer, IAM access control specialist, IAM administrator, and IAM consultant are all job titles that are often seen on job boards.

Depending on the company and the position, some IAM jobs are more customer-facing than others. There are jobs that focus more on hard skills like engineering and those that focus more on soft skills like communication and teamwork.

It’s not easy to find professionals with the right mix of skills in the IAM field, as well as other security fields, according to Lance Peterman, president of IDPro, a professional development organization. So, organizations looking to fill IAM positions “have to get creative with respect to hiring,” he said. People who are new to the field or switching fields: “we often look at job candidates’ willingness and ability to quickly pick up concepts, especially technical concepts.” “.

People applying for entry-level IAM jobs are often asked about the basics of identity protection, access management, cloud computing, and cryptography, as well as security basics like safeguards and controls. People who are just starting out or who want to change careers should have experience with identity directories, databases, authentication and authorization models, and scripting. The interview questions for an IAM job might be about the trade-offs between security and productivity if the job is focused on cybersecurity.

Knowing the vocabulary of IAM is also helpful for recent graduates and career-changers. They could learn about the main parts of IAM, such as how identities are created and deleted, how identities are protected and verified, and how users are allowed to access resources or carry out certain tasks. You should also learn about federation, role-based access control (RBAC), privileged identity management, authorization and access control, and state transfer. Related terms might include load balancer (for cloud-oriented questions) or spot instances (for interviews related to infrastructure.

Be prepared for open-ended questions. There is often more than one correct answer. Plus, these questions invite follow-up.

Landing a job as an identity and access management (IAM) engineer can seem daunting, with many technical questions coming your way during the interview process. However, being prepared with strong answers to common IAM interview questions will set you on the path to success. In this article, we provide tips on how to best respond to the most frequently asked IAM engineer interview questions.

What Does an IAM Engineer Do?

Before diving into the top interview questions, it’s important to understand exactly what an IAM engineer’s day-to-day responsibilities entail. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Designing and implementing identity management systems and access control policies
  • Ensuring user identities are properly authenticated across an organization’s infrastructure
  • Managing user provisioning and role-based access control systems
  • Enforcing access policies and performing audits to identify security gaps or violations
  • Integrating IAM systems with other IT infrastructure like directories, databases, and enterprise applications
  • Developing APIs and interfaces to allow IAM integration and interoperability
  • Monitoring identity systems for issues and anomalies
  • Staying up-to-date with IAM standards, technologies, and best practices

Now let’s look at some of the most common IAM engineer interview questions and how to make a strong impression with your answers

Technical IAM Interview Questions

What is the importance of IAM?

This is a common opening question to gauge your understanding of IAM’s core purpose Be sure to touch on points such as

  • IAM is critical for security – it restricts access to only authorized users and prevents exploits
  • It provides ease of use through single sign-on across applications and systems
  • Automates provisioning and deprovisioning of access
  • Enables compliance by providing audit trails related to access
  • Scales access management across on-prem and cloud environments
  • Saves time and effort over manual access controls
  • Allows adapting access controls to evolving business needs
  • Overall, IAM is essential for managing users’ digital identities and controlling their access to resources. It’s a fundamental security and productivity tool for any modern organization.

What is an identity directory service?

Highlight that a directory service is a centralized database that securely stores identity data and credentials for users, devices, applications etc. Explain how it provides the core user identities to be referenced across an IAM framework. Talk through examples like Active Directory, LDAP, or cloud-based directories. Outline common elements like:

  • Schemas to structure identity information
  • Authentication and passwords
  • Access controls and permissions
  • Interfaces for interacting with identities and attributes
  • Replication and redundancy

Discuss how IAM solutions rely and integrate with directories for identity storage and authentication. Give examples of accessing directories via protocols like LDAP.

What are the differences between authentication, authorization, and access control?

This question tests your understanding of core IAM concepts. Be sure to define and contrast:

  • Authentication – Validating the identity of a user through some means like username/password, multi-factor authentication, biometrics etc. It answers “who is this user?”

  • Authorization – Determining what a validated user has access to, such as applications, files, databases. It focuses on permissions and answers “what is this user allowed to access?”

  • Access control – Mechanisms to enforce authentication policies and authorize access. Access control puts policies into action through technology controls.

Give concise definitions of each term and explain the relationships between them. Use cases or examples can demonstrate how they work together in an IAM context.

How does single sign-on work? What are some common SSO protocols?

Single sign-on (SSO) is a major feature of IAM, so be ready to explain:

  • Users login once to access multiple applications and systems
  • Reduces password fatigue by eliminating multiple logins

Discuss SSO protocols like:

  • SAML – XML-based standard used across domains and organizations
  • OAuth – Used for delegated authorization in web and mobile apps
  • OpenID Connect – Builds identity layer on OAuth 2.0 protocol
  • Kerberos – Provides SSO within Windows domains

Highlight how these protocols allow interoperability between identity providers and service providers. Give examples of SSO in action, like logging into G Suite once to access Gmail, Drive, Calendar, etc.

What are the differences between OIDC and OAuth 2.0?

