To be clear, I am not, nor have I ever been a cybersecurity recruiter. I’m not even saying I have what it takes to be one. What I’m saying is that, like cybersecurity itself, being a recruiter is very simple. Bloody difficult, but simple nonetheless. What’s more, cybersecurity recruiting is also about People Process, and Technology. Always in that order, and luckily to only technology you need to be a great recruiter is a phone and a laptop.
So while I cannot talk directly about the challenges faced by recruiters, I have however been on the other side of the process as both a candidate and a hiring manager. I can say that in almost 20 years I have yet to meet a recruiter for whom I would go out my way to recommend. Not one. In 20 years.
So if you are a recruiter who has engaged with me in the past, yes, this applies to you, without exception. If you want to know why, read on, and then be honest with yourself. Did you really provide the kind of service I describe below? Do you now?
The most frequent piece of advice I give anyone new to cybersecurity is to take your ego out the equation. That may sound odd coming from me, but even though I know a lot more than my clients about cybersecurity, it’s not about me. Of course I know more than my clients, that’s why they hired me! It’s about using my knowledge for the client’s benefit, not for appreciation, and certainly not for money. Both of those things should take care of themselves if I did my job correctly.
Again, this is no different from what you should be doing as a recruiter.
As a recruiter you have not one client, but 2, regardless of whom you represent; the candidate, and the hiring company. While this makes your task twice as difficult as mine, what you do is no more complicated. Like it or not, you are in the service industry, and neither the candidate nor end customer care what you want. But if that’s all you care about, you will rightly fail. Harsh, yes, but you chose this career.
Anyway, here’s my advice for what it’s worth.
How to be a Great Recruiter.
- Know what the hell you’re talking about – No, you don’t have to be an expert in cybersecurity, but there’s a very good chance the hiring company isn’t either. They will ask the wrong questions, it’s your job to give them what they need, not what they asked for. If you’re representing a person, you need to know their skill-set enough to determine a good fit. This means you have know what cybersecurity actually is, and no, not just the buzz-words and acronyms.
- Know what the candidate wants – Like it or not, you have a responsibility to your candidates to help grow their career. This is their livelihood, and they trust that the power you have over their success is not misplaced. If all you care about is getting them off your plate and on to the next candidate, you are betraying their trust. If you don’t see you candidates as lifelong relationships, why are you doing this? Go sell used cars instead.
- Send CVs that have been PROPERLY vetted – It’s tempting to scattershot all of your ‘cybersecurity expert’ CVs at every cybersecurity related job opening in the hope one sticks. Don’t. Do you homework, and if you don’t have someone that fits, pass. As a hiring manager I dismissed recruiters that consistently wasted my time. Earn the right of first refusal by being totally candid, that’s the most you can ask for with the amount of competition out there.
- Provide unvarnished feedback – No matter how bad the feedback, pass it on completely unvarnished. If you don’t have the courage to do that, at least provide SOME feedback. I’ve lost count of the number of times a recruiter was all over me while I was still a viable candidate, then completely disappeared when it fell through. Obviously I didn’t get the job, which was bad enough, but for me to have to work that out by myself over the course of the next few weeks is unconscionable. While you may not be able to help your candidate from screwing up the next time, you’ll at least have a candidate who’ll talk to you again.
- STAY in touch – Careers in cybersecurity can change on a dime, if you don’t maintain a relationship with your candidates you will become worthless. I’m not saying call every day, but is once a month too much to ask for a 30 minute catch-up? If it is, again, why are you doing this, you’re supposed to actually like people. Besides, if I trust you, who do you think is going to get all of my referrals?
- Be pro-active – As a recruiter, you have unparalleled access to the demands of the market. What possible reason could have for not feeding that back to your candidates? By steering them into fields of high demand you are helping both them, and yourselves.
- Love what you do – No-one wants to work with someone who could not care less about what they do. Love it, or get out.
Recruiters in every field have a horrible time fighting against their negative image. An image they have earned as a profession from being so filled with dross. Unfortunately cybersecurity is getting that way thanks to ambulance chasing vendors. Now combine the two; cybersecurity recruiter. The odds are against you, but it strikes me that anyone encompassing the above would be a beacon in an otherwise dismal landscape.
For those who have the temerity to ask for exclusive deals up front, try earning it instead. Given the state of recruiting these days it should not be that difficult.
Finally, at the end of my blog; Cybersecurity Recruiters, The Gauntlet Is Thrown! I stated my ultimate purpose was to find the great recruiters I know are out there.
I’m still looking.
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