Security: Your ‘Secret Sauce’ in a Job Interview

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Security: Tech pros hear about it all the time; companies are perpetually concerned about it, especially in the wake of some high-profile breaches such as the Ashley Madison hack. Executives want to know their tech pros are doing all they can to lock down data, because the risks of vulnerabilities are far too great.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea for any tech pro—even those who don’t specialize in locking down systems and infrastructure—to focus on security when applying for a job.

Certainly those who specialize in security can profit immensely from it. Chief information security officers (CISOs) and those in similar security-focused positions are in great demand, especially (but not exclusively) within large organizations. In 2014, the Ponemon Institute reported that some CISOs had managed to land salaries of up to $1.2 million; the average annual pay hovers at around $225,000. But even midlevel security people find themselves more in demand than ever; a lead software security engineer, for example, can expect to make $233,000 per year.

Even for those without an extensive security background, emphasizing your security skills on a resume can help you differentiate yourself among the flood of candidates. Your security-related experience is the “secret sauce” that will make you more desirable than the next candidate.

Whether or not security is your primary focus, there are ways to prove that you’re better at it than anyone else in the applicant pool.

Here’s how:

Get Serious About Certifications

Don’t underestimate the power of certifications in trying to differentiate yourself with a recruiter. While not all security certifications are equal in their value to companies, working diligently to get them can go a long way.

Take the CompTIA Security+ certification, for example. It’s highly respected and, perhaps most importantly, vendor-neutral. Many companies view the Security+ certification as a standout, demonstrating you have significant experience managing and protecting networks.

The Certified Ethical Hacker credential, provided by the International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants, is especially useful for those seeking jobs that deal with large amounts of customer data. While the name may raise some hackles, those who’ve earned the certification can argue that they have insight into how systems are built and secured, and can anticipate the actions of those who would attempt to break in and do harm.

Finally, it may be worth having the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification on your resume. Malicious hackers continually seek holes in enterprise applications; having a CISM shows you have the knowledge necessary to protect an enterprise reliant on those applications to get work done.

Start Thinking in Multiple Platforms

If you really want to attract recruiters and prospective employers, think about the platforms they’re using. Sure, you may be a network security expert or have some knowledge of software, but what about the cloud? You should also be aware of how BYOD and mobile affect business security: How much do you know, for example, about Samsung Knox, Apple mobile device management, or Android security?

Unfortunately for tech pros, securing a company is much harder today than ever before, thanks to an ever-multiplying collection of vendors and apps. Geographically dispersed employees complicate things, as well.

If you’re aiming for a high-profile security position, impress your tech recruiter by talking about the process you go through to monitor third-party cloud providers, and ensure not only data security, but also business continuity in the event of a catastrophe.

Those who’ve worked for years in business security may know much about BlackBerry services, but can you speak to the security of IBM-certified applications running on the iPad, or how you would manage employee access to corporate data when they’re on the road? If you can bring an extra element of cloud, mobile, and data security to the job interview, and talk up your business-continuity efforts, you’re far ahead of competitors and in a much better position to get the job you seek.

And remember: Success in getting the job is about differentiation and showcasing knowledge. Focusing on certifications and varied platforms is the right step towards achieving your goal.

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