Since OpenID Connect builds on OAuth 2.0, interviewers often ask candidates to compare the two:

  • OAuth 2.0 focuses on authorization delegation and access token issuance, without identity verification.

  • OpenID Connect adds an identity layer by allowing relying parties to verify a user’s identity via an authorization server.

  • OAuth 2.0 is about accessing resources, OpenID Connect is about user identity.

  • OpenID Connect extends OAuth 2.0 flows like the authorization code flow.

  • OAuth 2.0 results in an access token. In OpenID Connect, identity tokens contain user identity claims.

Give an example of OpenID Connect building on OAuth 2.0, like adding user authentication on top of delegated Google login.

Compare SAML and OAuth – what are the pros and cons of each?

SAML and OAuth are two widely used protocols, so be ready to contrast their strengths and weaknesses at a high level:


  • Pros: Wide support, built-in identity propagation, works across organization boundaries
  • Cons: Complex XML/SOAP messaging, browser redirection issues, no delegated auth


  • Pros: Simple token-based approach, enables delegated auth without passwords, REST-friendly JSON
  • Cons: Designed for delegation but not full SSO, no built-in identity features

Give examples of when to prefer one over the other – SAML for enterprise federation and OAuth for web APIs. But also explain that protocols can complement each other, like SAML for SSO and OAuth for delegated auth.

How does access management work? What are some best practices?

This question tests your knowledge of implementing authorization and access controls. Be sure to cover:

  • Role-based access control (RBAC) to manage and enforce permissions
  • Rule-based policies evaluated at time of access
  • Access context like user role, device, and network location
  • Provisioning and deprovisioning user access
  • Segregation of duties – access based on role and job function

For best practices highlight:

  • Least privilege access
  • Frequent access reviews and certifications
  • Access revocation when no longer needed
  • Automated provisioning/deprovisioning tied to identity lifecycle
  • Access decisions based on strict policies
  • Controls integrated across on-prem and cloud

What methods can be used for multifactor authentication?

Show your understanding of different options for step-up/adaptive authentication:

  • One-time password (OTP) via text, email, authenticator apps or hardware tokens
  • Biometrics – fingerprint, facial, voice recognition
  • Push authentication prompts
  • USB security keys
  • Smart cards
  • Behavioral analysis – user patterns, device or location

Explain the purpose of stepped-up authentication for higher risk logins and the importance of balancing security and usability.

How does privileged access management (PAM) differ from IAM?

Privileged access management is an important related topic, so be able to articulate:

  • PAM focuses on privileged accounts like admins or service accounts
  • Takes a least privilege approach to control access
  • Special authorization or controls for elevated access
  • Just-in-time privileged credentials rather than persistent
  • Extra monitoring, auditing, and alerts for privileged sessions
  • Rotates and manages credentials
  • Prevents privileged account misuse or creep

Position PAM as complementary to broader IAM programs for managing elevated internal and external access.

General IAM Interview Questions

Do you prefer working alone or in a team?

This behavioral question is assessing your work style preferences. Highlight enjoying both independent problem-solving and collaborating across teams:

  • Satisfaction from deep solo dives into coding challenges
  • Cross-team coordination essential for integrating IAM across systems
  • Brainstorming solutions together leads to better outcomes
  • Experience collaborating with other IT teams, developers, lines of business
  • Open to diverse perspectives when solving complex problems

Emphasize being comfortable working independently or in a team as needed. Give examples of successfully partnering with colleagues for IAM projects.

What qualities make a good IAM engineer?

This is a chance to highlight your strongest skills. Discuss qualities like:

  • Problem-solving attitude with critical thinking skills
  • Technical mindset able to quickly grasp new concepts
  • Natural curiosity and passion for learning
  • Methodical and detail-oriented, yet flexible
  • Excellent communication and translation of complex topics
  • Practical solutions, not just theoretical
  • Business-technology acumen
  • Patient yet persistent in resolving issues
  • Taking ownership until problems are fully solved

Back up these qualities with specific examples and achievements from your past experience.

Why are you interested in IAM engineering? What excites you about it?

What is cryptography?

“The study of secure communications techniques that allow only the sender and intended recipient of a message to see its contents,” says Kaspersky Lab. Cryptography protects data and communication by using mathematical ideas and a set of rule-based calculations called algorithms to change plaintext into ciphertext (a process called encryption) and then back to plaintext (a process called decryption).

Why is cryptography important?

Cryptography can prevent hackers from stealing data. Data needs to be kept safe because businesses, government agencies, financial institutions, and people can all be hurt by sensitive data getting out.

IAM Interview Tips | Identity and Access Management | Cyber Security

How do I prepare for an identity and access management job 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.

What questions should you ask in an IAM job interview?

Hence, IAM job interview questions may also touch safeguards, security fundamentals, controls, and the basics of cryptography, cloud computing, access management, identity protection, and more. Apart from the ones mentioned above, here are a few entry-level questions that you may face in an IAM interview.

How do I get a job in identity & access management?

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.

What questions did an identity and access management engineer ask?

More Identity and Access Management Engineer was asked May 26, 2017 The interviewer went over the technologies leveraged within the role, talked about the culture of the company, asked about my vision within years at the company, and asked other things to assess my character as an individual and as a professional.

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