Last updated at Tue, 25 Apr 2023 21:27:32 GMT

Modern job descriptions have quite the reputation for causing reactionary eye-rolling. Why? Because what used to be a couple of paragraphs – about requirements and experience for performing a cybersecurity analyst job – is actually now filled with a laundry list of criteria that make candidates think twice before hitting the “Apply Now” button.

Before you know it, the potential applicant has read a couple thousand words of simple job requirements, plus an “alphabet soup” of certifications. It’s all a bit ridiculous, considering if applicants spent all of their time studying for these tests, they wouldn’t have any real-world experience (or a life!) to back it up. In fact, the candidate may even be overqualified for the job, and the person who wrote the listing is the one who should probably feel ridiculous…and inefficient.

Description or unrealistic wishlist?

Even the term “wishlist” isn’t accurate, because many job descriptions veer off of what the job function will actually be and start listing “nice-to-haves” as requirements. Thus, even a function not likely to be under an analyst’s day-to-day purview becomes something the candidate reads in the description and makes them decide not to pursue the position. Or worse, it requires the applicant to use a technology stack they’ve never accessed. And maybe with wording that conveys the availability of a little guidance and/or teaching with regard to that new tech, they might end up applying. The takeaway: Be transparent about what the job will actually require because the applicant might be an amazing fit.

This is a more pervasive problem throughout the cybersecurity industry than many think. For example, an entry-level security analyst job description might list a few certifications as hard requirements. But one of those certifications requires a minimum of five years paid work experience. So the requirements in the job description end up being contradictory, and the hiring manager might need to have a think about what kind of position they’re actually trying to fill.  

Even if that magical security unicorn that matched all the requirements did exist, they’ll still need to learn something on days 1 to 100. Namely, the ins and outs of the company, the office space, meeting cadence, team dynamics…and maybe some coworkers’ first names. There’s always something new at the beginning that becomes part of the onboarding process, and learning a new tool (or two) shouldn’t be grounds to give a prospective applicant pause.

A DIY description should start with DEI

Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) isn’t just a corporate slogan – it’s simply the right thing to do. And knowing how to weave that sentiment and practice into a job description can be tricky. But with the right mix of welcoming language and realistic requirements, you’ll start to attract great candidates. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when writing with DEI in mind (again, so you can attract the absolute best candidate pool):

  • Are you simply listing the requirements and calling it a day, or are you weaving thoughtful language in and around those requirements that also keeps in mind things like gender bias and overly corporate language?
  • Are you creating an inviting description for potential candidates with non-typical backgrounds, such as those who might have Associate’s Degrees (but maybe also a ton of experience and/or natural aptitude) or those who may be recent grads but could turn into absolute rockstars sooner than you think?
  • Your company may have worked hard to integrate DEI into its culture and its very DNA. Is that reflected in the descriptions for your open positions currently published across all the job sites?
  • Are you including language that can help prep candidates for the actual interview process?

Stay tuned in

It’s not rocket science, as the old saying goes. But if you’re having trouble attracting expert talent that will stay loyal (at least for a few years), it can be worthwhile to poke around jobs sections of social sites, cybersecurity talent forums, and a ton of listings from the competition to see what kind of language they’re using and if it’s actually attracting talent (how long has that listing been up?). You’ll notice the best job descriptions are not all about the job itself; postings should say what the company is looking for AND what it can do for the candidate – beyond salary and benefits.

It’s true that a positive work environment can do wonders for productivity, camaraderie, and Glassdoor reviews from employees that reflect favorably on their time in your security operations center (SOC). It’s also good to keep in mind that if it all goes well and you end up with several employees who all stay five years or more, their experience begins with that job description. They’ll always remember reading it; how it made them feel and what prompted them to click “Apply Now,” so make that listing a good one.    

You can also read our new eBook, 13 Tips for Overcoming the Cybersecurity Talent Shortage, for a deeper dive into the current cybersecurity skills gap and more steps you can take to address it within your own organization. You can also check out the previous entry in this blog series here.