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Personality traits of a cybersecurity hire

By By Kathryn Uhles, associate dean of IT, College of Business and Information Technology
April 28, 2020 • 2 minute read

With cyberattacks costing U.S. businesses billions of dollars annually[1], cybersecurity personnel are becoming a top priority in today’s marketplace.

Instead of guarding against physical intruders, they are watching for identity theft, malware, password infiltration and phishing schemes that are designed to compromise sensitive information.

But as a business owner — most likely with expertise in fields other than online security — how do you find and recruit employees with the skillset needed to keep your system safe?

Top-notch cybersecurity professionals share some common characteristics that can help business owners pick an appropriate hire. Professionally, they seek ongoing education. They understand current threats and breaches. They evaluate company policies that impact the organization’s safety at all levels.

So, what characteristics should guide your decision? Here are five of the most common characteristics to consider when recruiting for a cybersecurity position.

1. They never stop learning

Look for cybersecurity candidates who demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning. To protect your business, cybersecurity personnel need to be actively and aggressively seeking out information about potential threats against your organization.

Avoid hires who appear satisfied with their current level of understanding. Ask questions to determine whether the candidate is willing to evolve, adapt and seek out new information.

2. They pay attention to small details

A good candidate will demonstrate heightened attention to the finer details of online security. Ask questions about how the candidate identified and resolved cybersecurity threats in another business. Ask for details about their processes for discovering potential threats.

Oftentimes, an IT security incident is the result of a small problem that gets worse over time. Paying attention to granular metrics can prevent these minor issues from developing into large-scale problems that could weaken or destroy your business.

3. They approach problems with persistence

Cybercriminals are motivated to steal data and cause chaos in the workplace. Look for cybersecurity candidates who are equally passionate about keeping your business safe. Ask questions about how your potential hire resolved a particularly stubborn problem.

Look for problem-solving skills. Look for a never-give-up attitude. And look for someone who thinks like a hacker, with “black hat” intuition that can help them see potential vulnerabilities in your system through the eyes of a cybercriminal.

4. They demonstrate a stable, relevant career background

Look for candidates who have a stable professional background in the tech space. Resumes with frequent bounces between jobs should create some concern when looking for someone who can monitor and protect your business long-term.

A military background is a bonus. As a group, military veterans tend to perform well under pressure. They are accustomed to identifying threats, working in a team environment and serving in leadership capacities.

5. They have appropriate cybersecurity certifications

Look for candidates who have received formal cybersecurity certifications. This will allow you to sift serious candidates from soft ones. A few of the most common types of industry certifications include Certified Information Security Officer (CCISO)[1], Certified Secure Computer User Certification (CSCU)[2], Certified Network Defender Certification (CND)[3], and Certified Ethical Hacker Certification (CEH)[4]

In today’s marketplace, industry experts recommend that business owners seriously consider specialized personnel to protect their companies, their customers and their employees, from C-suite executives to part-time staffers. If you are currently evaluating cybersecurity personnel, then you are already on the right path.

Kathryn Uhles is the associate dean of IT programs and faculty member in the College of Business and IT at University of Phoenix.