How to Improve your Chances with Cyber Security Hiring Managers
Whether you’re a seasoned cybersecurity professional or are looking to transition into the industry, it’s hard to know how to grab the attention of hiring managers and ultimately improve your chances of making it to the next stage.
Here are eight top tips from Renana Friedlich-Barsky, Director and Global Head of Cybersecurity Operations at PayPal, a proven leader in this space who’s reviewed more than her fair share of applications over the years.
Get the Basics Right with Your Resume
Let’s start with a straightforward marginal gain. The file name on your resume. On the basis that security hiring managers are going to be looking at over 30 resumes a day, you want to be easy to find in their inbox and folders when they come back for a second glance. A good general rule of thumb for naming conventions on your CV would be:
- your name,
- the company you are applying to, and
- the job role you are putting yourself forward for.
Resume length is another thing you should be thinking about. One page is typically not enough, but you will rarely hold a hiring manager’s attention for ten pages. As a rule of thumb, three pages is ideally the sweet spot. But it is critical to ensure the content is relevant to the specific position you are applying to. You need to be helping hiring managers understand why you are the right fit. Use the right keywords from the job specification. Frame the right examples. If specific technology experience is required, then make sure it features on page one rather than being hidden away on page three. For a more senior-level role, you will want to focus more on the strategy side. Articulate the impact you’ve made in terms of raw metrics, cost savings, risk percentage, team growth, etc.
Personalise your approach
Don’t just spray and pray. You need to personalise each application based on the requirements. It’s not an exercise in applying for as many jobs as possible in the shortest time. It’s about maximising your chances of reaching the next stage. Pick a shortlist of 5-10 roles and focus in on them. This is particularly true of candidates who are looking to transition in a cybersecurity job. You have to demonstrate your passion and your transferable skills. Taking a left-field example, let’s say you were formally a barista. You probably have really great experience in multi-tasking and engaging with customers, but you need to help the hiring manager understand how you can take those skills and apply them to the new position. Don’t rely on the hiring manager to connect the dots.
A covering letter is NOT optional
A covering letter is also so important here. It’s your chance to stand out and point out why you are unique. Don’t rely on copy and pasted cover letters. Do your research on the hiring manager, the business, and the department. This is your route through the door, particularly if you are pivoting in your career or at the entry-level. Make sure you include why you are excited about the position and the industry. Think about putting key points in bold. Taking this approach allows you to stress important messages to the hiring manager as they perform their initial 30-90 second scan.
Demonstrate your curiosity
Hiring managers in this space will have differing opinions around the best qualifications and certifications. What you need to demonstrate is your curiosity and a track record of taking control of your personal development. Expectations will vary depending on whether you are looking at the entry-level or a mid to senior-level position – where a blend of qualifications and experience will be expected. Demonstrate that you are coachable. Think about the role and start researching what qualifications and certifications are most relevant.
Have a view on the industry
Depending on what domain you are in cybersecurity, it’s helpful to demonstrate you have a good understanding of recent events. If you are applying for a role in Identity and Access Management, for example, have an opinion on the toolset and the criteria you would use to evaluate different products. It takes time to do this kind of research, but that’s what makes candidates stand out from the crowd. Hiring managers are looking for individuals that have an opinion. Attend events. Demonstrate that you want to be part of the professional community.
Overcoming imposter syndrome
Don’t rule yourself out too quickly. Look at the top 3 bullet points for the job description and role requirements. That’s going to give you an indication of 75% of what’s important to the hiring manager. There might be 20 bullet points there, but you are unlikely to be expected to be an expert in all of them. This is also a useful message to hiring managers. If you want candidates that represent a good fit for your vacancy, be punchy around your job descriptions in terms of what’s an important fit for your role and team.
Power of Follow-Up
Tenacity is a necessary trait to have when looking for a position. Don’t be afraid to send that follow up email to the hiring manager after two weeks reaffirming your interest in the position and unique selling points. Connect with the hiring manager on LinkedIn. If your request isn’t accepted, follow them and take note of their interest areas. It also doesn’t hurt to look for referral opportunities with common connections.
Standing out from the crowd
We are starting to see a range of tactics deployed by candidates to stand out from the masses, including the use of videos, QR codes on resumes, and more. It’s a great way of making yourself more memorable to the hiring manager but focus on your content. A video without a strong message is just a gimmick. But a considered approach could help to get your personality and passion across to the hiring manager.
If you want to hear more about how to position your job application more effectively with hiring managers, then check out Stott and May’s on-demand event with Renana Friedlich-Barsky, discussing what security hiring managers really want.
Cyber Security Hiring – How to Improve your Chances with Cyber Security Hiring Managers
By: Stuart Mitchell, Scott & May
Scott and May are a professional search firm with a passion for helping leaders achieve complete confidence that they have hired the right talent, first time, in fiercely competitive markets.