NEWS + ADVICE
Cyber Security Job Search and Recruitment Challenges
Job search is not an easy task. In fact, it’s often referred to as a full-time job in itself. While a substantial time commitment is expected for recruiters and hiring managers tasked with finding the right candidate, the process is often extensive for job seekers too. In an effort to better understand the challenges of cyber security job search and recruitment, CyberSecJobs.com, assisted by The Diana Initiative and Mental Health Hackers, surveyed information security and cyber security professionals and students in the community in 2019.
To continually support the security community and offer timely, data driven insights, we conducted this survey once again in 2020. The purpose of this survey was to better understand the challenges that job seekers face finding a job and to demonstrate that their challenges are not unusual. Here are the key findings from the surveys:
62% of respondents from our most recent survey reported they are actively looking for a job right now. This is a significant increase, as only 36% of respondents from our initial survey noted they were actively looking for a job. Beyond those in active job search mode, roughly 28% of respondents from both surveys noted they were looking passively.
While the majority of survey respondents are looking for a cyber security job to some extent, a large percentage of security professionals are unsure of how to approach the process. When asked if they know how to find a job, 45% responded no in our initial survey. We saw that percentage drop to 42% this year—still a large portion of cyber security job seekers who are unsure or at a loss for how to go about finding a job.
Job Search Insights
These two surveys examine findings that impact both job seekers and recruiters. Let’s begin by looking at those most applicable to job search.
TOP JOB SEARCH METHODS
The most reported ways that job seekers search for jobs include networking, social media, and job boards / career fairs. Networking and social media were the top two most reported job search methods in 2019. However, job boards and career fairs surpassed these methods in our most recent survey, with a whopping 75% of respondents reporting they search for jobs this way.
Many studies indicate referrals and job boards are the primary way that employers find candidates for job openings. As in many aspects of life, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and this holds true for job seekers and recruiters trying to find one another.
THE IMPORTANCE OF NETWORKING
While many recruiters think they need some high-end, new shiny technology to find good tech talent, 79% of job seekers in our initial survey reported the most common way they find jobs is by asking their friends. This was closely followed by looking into companies they already know about, and searching online job postings.
There are infinite possibilities how someone might find out about a new job prospect. A friend or colleague might have an opening at their organization or have knowledge about other opportunities in the community. Or a job seeker may check openings at a company that they’ve seen at professional events, and so on.
The prominent factor here is networking—being available to meet those people that can lend a suggestion. In our most recent survey, 85% of respondents said networking is one of the most important job search strategies. Being active in the community is a great way to build that network, while also increasing understanding of the industry.
In fact, 52% of respondents said attending conferences and professional gatherings is another one of the most important job search strategies. CyberSecJobs.com’s volunteering survey found that networking through community volunteerism (like at industry conferences) supports job search and also increases employer visibility. That serves as another touch point for employers and job seekers to build awareness of one another and increase successful job search and recruitment outcomes.
TOP JOB SEARCH TROUBLE AREAS
The top three job search challenges reported in both surveys were: knowing which companies hire for their skill set, determining the next step in their career, and finding recruiters to work with. Effective networking and research is the solution to finding companies that hire for particular skillsets, as well as uncovering well-respected recruiters in the community.
As for determining the next steps in their career, most professionals tend to move from job to job rather than having the support of their managers to map their career within their current company. When asked about career plans for the next year, only 26% of survey respondents on average communicated they plan to stay with the same employer, in the same role. Job seekers tend to want career paths rather than a mere job.
In our most recent survey, we saw a substantial increase in the number of respondents who plan to change both employers and roles in the next year, at a growing 54%. Professionals in the community are invested in having a career path or some sort of progression, often requiring a move to another position or organization to help their career trajectory. These findings speak to the challenges that the community has with career mapping.
This year we also asked which job search tools and skills are most important for finding a new job. Two of the most common responses placed importance on interviewing skills and resumes. However, when asked which tools and skills they need the most help with, roughly 40% of respondents named interviewing skills and resumes again. It’s important for job seekers to learn how to ace interviews and write an effective resume to improve their job search odds.
Another area where cyber security job seekers can use guidance involves certifications. Roughly 68% of respondents noted they hold certifications. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification was the most common. While holding certifications such as CISSP, CEH, CISA, or PMP won’t guarantee a job, they’re often a requirement for the position. And they certainly won’t hurt the job seeker’s chances if they are not a requirement.
