Cybersecurity and Job-Hunting During COVID-19

Cybersecurity and Job-Hunting During COVID-19

Part one of a series.


As a result of the COVID-19 crisis unemployment is soaring. Many newly unemployed workers possess skills potentially suited to a career in the cybersecurity industry, which is currently experiencing a dramatic talent shortage.


We asked several of our recruiters what advice they’d offer those interested in exploring security jobs, and careers with Optiv specifically.


Some of what they have to say is generic to all job searches, and speaks to the lack of diligence with which some applicants approach the hunt. (Detail-focus is critical in security environments, so mistake-ridden applications immediately call the candidate’s suitability into question.) One recruiter says “the problem I'm seeing is an increase in individuals who may have the skill level/talent level we want, but they’re failing on the basics. As a result, they get rejected before they ever get to the hiring manager.”


Brad Lewis advises:


Double-, even triple-check all communication for spelling and/or grammatical accuracy. If you leave errors unchecked, it raises questions about your ability to present and sell the organization you're applying for to their clients. This is also true for emails, social media posts and any other written correspondence.


Aaron Burris says “candidates should do their research and tailor their résumés to the position they’re applying for, being sure to highlight their experience relevant to that opportunity. Make sure you address the must-have skills listed in the posting.”


Don Hoffstrom stresses the importance of taking the time to learn about the company with which you’re applying. “If you get an interview, you should have a question or two prepared for the interviewer.”


Our experts then moved on to more industry-specific advice.


Priya Sunil offers an important caution for job seekers acting out of a sense of urgency.


While you might be eager to get your career back on track after a setback caused by the current pandemic, beware of over-applying to every role you see as a potential fit. Research the company, the position, and speak with the people in your network to get some additional insights if possible. In this hiring environment you’ll probably encounter more competition, so make sure you’re selective and focused on what your career goals are. This will also make a stronger impression with the prospective employer.


Given the significant coronavirus-driven shift to remote work, Sherrie Morgan says candidates may want to emphasize their work-from-home capabilities (technology, office set-up, past telework experience, etc.) as well as their flexibility to eventually return to an office environment.


Sunil encourages applicants, who may have extra downtime during the quarantine, to investigate security-related online courses. “There’s a plethora of them and they’re mostly free” she notes. They allow job-seekers to earn specific security-focused skills and even industry certifications.


Our recruiters recommend that those interested in the industry, but who may lack the chops they need right now, take a longer view. “Many of the roles we hire require experience and certifications,” says Catie Simmermacher, “so someone who doesn’t have that can begin working now toward what the job description is asking for.”


There are a host of career tracks in cybersecurity, and the more you know about them the better able you’ll be to identify the area that interests you most and begin preparing for it. Applicants who focus their efforts toward specific roles will have an advantage over those who haven’t done this background work.


A final bit of advice for those with less experience – while Optiv is highly selective, there are thousands of cybersecurity companies and the industry talent gap has created an unusual set of opportunities for those with fewer directly applicable technical skills. Many cybersecurity pros come from non-technical industries and some hiring experts emphasize the importance of solid work habits, soft skills, management ability, strategic business acumen, problem solving and innovation in helping in getting started.


Optiv is continuing to hire remote employees and you can review our open positions at

Sam Smith, PhD | Contributor
Sam has worked in technology and communications marketing for more than 20 years and during that time has served a host of Fortune, enterprise and mid-market leaders. He earned his doctorate from the University of Colorado, where he focused on the development and adoption of emerging digital communication technologies.