How to Build a Winning Cybersecurity Resume

September 22, 2021
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3 min read

Career advancement is an art form with many facets. One vital tool is your cybersecurity resume, the quality of which can mean the difference between getting an interview for your dream job and not being considered at all.

Following the standard advice on building a resume will give you a standard resume that won’t set you apart from the pack. Fresh thinking will give your resume a huge advantage. This is true whether you’re an entry-level candidate or applying for a chief information security officer (CISO) position, whether you’re building a security analyst resume or a security administrator resume.

Yes, it’s important to pay attention to the do’s and don’ts of smart resume building. And, yes, there is a cybersecurity skills gap. But to make your resume stand out from the pack, you’ll want something new and different. Here are some great ideas for building a winning cybersecurity resume for those just entering the field, for the most seasoned veterans and everyone in between.

Tips for a Great Cybersecurity Resume: Get Real

First, emphasize the real-world achievements that people who know you best would say about you. This could involve technical skills or strong analytical ability. But it could also focus on the big project you led or when you motivated a team of people under pressure. In Silicon Valley, every entrepreneur raising venture capital needs an ‘elevator pitch’ — the very short, essential statement about what you’re really all about — short enough to deliver during the course of a single ride in an elevator. As a cybersecurity job candidate, you need an elevator pitch as well, and lead with that on your resume.

Get Current

Consult the news about what’s happening now in cybersecurity, and find the areas where those events overlap with your knowledge, skills and interests. Emphasize that on your cybersecurity resume. If you can address the top-of-mind stress points of the group you’re applying to, you’ll have an advantage.

Get Personal

Any resume should list what you’ve done. But make sure you express the positive aspects of who you are. Are you good under pressure? Good with people? Good at solving problems? Curious? High energy? Organized? Comfortable with change? Be honest and direct about the attributes of your personality that may contribute to the team or make you more likely to succeed.

For a Cybersecurity Resume and Beyond: Get Brief

Most resumes present hiring managers with a morass of grey text. But the best ones pop with clear, brief language.

Resumes tend to be polluted with off-putting jargon. It’s natural to want to sound serious, professional and lofty with big, complex words. (Jargon-laden language is one pitfall with cybersecurity resume examples you’ll find online.) Instead, favor everyday words. As Winston Churchill said: “Short words are best.” Write in plain English where possible. Write ‘helped’ and not ‘rendered assistance’; ‘used’ and not ‘utilized’.

Cut everything down to its most essential element. If you’re applying for a CISO position, by all means include your CISO certification. But there’s no need to mention your restaurant job during college.

Nearly all resumes are far too wordy and long. Note that most resumes are rejected in less than 10 seconds. If you want hiring managers to see important information, cut everything else.

Go through your cybersecurity resume and kill needless words. For example, the phrase ‘conducted risk assessments for the organization’ does not need ‘for the organization’. That your work was done as part of your job is assumed, and you can make your resume more appealing and readable without redundancies. Bullet lists are easier to read than long paragraphs, and help you cut words.

Overall, make sure your cybersecurity resume is direct, clear, vivid and, above all, true to life. Build in hooks that will stop hiring managers in their tracks and show them how you’re different. It could be the first step to the next stage in your career.

Mike Elgan

I write a popular weekly column for Computerworld, contribute news analysis pieces for Fast Company, and also write special features, columns and think piece...
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