As job seekers further their education and industry knowledge, this also leads to a better understanding of potential career paths. Professional development not only makes job seekers more desirable, but also helps them to map career paths and determine long-term goals.
Now let’s take a look at findings that impact recruitment more heavily, such as what draws jobs seekers to a company and what companies can do to better recruit security professionals overall.
REASONS JOB SEEKERS ARE DRAWN TO A COMPANY
Common career goals might include an increased salary—something that many assume is the biggest draw for tech talent. While the top reported motivator that draws job seekers to one company or another is compensation, a very close second is a good working environment, followed by company support of work/life balance. These top three motivators were consistent year-over-year in our surveys.
It’s not surprising that compensation still prevails as a compelling motivator, especially considering the high cost of living and the long commutes encountered in most tech centers. And the sheer number of hours that professionals commit to their livelihoods alone makes it clear why finding balance between work and personal life is increasingly important to job seekers.
This sentiment goes hand-in-hand with the urgency to find a good working environment too. Discovering a work environment that provides support and comfort goes a long way. When combined with the other top motivators, it’s a recipe for longevity in employee retention and satisfaction.
Furthermore, the fourth top motivator reflected in our most recent survey was on-the-job training and learning opportunities. Continued education and professional development are an essential component of career growth and career mapping efforts—something employers can once again work on to acquire and retain top talent.
THINGS COMPANIES CAN DO TO RECRUIT PROFESSIONALS
How can employers make it easier to recruit professionals? In 2019, the top two survey responses included providing remote work at 70%, and making the recruiting process more transparent at 66%. Remote work is a big request in the community, as commutes and the cost of living in many of the high tech areas continue to rise. While remote work may not always be feasible involving high security work, it’s worth considering when possible. Recruiters and hiring managers will have a big motivator to offer in the recruiting process that might make the difference between bringing a first or second choice candidate onboard.
Another top way to recruit tech talent is to be more transparent with the hiring process. In our most recent survey, transparency actually moved into the top position, at 74%. As anyone familiar with the candidate experience knows, being clear about the hiring process and the steps that a job seeker goes through is a good practice. Most job seekers don’t understand an employer’s process. Having both recruiters and career pages clearly communicate the steps a candidate will encounter are proactive measures in the right direction.
And finally, remote work ranked third on the list in our most recent survey, as transparency took the top spot, followed by job seekers wanting employers to better train recruiters to understand the security community. In a fight for security talent, it’s vital that employers put their best foot forward in the recruitment process. Communicating with a recruiter is often the first introduction a candidate will have to a company, so it’s important that recruiters have a strong understanding of the role they’re recruiting for and the overall industry.
Putting It All Together
This survey reminds the community that job search is difficult. It’s important that employers and job seekers alike recognize the challenges that clog the road on the way to successful employment opportunities. These hurdles can ultimately be overcome, but it requires shared understanding, strategizing, and navigating for both job seekers and recruiters.
If you’re a job seeker, keep these thoughts in mind as you navigate your job search:
- Stay diligent and don’t be discouraged if your search doesn’t pan out immediately. Instead evaluate, refine, and improve till you reach success. Every job search has its challenges.
- Build your network and actively pursue multiple avenues to find the best opportunities. Don’t stop networking when you find your next job. You never know when you’ll be on the hunt again, whether actively or just in passing. Stay prepared, and help others. Paying it forward is a very common theme within the community.
- Look for role models or mentors to develop your own career map of where you want to go next, and how to build your career.
- Continue learning and developing both hard and soft skills. Obtain certifications that are relevant to your career path and keep abreast of developments in your profession. But don’t ignore soft skills such as teamwork, leadership and communication, which are also critically important to a cyber security career.
If you’re a recruiter or employer looking to improve your recruiting success, keep the challenges that job seekers regularly face in mind and consider these tips:
- Understand where tech talent searches for jobs and make sure your positions are visible and accessible to them.
- Communicate your support for work/life balance and the positive work environment that you provide to attract top talent.
- Consider adding remote work when possible to provide the best recruitment and retention strategies.
- Review your hiring and recruitment process to ensure that it is transparent to increase overall recruitment.
- Work within your company to develop career mapping opportunities for your employees, allowing them to continue challenging themselves within your organization.
- If you’re not a technical recruiter, educate yourself on the basics of the positions you’re recruiting for so you can better communicate with the tech talent you’re trying to hire.