Get Noticed By Cybersecurity Hiring Manager
Get Noticed By Cybersecurity Hiring Manager


About this episode

In this episode, we are focused on the ever-divisive question of the importance of certifications in the cybersecurity industry. The answer to this question has changed over time from certifications being unimportant, to them being extremely important, to well, it depends.


Certifications can be extremely important for several reasons, including their ability to help your resume get through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) filters used by the human resources and recruiting team, but they are not a silver bullet that will instantly land you a job.


As Jason Dion (Lead Instructor of Dion Training) shares with us in this episode, certifications can be your ticket to getting an interview, but they alone won’t get you the position. That said, without having that certification on your resume, you can easily be filtered out of consideration before a hiring manager even gets a chance to look over your resume. This makes having the right certifications and experience imperative if you want to land your dream cybersecurity position.


Just as a certification isn’t a substitute for a college degree, you will also learn that a college degree is not a substitution for having the right certifications. This is often not an “either-or” thing, but a “yes-and” type of thing that you must achieve for many cybersecurity positions.


What you’ll learn

  • Why certifications are important in the cybersecurity industry?
  • Are certifications or experience more important to a hiring manager?
  • Are certifications or college degrees more important to a hiring manager?
  • Which certifications should you be getting to advance in your career?

Relevant websites for this episode


Episode Transcript

Kip Boyle:        

Hi everyone. This is your Cyber Path, the podcast that helps you get your first cybersecurity job and I’m Kip Boyle. I’m an experienced hiring manager of cybersecurity professionals. If you want to give me feedback on the show, if you want me to answer your question on a future episode, just go to the show page, anchor.fm/yourcyberpath. There’s a message button when you get there, just click on it and start talking. Okay, I wanted to share with you that right now, we’re wrapping up the third week of our masterclass called how to get your first cybersecurity job as told by hiring managers. And as I’ve been doing, I thought you’d enjoy getting some insights from the course without having to do all the work of being in the course. And so this week, we were focused on getting yourself in front of cybersecurity hiring managers, and I heard some really tough stories.

There was one person in our class who applied for about 800 cybersecurity jobs over the past many months, and they only had 5 interviews and those interviews didn’t go anywhere. And that is really discouraging. It can be so tough to get an interview and then make that interview lead to another interview and ultimately to a job, really difficult. So we talked about that and as a hiring manager, here are some thoughts that I can share with you.

The most important thing, and the first thing you should do is get yourself into the hiring managers mindset. So think about it. You probably have never been in this situation, but try to think about what a cybersecurity hiring manager really wants from new team members. And it’s really two things. First is they want to hire somebody who’s got passion for the job, somebody who’s really interested in the work and personal growth and solving problems and helping people. And if you’re just showing up for the paycheck, well, that’s not very exciting for a hiring manager. And I don’t know that you’re going to have a great time either because the job can be so demanding. So anyway, the first thing is passion.

The second thing is how quickly can you contribute to the team? I mean, ideally, you’re going to do something useful for the team on your first day on the job. Now, I don’t know how realistic that is. Maybe it takes you a week, maybe it takes you two weeks to get up to speed. But the thing is, is that cybersecurity teams right now are absolutely crushed with work and many of them don’t have their full staffing. So people are doing more than just one job and they’re really struggling. And they just don’t have time to do a tremendous amount of handholding. The largest organizations that you might apply to might have that, certainly the military, other very, very large government agencies can invest in talent development, but not every organization can, especially small and mid-size organizations really don’t have the resources for that.

So again, what are the two things? Passion for the job and somebody who can help solve problems right away. So those are the things that have to be on your resume. Those are the things that are going to make you as a candidate pop from the stack of resumes that the hiring manager is looking at. Okay. Now, in order for the hiring manager to see your resume, it’s got to actually pop out of the applicant tracking system that they’re probably using. And there are several ways that you can make that happen. It starts with making it clear that you are passionate and that you can solve problems, but there’s some mechanical things here too, which is the applicant tracking system prefers to see a chronological resume format. It’s just easiest those kinds of systems to scan and turn into database entries. So that’s something you should check cause there’s different ways to format your resume. So you want chronological.

And you want keywords. Applicant tracking systems are taking the resumes. They’re searching for keywords that match up with the job posting. So that’s what you need to do is every time you apply for a job, you need to look at the job posting, you need to pull out the keywords and then you need to make sure that those keywords are in your resume. And I don’t recommend that you put the keywords at the bottom of the resume in white font, a one giant block of keywords. Applicant tracking systems understand how people try to game the system. And so I don’t know of any cases where that really works. So I recommend you just play it straight.

Okay. So here’s the other thing, while your resume is working its way through applicant tracking system, the thing you need to do is, to increase your chances of getting noticed is to actually figure out who the hiring manager is, or just anybody on that hiring managers team, figure out who they are and try to connect with them. Now, ideally, you would try to do that face to face. You would do that in person. You would go to the places that they go. If it’s a local conference or some kind of a user group, a meetup, that’s where you would want to go, and you would want to try to meet them. With the quarantine in place right now, that is super difficult, if not impossible.

Here’s the thing, a lot of conferences and user groups are going online. And so this is actually a great time to start checking out different options for you to meet hiring managers. And I’ll just give you one simple example. So I live in Seattle. Last week, somebody invited me to attend a cybersecurity user group meeting that typically meets face to face in Dublin, Ireland. Okay. So I used Zoom and I was able to participate in their meeting and I wasn’t doing that because I was looking for a job, but I just was genuinely curious about how does this work in a quarantine and does it work well? And I thought I did. The Zoom connection was very stable. People were friendly. There was a lot of great content shared. And what if I was looking for a job? Oh my goodness. I would be so grateful to have the opportunity to meet people virtually and just try to create some momentum in my job search.

Okay. So those are some ideas about, again, how to bring yourself to the attention of the hiring manager. And I hope these tips are helpful. Our masterclass is closed right now. It’s actually going into its fourth and final week and we’re planning to reopen it. So I don’t have all the details sorted out yet, but we’re taking the feedback from people who are in the class right now, and we’re improving all the lessons based on that feedback. We’re also going to move to a new online delivery platform, which I think is going to be much better. And our goal is to be up and running no later than June 1st. So I’ll be sharing more about that with people later on. But for now, just remember your one path away from your dream cybersecurity job. And I hope you get a great one. See you later.


Headshot of Kip BoyleYOUR HOST:

Kip Boyle
Cyber Risk Opportunities

Kip Boyle serves as virtual chief information security officer for many customers, including a professional sports team and fast-growing FinTech and AdTech companies. Over the years, Kip has built teams by interviewing hundreds of cybersecurity professionals. And now, he’s sharing his insider’s perspective with you!

Headshot of Jason DionYOUR CO-HOST:

Jason Dion
Dion Training Solutions

Jason Dion is the lead instructor at Dion Training Solutions. Jason has been the Director of a Network and Security Operations Center and an Information Systems Officer for large organizations around the globe. He is an experienced hiring manager in the government and defense sectors.