The cybersecurity field continues to grow each year, and the job marketplace remains highly competitive.
The cybersecurity sector is expected to increase by 33% before 2030, a rate exceeding the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. And sadly, only 14% of IT security managers feel there are enough quality cybersecurity professionals with the right skills to respond to threats.
To effectively stand out and land a role, job candidates need to tell an effective, compelling story that details how they uniquely manage cybersecurity threats for employees.
Here are three often-overlooked resume hacks that will confidently show a company you’re the right candidate to defend their tech and data infrastructure.
Ah, the dreaded cover letter. Writing one for a job application is tedious. And many job seekers find them pointless alongside a resume.
Yet, nearly 56 percent of employers want applicants to submit a cover letter with their application. While seemingly redundant, if a job you’re applying for requests one or gives you the option to include a cover letter — write a strong, compelling one.
A cover letter may be your one opportunity to stand out from others, especially if it’s optional. Nonetheless, it’s a great chance to showcase what you uniquely bring to a position that can’t be fully illustrated in your resume.
The cover letter is the perfect moment to demonstrate your passion, enthusiasm and motivation for your field and desired position. You can also use a cover letter to pre-emptively answer questions a hiring manager may have when reviewing your resume, from employment gaps to career transitions.
Tips for writing a cover letter
Be specific and original
Use a different cover letter for each position you apply for instead of the same template. Tailor your cover letter to pertinent aspects of the job that play up your unique skills and expertise.
When writing your cover letter, consider what the position is precisely looking for and be sure to emphasize these points. Just like your resume, your cover letter should be hyper-targeted for the role you desire.
Emphasize your soft skills
While hard skills are paramount to the information technology world, soft skills are often just as crucial to today’s employers. Now more than ever, companies need cybersecurity professionals who have verifiable people skills as security remains a top concern in the back office and the board room.
Communication and analytical skills are high in demand for cybersecurity roles. Whether entry or senior-level, candidates should be able to discuss and explain complex topics in an easily understandable way to internal stakeholders.
Leadership ability also ranks high on a hiring manager’s list. If you’ve led a team or project, be sure to note this. Organizations desire workers who take charge, not just execute.
Be confident and clear
A cover letter isn’t the time to be shy or casual about your interest in a role. Employers should feel confident by reading your cover letter that you’re the right person for the job. Your tone and content must exemplify that you’re not just ready for the job but can accomplish whatever the role entails.
To express your confidence, be explicit about your excitement for the role. Drive center what your organizational impact has been during prior positions with statistical proof points and past achievements. Lastly, ensure that your cover letter is concise, one page long and free of grammatical errors.
Hiring managers have a ton of applications to sort through. Keeping your cover letter short, memorable and coherent will not only make an excellent first impression but also increase the likelihood that your application makes it to the “yes” stack instead of “no.”
Most recruiters are tapped for time when reviewing applications. Filling a role in a quick, efficient manner is a top priority to maintain business continuity.
That’s why cybersecurity professionals must put in the time to communicate their professional experience effectively.
The answer—the STAR method. This popular behavioral interview response method can also be applied when perfecting your resume.
Instead of listing key responsibilities in the “Experience” section of your resume, The STAR method helps candidates demonstrate their track record in concise bullet points that outline experience, previous duties, abilities and one’s potential impact.
STAR stands for the following points:
Situation: Talk briefly about your previous job, and explain the situation that will serve as the foundation to your experience example.
Task: Discuss the problem or goal you helped resolve or achieved in your previous job situation, detailing specific tasks completed with your unique abilities and skills.
Action: List the steps and actions you took to complete said task or goal, explaining your process.
Results: Lastly, demonstrate how the problem you solved or the goal you met impacted your organization, providing any important outcomes or skills gained.
Tips for using the STAR method on a cybersecurity resume
Identify 2-3 key skills to highlight
Creating a resume using the STAR method requires exemplifying behaviors that your employer desires. You can identify these by examining the job description and upstaging your matching, verifiable skills.
If an employer is looking for a professional to manage a security team, play up your leadership abilities. If there’s a need for a worker that knows how to formulate and develop security protocols, lead with your process improvement skills.
Your skill selection to highlight will only be impactful if it aligns with the scope of the role in question. Picking skills that are not in-demand will only help convince a hiring manager that you’re not the right pick of the litter.
Outline a response to the desired skill
Create a verbal answer to showcase your experience for the coveted skill using the STAR method. For example, if a job description calls for a good communicator and collaborator, a STAR method answer may look like this:
Situation - “When I worked as an Info Security Director, I led the organizational goal of developing and implementing internal policies and procedures that help thwart unauthorized access, modification and destruction of data.”
Task - “After working in this position for a year, I noticed there was no enterprise education on the importance and best practices of cybersecurity.”
Action - “As a result, I created a company-wide security test with a fake phishing email to routinely evaluate the current security posture. I also developed info security training modules with the leadership and development team for the new employee onboarding process and quarterly refresher courses to retain best practices.”
Result - “After developing an Infosecurity-driven internal culture with routine education and tech updates, our cyberattacks declined by 29%.”
Condense your response to bullet points
Using bullet points, outline the components of the STAR response with a sentence or phrase for each point.
Here’s an example of how you can take the above verbal response highlighting collaboration and communication skills and transform it into a work experience on your resume using the same STAR Method:
Info Security Director
Worked with stakeholders to develop cybersecurity procedures and policies to protect private data against unauthorized access, modification and destruction. (Situation)
Created infosecurity training modules and tests with the learning and development team to educate employees on cybersecurity best practices. (Task)
Built relationships with field senior leaders to encourage enterprise-level adoption. (Action)
Reduced risk of attacks by 29% with automatic tech stack updates and continual employee mentorship. (Results)
Incorporating the STAR method in your resume will help a hiring manager quickly scope your skills and qualifications by showing your value with specific details that tell an interesting story of who you are.
To gain another competitive advantage over other candidates, be sure to include credentials, clearances and certifications in a separate section on your resume.
High-demand cybersecurity positions, such as government contracts, often require security clearances. Whether you’ve received one from previous military experience or another role, it’s in your best interest to list it.
Security clearances to add to your resume
Confidential level security clearances
Secret level security clearances
Top secret level security clearances
Listing relevant certifications can also help add additional color to your resume. They demonstrate a passion for continual learning, a soft skill critical for cybersecurity professionals. Cyberwarfare is constantly changing, and organizations need experts who are abreast of the latest challenges and practices.
Security certifications to add to your resume:
Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)
CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+)
CompTIA Penetration Tester (PenTest+)
Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)
SANS GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)
When listing certifications and clearances in your resume, be sure to include only those that are verifiable, required and relevant to the role.
As for any technical field, creating a top-notch cybersecurity resume can be challenging. Leverage these above tips to create a stellar resume that makes the cut and a lasting impression.