Your Cybersecurity Career: Keys to writing a better resumeDec 06, 2021
I am not an expert, per se, but I am married to a wonderful woman with a degree in Human Resource Management (HRM). In addition to the joys of marriage, I also have access to all her textbooks! I also have a few decades of experience in the profession. This allows me to comment on what makes sense when hiring managers are considering whether an applicant is qualified for a specific role. The insights in this article are specific to IT and security people. Some nuggets are universal, however, and I hope they add value for everyone who is looking for that next great opportunity (or the first great opportunity).
The First Impression
This idea is relevant for applications and your resume, which works as a tool to describe who you are and why an interview would be worth the time.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression!”
The most important content in the resume should be on the first page. I will read the second page if the first page is compelling. I do not have the time or desire to read through five pages of content to find the information I need to make a decision about interviewing an applicant. More content makes sense for senior positions. More content does not make sense for entry- and mid-level positions.
Side note: I think we can agree that automated resume scanners and word-matching programs do not work for IT and security positions. They speed up the process for professions that have stable and consistent processes, but IT and security change rapidly. Hiring manager who must depend on technology to sift through applicants would do better to hang out with Deidre Diamond and use the platform that CyberSN has developed.
The Opening Statement
This section is the “signature story” that captures the attention of the reader. I try to limit the opening statement to no more than 50 – 60 words in my own resume. People waste space when they fill their resume with fluff and extraordinary statements. Everything presented in a technical application should be measurable and quantifiable. Subjective concepts like “insightful,” “results-driven,” and “excellent” are difficult to quantify and prove. Don’t say it if you cannot prove it. Instead, highlight quantifiable information that reinforces who you are and the value that you could add.
“I have produced [specific outcomes] by [quantifiable measures] over [reasonable timeframe] because of my [specific actions, skills, and/or abilities you have developed].”
Actions, Skills, and/or Abilities
Education and certifications contribute to your skills and abilities. I would list degrees first and then relevant certifications. Relevant is the key word here. You have wasted space if you have the CISSP credential and you list your A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications. These are great certifications from CompTIA, but they are surpassed by the knowledge and experience required to obtain the CISSP credential.
Also, save space and avoid listing redundant skills. List the top 10 skills relevant to the job for which you are applying even if you have 100 skills that you are proud of. For example, you surely know something about programming if reverse malware analysis is a skill. However, a hiring manager does not need you to list every programming language that you know if the job description says, “We are looking for someone who has experience with python.” Finding what is relevant forces you to customize your resume for specific opportunities rather than using the same resume for every job application.
I prefer focusing on accomplishments rather than listing duties because anyone can perform a list of assigned tasks. People who communicate the unique value they provided in a role are much more interesting. They are also more likely to be interviewed.
After listing the company, your role, and your dates of service, highlighting the business impact of your role on the organization’s success. Were you an individual contributor? Did you manage a team? Did you manage a budget? Quantifiable measures matter here as well. Also, instead of listing duties, use the answer to these three questions to develop relevant bullets about the success you achieved in each position.
- What did you do in your role to make a difference? Specific outcomes are more important that the list of responsibilities from your job description.
- How did you make the magic happen? Surely your knowledge, skills, and abilities contributed to your success. This is another opportunity to highlight relevant skills that you will bring to your new employer.
- What was the measurable impact of your efforts? Few things in business matter if you cannot measure their impact. “I increased year over year revenue by 18%” is a more effective statement than “I called everyone on the list developed by the inside sales team.”
I hope this summary was a blessing to someone out there. Please share as you see fit and join the conversation on LinkedIn to share additional insights that will lead to success and help people land in good positions.
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