Rethinking How We Hire Cybersecurity

October 25th, 2016 | Posted by Alexa Magdalenski in Capital Cybersecurity Summit | Cybersecurity and Privacy | Guest Blogs

Doug Logan, chief technologist at US Cyber Challenge and CEO of Cyber Ninjas, is the author of our latest cybersecurity guest blog post on new approaches to cybersecurity hiring and retaining top cybersecurity talent. US Cyber Challenge’s National Director, Karen Evans, will be speaking on the Force Multipliers to Future Cybersecurity panel at the 2016 Capital Cybersecurity Summit on Nov. 2-3, 2016.

us cyber challenge logoWith over 209,000 vacant cybersecurity jobs in the U.S and job postings up 74% over the last 5 years; it is an understatement to say that cybersecurity is a growth field. Yet with my work with the US Cyber Challenge, I am routinely told by some of America’s best and brightest that they’re having difficulty finding a job. Once a person reaches the six month mark in a cybersecurity role, recruiters will call like crazy. Getting that initial experience is another story. If we’re going to secure our companies and our country, this is a problem we need to solve.

Traditional hiring practices suggest that we find people who have performed the job function in the past. By this measure, studies have shown that fewer than 25% of cybersecurity applicants are qualified to perform the job functions. I’ve actually had even less optimistic results with less than 10% of candidates qualified. In many cases this is despite certifications, or even similar past job experience. The resource pool is simply not large enough to readily find skilled candidates; and those who are skilled are extremely expensive. I’d like to suggest a different approach: hire the inexperienced and train them.

Time and time again I’ve been surprised at how quickly smart, passionate, but inexperienced individuals out-perform more experienced but “normal” candidates. On average I find that the right candidates learn about twice as fast as your typical candidate. This means that at six months in, my passionate candidate is functioning at the one year experience level; and that one year in, they already function at the equivalent of two years of experience. At this pace it does not take long before they surpass those with more experience; and best of all, home-grown talent is more loyal and won’t typically jump ship. But how do you find this talent?

The best way I’ve found to find smart, passionate, individuals who are interested in cybersecurity is taking a look at those candidates who find the time to learn cybersecurity topics even though they are not required to. This is often showcased in resumes that are littered with self-study topics related to the field, or with participating in one of the many cybersecurity competitions available. This list includes Cyber Aces, Cyber Patriot, the US Cyber Challenge and the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. If you want to check out a site that specializes in showcasing this type of talent, this is why the site CyberCompEx was created.

Unlike the inflated prices of experienced cybersecurity professionals, truly entry-level candidates can typically be picked up at a fraction of the cost. However, with this discount in salary you should be planning on spending a good $5,000-$10,000 the first year on investing in their training. In addition, you should be sure to review their performance at the six month mark and bump their pay appropriately at that time. While home-grown talent is less likely to jump ship, you always need to be in the ball park of their current worth.

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