Do’s and Don’ts for Writing a Stand-out Cybersecurity Resume

The cybersecurity industry is grappling with a years’ long workforce gap. That however does not mean cybersecurity professionals will get any industry role they apply for. You still have to compete against multiple applicants whose qualifications may be just as good as yours. Or better. So being qualified for the job is unlikely to be what gets you the position.

How you present your suitability matters. And it all begins with the cybersecurity resume. There are general rules of good resume writing that apply to any industry. However, there are things you need to pay greater attention to if you are applying for a job in the cybersecurity space.

Do Stay Current

Cybersecurity and the IT industry as a whole are a rapidly evolving sector. There is always something new to think about and respond to. From new forms of malware to new privacy regulations. There are certainly core aspects of cybersecurity that are timeless such as strategy, policy, procedure and controls.

But for more specific aspects such as privacy regulations, security standards, events, current threats or expertise in an operating system version, you have to be certain that what you are referring to is the most current information available on the subject.

A cybersecurity resume that comes across as current grabs attention. Your reader is left with the impression that you are committed to the craft and have your finger firmly on the industry’s pulse.

Do List Soft Skills Especially Working under Pressure

Whether you are being hired as a chief information security officer (CISO) or as an entry level cybersecurity analyst, soft skills matter. Yes, the recruiter understands that your technical competence is why you are a candidate for the technical position. Nevertheless, your hard skills are most effective when they are backed by the right soft skills. Soft skills cover a wide range of abilities ranging from communication and problem solving to team work and planning.

A soft skill that’s worth special mention is the ability to work under pressure. Any job can benefit from the capacity to withstand work pressure. But this is a unique challenge for cybersecurity roles. For instance, if a massive cyberattack effectively cripples the organization’s operations, the management’s eyes will be on the cybersecurity staff to solve the problem quickly. So list incidents or roles that demonstrate your ability to work under pressure.

Do Include Non Work-related Experience

Only a small percentage of today’s cybersecurity professionals have a degree in cybersecurity or computer science/information technology. For instance, a significant number of chief information security officers (CISOs) are not recruited from the IT security or IT departments.

One study found 17 percent of CISOs were picked from departments other than IT, including marketing, finance and human resources. You are likely to find that even among those that emerged from the IT or information security departments, a sizable proportion do not have IT degrees. They earned their position by demonstrating passion, curiosity, adaptability and, of course, leadership.

If you are just starting off your cybersecurity career and/or do not have academic qualifications relevant to the industry, include non work-related experience that shows your interest and experience. Perhaps you have built yourself a home network, learned a programming language, enrolled in online security courses or participated in a hackathon.

Do Think about your Career Path

Cybersecurity careers are not a monolith. Be intentional about the job you are applying for and the career path you are charting. Your cybersecurity resume should be aligned with that. Maybe you are not cut out to be a pen tester or engineer. You still have a lot of options within the industry.

For instance, if you have a passion for investigation, you’d probably be best suited for a digital forensics position. If you have exceptional interpersonal skills, maybe a security awareness or security product sales job could be the thing for you.

Take time to go through the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Cybersecurity Workforce Framework roles and see where your knowledge, skills and passion are best applied.

Don’t Overuse Technical Terminology

As a technical position, it is difficult to run away from technical terminology in a cybersecurity resume. You do want to be perceived as knowledgeable and professional. Unfortunately, job applicants sometimes overdo technical terminology as they go all out to prove their competence for the position. Difficult terminology makes your cybersecurity resume harder to read. Prioritize everyday words instead.

Whereas you are being hired for a technical role, some of the people making the decision of whether or not to invite you for an interview are not necessarily cybersecurity gurus. You will for instance, likely have someone from HR reading your resume. So make it readable to as broad an audience as possible without necessarily diluting the communication of your capabilities.

Don’t be a Jack of all Trades

Do not include every single skill you have some knowledge in. Yes, you may have dabbled in some Python programming at some point just as you have a dozen other languages. But does that really make you competent in Python?

Remember, resumes are rejected within the first 10 seconds of the recruiter setting their eyes on it. You have their attention for only a tiny window period. Make sure it focuses on the skills relevant for the job and what you are actually good at.

Listing too many technical abilities gives the impression of someone who is a jack of all trades but hasn’t really mastered any one. It also leaves the employer questioning the actual depth of knowledge you have of each skill given the amount of time its expected to take to achieve intermediate or expert mastery.

A Stand-out Cybersecurity Resume

Make your resume clear, direct, compact and interesting. Develop hooks that stop the reader in their tracks and have them yearning to know more. You want to stand out from the competition and move your career to the next level. Your cybersecurity resume can give you that edge over the competition and help you secure that all-important opportunity for an interview so you can make your case in person.

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