With global cybersecurity job openings and security threats at all-time highs, enterprises are struggling to fill positions with qualified staff. But while the problem threatens to plague the IT industry for years to come, security leaders and hiring managers can take proactive measures to attract and retain top talent for their organizations.

Five Tips to Close the Cybersecurity Skills Gap

They key is to think outside the box, communicate with others in the industry and commit to professional development. Below are five tricks companies can employ to fill unoccupied roles and reduce the cybersecurity skills gap.

1. Stop Looking for Obvious Candidates

Campus recruiting efforts may categorize applications by specialized degrees and internship experience, but final-term students may not have fully developed goals beyond what they know from their classes and placement assistance. Security leaders should look for technical aptitude and hands-on experience that may have little to do with degrees. For example, resumes may not list activities such as hackathons, which produce indirect if informal experience that could jump-start a cybersecurity career.

Read the IBM Executive report: Addressing the Skills Gap with a New Collar Approach

2. Identify Internal Talent

Keep an eye on existing IT employees and look for those who have been doing great work on complex projects. Job skills can translate from one technical specialty to another if the person is motivated and interested in changing. Be sure you have resources in place to help them transition. These could include funds for education assistance or mentoring opportunities with existing staff.

3. Consult With Vendors

Security product vendors know the landscape and the companies they work with. It’s unreasonable to expect them to assist you in recruiting talent away from another company, but they may have advance knowledge of someone leaving an existing position. Keep an open dialogue with vendor representatives about the job market in general and solicit their impressions regarding what kinds of employees are most likely to be successful in the positions you’re trying to fill.

4. Prioritize Ability Over Experience

When there are few experienced candidates for an open cybersecurity position, consider those who may have applied for other technical roles. The qualifications that make for skilled security professionals are similar in many ways to those of programmers and data analysts. An interest in learning, technical aptitude, attention to detail and side-by-side collaboration with other security staff is likely to produce a better-qualified employee in less time than it would take to find someone with experience.

5. Train Your Own Potential Hires

The cybersecurity skills shortage will not be resolved any time soon, so companies are in for a long period of waiting for someone to solve the crisis. Companies that train their own potential hires are much more likely to fill positions and retain talent.

Opportunities range from co-sponsoring cybersecurity certification programs to offering employees paid time to teach at educational institutions. This enables enthusiastic students to form bonds with their teachers and gain positive impressions of the companies that may be in line to hire them.

Think Outside the Box

It’ll take an industrywide culture shift to close the cybersecurity skills gap for good, but individual organizations can mitigate the effects of the talent shortage with a long-term and wide-ranging approach to recruiting. Every enterprise is looking to fill these gaps, but companies that think beyond traditional recruiting practices will have a clear edge.

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