While job growth and low unemployment have combined to create a competitive market for hiring, the gap between open positions and qualified candidates is widest in cybersecurity.
The workforce shortage is expected1 to result in 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2021, a problem that spans company and industry types to affect all employers. Enterprises are addressing the cybersecurity workforce shortage in a number of ways – increasing salaries, improving employee benefits and work-life balance, and marketing their company to potential candidates to improve their competitive advantage.
However, a key factor that can help an enterprise with cybersecurity recruiting is to think about job requirements in a new way. What factors are truly relevant to the success of a cybersecurity specialist? Is a degree in computer science or information technology actually required, or are there other means of identifying cyber talent – skills or experience that are more relevant to long-term success?
Related reading: Cybersecurity Recruitment: What To Look For (Other Than A Degree)
A degree may not be the best indicator of cyber talent, skills or knowledge, in part due to the speed at which the security environment evolves. In cybersecurity, new threats, tactics, and vulnerabilities arise every day. The information covered in a four-year institution may not be agile in response to changes in the threat landscape, making the degree less applicable to a cybersecurity job.
Instead of automatically including a degree requirement in the job posting, consider the different skills and experience that produces the best cybersecurity talent.
1. Works Under Pressure
A cybersecurity professional is expected to work in high-pressure situations, thinking clearly and with attention to detail even if they are under an enormous amount of stress. Relevant experience includes candidates with a military background, those with medical or emergency response training, even an event coordinator – someone whose job requires them to think on their feet, manage stress, and make split-second decisions.
2. Continuous Learner
Because the cybersecurity landscape is changing and evolving, cyber professionals must constantly learn new tactics to identify and resolve threats. A candidate may demonstrate an interest in continuous learning through their commitment to on-the-job or voluntary training and development activities, professional memberships, or certification programs. Relevant experience would include anyone who has been proactive in learning and achievement, even outside of a degree-based program. This would include people who attend cybersecurity bootcamps, certification programs, and hackathon events.
Sometimes, a cybersecurity professional needs to sit in front of a monitor for hours, concentrating and focusing until the issue is solved. Experience, or interest in focused problem-solving may provide a distinct advantage when it comes to cybersecurity. Candidates from jobs in analytics, investigation, or research may have the problem-solving skills required. Some recruiters even look at gamers – people who spend their free time playing games that require in-depth problem-solving skills or exercising a required skill outside of the workplace.
Conclusion: Look to the Military
Military experience is aligned with cybersecurity requirements in a number of ways. The military requires that people learn new skills and concepts, and apply them to their job functions. Military veterans have training in advanced technologies, and are skilled in managing stress and performing under pressure, with great attention to detail. A candidate with military experience may be better positioned for success in cybersecurity than a candidate with a great degree, but little experience.
As threats evolve, and become both more prevalent and more severe, the need for cyber talent will only increase; and the gap between open positions and qualified candidates will continue to grow. Critically thinking about what constitutes a ‘qualified’ candidate and identifying the needs of your organization will help you shape the role you need. Your job description may include a degree requirement – but is that really what your organization needs? There are a number of skills and experiences that can drive success in cybersecurity that are non-degree related. Rethinking your definitions may be the key to accessing the cybersecurity talent that your organization needs.
If you are interested in learning more, or would like some expert advice on reevaluating positions at your organization to determine what job requirements will most likely contribute to success, contact Sparks Group today.
Sparks Group is a nationally-awarded, certified-diverse staffing agency with proven experience in matching candidates to open positions. At Sparks Group, we take the time to understand our clients’ requirements to ensure the best fit for every position, every time. Contact Sparks Group to connect with qualified candidates in one of our areas of expertise, and improve your recruiting and staffing initiatives today.