How a Recruiter Views Volunteering

Posted by Kathleen Smith
VolunteeringWe recently surveyed security community volunteers to discover what career skills they developed through volunteering, and whether their employers supported them in their efforts. Community volunteering is often seen as a way to build technical and non-technical skills, but more importantly a way to expand your network to fuel your career search.
But how do recruiters view community volunteering when recruiting and interviewing candidates? Is there too much volunteering that might send a red flag to a recruiter? How should you present this information on your resume, on social media and in an interview?
Doug Munro has been in the community for several years working for companies that value community volunteering. He has also found ways to incorporate these methodologies into his recruiting and retention programs. Doug has presented this topic at security conferences including BSidesNashville, HackerHalted and BSidesDC. At these presentations he shares insights into how he views and uses community volunteering in his recruiting.
Doug Munro: I’m Director of Talent Acquisition for MAG Aerospace. Before that I was Director of Talent Acquisition for Coalfire, which is a pure-play cyber security services firm.  I’ve been recruiting in cyber talent for 15 years. I volunteer at BSides DC and the Northern Virginia Community College. I’ve had the honor of presenting at BSides Vegas, CyberSecureGov, and recruitDC.
Kathleen Smith: Doug, when you look at all the conferences that someone has attended and the competitions that they participate in, what do you as a recruiter think about that? Is it someone who doesn’t want to work and wants to go from con to con, or does it spark an interest in your mind?
Doug: There is a fine line, but an obvious one that there are folks who could put together pages on their resume of all the cons they attend.  That could be a red flag, but not in my particular case and not with the organizations I’ve worked with. But I know some organizations might look at it as we’re hiring someone to finance their travel plans. I don’t know if there are that many people that are at that level of volunteerism.
So in my evaluation what I’m seeing is somebody who is passionate. They are intellectually curious. They want to continue to learn. They are willing to give of their own time to add value to the community. Cyber competitions give us insight into how they approach a problem. Are they able to collaborate as part of a team to solve s?
All of these things are important.  Any industry that you are going to be in, there needs to be a collaborative element. Particularly in cyber it is so fluid, and constantly changing. It’s impossible to be truly good at security in whatever component of the area you are in, if you are completely siloed. All that community activity, all those efforts to be a part of something bigger than just your individual path, we’ll look at it as a positive.
Kathleen Smith: How do you talk about your volunteer work on your resume or LinkedIn profile?
Doug: The emphasis would be on the security community volunteering if that’s your career path. It becomes a volume issue, so do try to edit.  We don’t want pages of it, so you need to pick the highlights of what you’ve done.  If you haven’t done a great deal but you are the accountant for your church that is still something. Anything that you are giving to the community that is relevant is of the most value.
Seemingly unrelated efforts are important because it speaks to the kind of person that we are dealing with. We looked at the data. The more involved someone was in the community, we found our attrition rates were lower. Employee evaluations were also superior for people who were active outside of work. This varied from business unit to business unit, but was particularly true for the penetration testing team. That was a clear dataset and that helped us become more involved in the community as a company, because it’s a business case that we are making
It is also a business case that you can make as an individual. On your resume, we like to see your community involvement, but within reason. It’s very easy to show your community involvement, competitions and speaking engagements on your LinkedIn profile because it’s segmented.
On your resume you can create a link, so that if you don’t want to clutter your resume with it, but you do want to refer to it. If you don’t mention it on your resume you want to when you talk to a recruiter. Share this is what I do, this is how I stay sharp, this is how I stay ahead of the game. Make sure that they are aware of these things that you are doing.
Kathleen Smith: How do you look at competitions in recruiting?
Doug: It’s the experience.  Now it’s great if you won every contest you’ve been a part of.  But we have technical experts.  I’m not one; I’m a recruiter.  I tell my wife if you take me to a dinner party, I’m the most technical person at the table. But put me in a room with security practitioners, I’m a kid at the kids’ table at Thanksgiving.  But we have people who can drill down into your specific piece within that competition.
You came in 10th, but you did something unique and interesting within your component piece These skills – the ability to be a part of a team, all the way to taking the  leadership position, – I’m interested in the details. Did someone drop out as often happens? You start out with three or four people on a team and suddenly somebody has to leave and you have to take on an additional burden. How did you handle that? Those things are vital.
We will drill into it to find out what was your role on the team. With every competition I want to know what you gained from the experience. I’m going to ask you what did you learn?  What was the best part of it? What was the worst part of it?  What do you think you could have done better?’ All of that’s important to us because it is a very collaborative industry. Being competitive, and wanting to win, that’s fantastic, but it’s most important to want to continue learning. Those are the characteristics that have led to the most successful outcomes for us as a company.
Kathleen Smith: How do you look at people who are presenting? What does that show you as a recruiter?
Doug: Except in the rare instances where someone seemingly does nothing but present, and it doesn’t happen very often, it’s a positive. The reason this is positive is that it is a task and not an easy one. I have submitted talks and they were accepted. But having the idea and the determination to see it through is a positive that I am looking for in a candidate
These are all very important skills. Even the presentations that don’t get accepted. You’re learning along the way how do you better hone the abstract, how do you create a better idea, and how do you create more value. It’s all positive. There are other things that come out of presenting. The very practice of preparing to present is the same skill you will need for your next job interview or presentation to senior management. These are all skills that are going to help you in your career. 
Interviewing is like anything else. It’s a function of repetition. Stand in front of a mirror, talk to yourself, and prepare your answers to the questions. If you stand in front of a group of people, make a presentation and have them ask questions, you’re comfortable with the subject matter to respond to whatever happens.
This is a skill that applies to interviews. The further you go in your career, the more presentations you are going to have to give. Thus, this is an absolute green flag to me and to every recruiter I’ve ever worked with: If you present at conferences, you are going to be an asset to my company.
Community volunteering is important and it’s about time management. It’s that commitment to do something above and beyond. It’s about honing those skills that do translate into other things. It also speaks to building your network and your network is your most important asset in your career development. Your next job is probably going to come, at least in small part, based on someone in your network.


This entry was posted on Friday, September 21, 2018 5:11 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.