The need for cybersecurity professionals continues to rise rapidly. Despite this, the IT industry is experiencing a severe shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals. In 2018, U.S. tech employers posted an average of 250,000 jobs per month, according to the CompTIA IT Industry Outlook 2019. Regardless, landing a cybersecurity job isn’t as easy as one might think.
As a hiring manager for General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), an IT company with approximately 34,000 employees, I can say from experience that it’s difficult to fill cybersecurity analyst roles. But, armed with information about what hiring managers look for in security analysts and how to best convey their competencies to potential employers, IT pros can successfully start and grow a cybersecurity career.
What Do Hiring Managers Look for in a Cybersecurity Analyst?
There are specific skills that I, as well as other IT hiring managers, seek in cybersecurity job candidates.
- Technical proficiency in a variety of industry-standard tool-sets and methodologies
- The ability to make calculated adjustments while working on platforms that might be specific to an organization, despite the numerous niche categories within the cybersecurity field
- Knowledge of cloud computing
- Solid soft skills, such as critical thinking, creativity and the ability to adapt to rapidly changing environments
A big part of a cybersecurity analyst’s role is assessing the infrastructure they are supporting. Certain environments may present challenges of legacy hardware, immature security practices and other weaknesses that can make organizations vulnerable to an attack.
Because of this, a security analyst needs to establish a secure baseline, or a known-good state of the network. After that, they can make additional security updates to the most critical infrastructure and work their way down.
Additionally, interpersonal skills are paramount to the cybersecurity analyst role. A person can be a wonderful technologist but must also be able to work as part of a team and communicate well. Cyber roles are becoming more forward facing and have gained the attention of executives in companies across all industries.
Gone are the days where an analyst would just show up and work on their systems. Today, those improvements and recommendations need to be presented to both technical and non-technical managers alike. Because of this, a candidate who possesses a good blend of technical proficiency and interpersonal skills can outshine their competition.
5 Ways Cybersecurity Analysts Can Stand Out to Potential Employers
To stand out to a hiring manager, use your resume as a selling point with examples of how you can add value to their company through your expertise and leadership, not just as an opportunity to regurgitate a job description.
Hiring managers want to know that those seeking a cybersecurity career are intellectually curious and looking to continually develop their skills. Simply stating that you are “always wanting to learn more” isn’t enough. We want you to show us what you’ve done, not merely tell us what you plan to do.
Here are a few ways you can stand out to hiring managers when applying and interviewing for cybersecurity jobs:
- Describe real-life examples of how you approached a situation in which a system was vulnerable to a cyber-attack.
- Provide proof points of how you made a system more secure or responded to a security incident.
- Include a link to a whitepaper or blog post you’ve written, as well as special presentations you’ve given, showing that you’re an expert in your field.
- Explain any mentorship you’ve provided to others.
- Describe hackathons or events you’ve led or participated in that demonstrate your hands-on techniques and desire to stay on top of the rapidly changing cyber-environment.
Many IT job roles have specific requirements related to education, experience and certifications, but cybersecurity jobs aren’t so cut-and-dry. Hiring managers want to know this information, but they like to see specific examples of how you will tackle threatening situations and work in different environments in the future.
Cybersecurity Certifications Help Hiring Managers Identify Strong Candidates
Gaining cybersecurity certifications is a smart move for a forward-thinking cybersecurity analyst, as well as those who want to move into the field. They often help me identify the best talent.
A certification, whether mandatory or not, shows a competency achieved at a certain level. And, when a candidate pursues a certification that requires continuing education, it’s clear that they are making the effort to stay current on their skills and grow their skillset.
Seeing a progression of certifications, like those included in the CompTIA Cybersecurity Career Pathway, shows me that an individual is thinking about their long-term cybersecurity career and taking steps to continue to develop professionally, which gives that candidate a competitive edge.
Additional certifications, like those from Cisco, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft, can also help candidates as they prepare for a cybersecurity career.
Start Building Your Cybersecurity Career Today
Beyond obtaining certifications, IT pros who want to be a cybersecurity analyst, or cybersecurity analysts who are ready to move to a new company and a more challenging role should strengthen their ability to think critically, be creative in their problem-solving approach, adapt to a variety of environments and communicate effectively with others. Once these skills are solid, they should convey them to potential employers by providing real-life examples of how they’ve solved threatening issues in the past, mentored others, made systems more secure and organized, and participated in hackathons and similar events. This will help them make an outstanding impression on employers and create the cybersecurity career they desire.