Getting an Information Security Job For Dummies Cheat Sheet - dummies
Cheat Sheet

Getting an Information Security Job For Dummies Cheat Sheet

From Getting an Information Security Job For Dummies

By Peter H. Gregory

Even with the high demand for information security professionals, a job search is still a lot of work, especially if you’re targeting security jobs in bigger and more prestigious organizations. You don’t want to just play the numbers game (also known as “spray and pray”); instead, you need to stand out and be exceptional. Employers will expect this from you on the job, so why not start now? These tips show you how to brand yourself, nail the job interview, and follow up after your interview.

Brand Yourself and Stand Out to Get an Information Security Job

Creating the brand of you is essential to getting into the information security profession and to establishing and growing your career. To make yourself stand out from the crowd, follow these tips:

  • Get out there and meet people: Information security professionals thrive on person-to-person networking at industry and association events. Find local chapters of security associations and attend vendor-sponsored events and demos of their dazzling new products. Strike up conversations with other professionals and show genuine interest in them, so that you can learn little by little how other professionals established their own careers.

  • Build a complete profile on LinkedIn. Your professional profile on LinkedIn is your living resume, and it should be as good as — if not better than —your real resume. Make sure your profile includes a professional-quality photo, a complete employment history, your education and skills, and a headline that reads like your elevator pitch. Connect with others you know. Make sure your profile contains the key words necessary for other professionals, recruiters, and headhunters to be able to find you.

  • Check your other social media for potentially embarrassing content. Many organizations search for employment candidates’ social media and other online presence to learn more about their background and to decide whether they want to invest time interviewing and possibly hiring them. Review and thoroughly understand your privacy settings, so that you are in full control over the content about you that can be found online.

  • Conduct an internet search on yourself. Potential employers and others will want to know about you, the information security professional. They will conduct searches on your name and other facts they know about you. The best thing to do is to start doing this yourself, and do it regularly. You need to be aware of what others can find about you.

  • Start and maintain a blog. Information security professionals think for themselves, have opinions, and are not afraid to share those opinions and thoughts with others. If you want to stand out in the crowd of potential employment candidates and associates in information security, start a blog and write blog postings at least monthly. Read others’ blogs and take part in discussions that will help you expand your knowledge and expertise.

Preparing for an Information Security Job Interview

Interviews for security information jobs are not easy, even for the highly experienced. You have only one opportunity to make a good first impression with each person you interview, whether the interview is in person or by a phone call or a video call. Being prepared will make you more confident. To be at your best, do the following:

  • Learn about the organization. Read the company’s website, including the company’s history and significant events. Read company reviews at Learn as much about company culture as you can.

  • Read about other open positions. Learn what you can about their technologies, practices, and growth. Usually the opening paragraph of a position posting explains why the organization is looking for more employees.

  • Get a good night’s rest and eat a good breakfast. Does it sound like your mother is talking to you? You need to be rested and not hungry, especially for an all-day interview loop. There’s no telling when they will be offering lunch, and you don’t want to run out of steam during your interview.

  • Dress for success. You’ll want to favorably impress your interviewers and others you meet during your interview. Although you don’t want to go over the top with an Armani suit (in most cases), you do want to dress a notch or two above the cultural norm for the organization.

  • Arrive early. Arriving late would be bad for you, no matter what the reason. Be aware of traffic, transportation, and parking.

  • Bring copies of your resume and cover letter. One or more of the people interviewing you might not have read your resume in advance. Or they read it weeks ago and no longer remember you. Bring plenty of copies, so that each person can have one.

  • Turn off your phone. Put your phone on silent, or turn it off.

  • Take notes and ask questions. Ask each interviewer if you may take notes. Write down their names and any other things you will need for later.

  • Follow up. Write a thank-you note to each person who interviewed you, as well as the recruiter or human resources person who made your interview arrangements. Make sure they understand your gratitude for their having spent time with you.

Following Up after Your Information Security Job Interview

Even great interviews for information security jobs are taxing: They require superior listening skills, instant recall, and social grace. But as you leave the interview, your work is not over. Now you are entering the next phase: follow up. To make your best impression, do the following:

  • Make a follow-up commitment. While you are still in your interview with the hiring manager or recruiter, ask him or her if you may follow up. The time period for the follow-up could be a few days, or a week or more, depending on each person who interviews you.

  • Put follow-up reminders in your calendar. Time has a way of getting away from all of us, so it’s best if you put reminders in your calendar for each person to whom you will be following up.

  • Write thank-you notes. Write a personalized thank-you note to each person who interviewed you. Keep the note short, but do mention something positive that was discussed in each conversation and thank them for their time.

  • Mail your thank-you notes. Put your thank you notes in the mail the afternoon or evening of your interview or the next day.

  • Keep learning about the organization. Pay attention to the organization’s press release page, the local newspaper, and other news sources. You’ll want to know about any significant events.

  • Read about other open positions. In the days after your interviews, the organization could post additional positions.

  • Do your follow-ups. Whether you committed to making phone calls or sending emails, make your follow-ups on the day you committed to in your interviews. Reiterate your enthusiasm about the position for which you interviewed. Ask if a decision has been made and whether you are still being considered. If you are talking with a recruiter and you noticed new open positions, asking about those positions is reasonable, especially if you were not selected for the job for which you interviewed.

    If the organization likes you, but you were not the best candidate for that position, they may consider you for other open positions. Finally, if there are no immediate prospects for interviews, ask the recruiter if you can follow up later, typically in a month or two. Your persistence may pay off.

  • Keep records of your follow-ups and correspondence. If you didn’t get the job, you’ll want to keep track of your follow-up phone calls, e-mails, and other correspondence. You might be inclined to contact them later, so you’ll want to have a record of what you said and how your discussions went. Also, if someone from the organization contacts you months later, you’ll want to be able to easily find messages from the past so that you’ll appear more intentional and organized.