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How to find qualified people for your security team

Jul 31, 20154 mins
IT JobsIT Leadership

Talent shortage or not, here are some strategies to find -- and develop -- the people you need for your security team

Are you searching for qualified security talent?

An endless parade of headlines and articles suggests we have a talent shortage. I recently outlined (read it here) why the claim of a global shortage is more perception than reality. 

I enjoyed the discussions it created. I look forward to more. This is an important topic. 

Maybe we have an actual shortage. Perhaps a true talent gap exists. I remain skeptical that anecdotal evidence and perception surveys signal a global crisis.

Back to reality.

Once considered a limited career path, security has recently experienced an explosion in popularity. A top concern in executive suites and boardrooms, security is a clear focus.

With lots of confusion.

Eager to “do something,” companies increased budgets, authorized hiring, and expect results. Many security leaders find themselves in need of help. Qualified help. People who can hit the ground running. Oh, and they need to start yesterday.

What do you do when you need help? 

Even under pressure to perform, this is an opportunity for leadership. Getting the help you need might take a different approach. Here are some ways to find — or develop — the talent you need. 

If you are ready to expand your team

This is where exceptional security leadership pays off. With a clear and accurate understanding of your environment:

  • Clarify and rank the problems you need to address. Instead of looking for specific skills, consider the challenge and the expected outcome. What does success look like? 
  • Outsource as much as you can. Specialized tasks are generally performed better for less money when outsourcing. That saves budget for headcount to focus on efforts that create value. 
  • Invest in technology to increase capabilities, decrease workload. Improve your team function before hiring more people. Focus on selecting solutions that work for you. Avoid shiny lights and big promises. As a result, you get the people you need to advance, not just someone to shuttle paper or watch a screen. 
  • Check your current training programs. Pay attention to how you welcome new team members. Assess your on-the-job (OTJ) training.  The purpose of training is imparting new skills. Hiring the right competencies and aptitudes enhances training efforts. 
  • Classify open positions based on competency. Instead of defining specific skills or technologies, identify competencies, attitudes, and abilities. With limited exceptions, the right move is to hire the right person and train them for the needed skills. 

What exactly do you look for in candidates?

When you classify positions based on competency, what do you look for?

Before you answer, think broader. 

What are the aptitudes, attitudes, and abilities that drive success in security? Look for those. We talked about this on Down the Security Rabbithole Episode 152 (listen here). 

Three qualities that stand out:

  • Curiosity: the desire to figure things out and understand why they happen is essential.
  • Consume and apply information: often, the solution requires sifting through a lot of information. The key is the ability to identify and apply the right insights. 
  • Tenacity:  security is not easy. That means the need to stick with a problem to see it through. Even better if the person is both tenacious and patient.

This is just a start. What do you look for?

Leave a comment below. Or connect with me on Twitter (@catalyst) and lets keep the conversation going. 

Partner with HR for a better process

Hiring is a cycle. Partner with your human resources (HR) team to first understand their approach and constraints. Ask how you can contribute to their success. This is your success. 

Find a way to work together to evaluate candidates. This is especially important as you shift from skills-based to competency-based hiring. Develop a way to share information. Refine the process. 

It’s not all on them. It’s not all on you, either. How you work together is important.

As you explore the hiring process, consider the following:

  • Audition for the role instead of interviewing. 
  • Learn and use behavior-based interviewing. 
  • Train your team on the process. Teach them what to look for. Recognize that talent drives talent. Give them the power to help build a team they want to be part of. 

It may seem this is a strategic approach. It is. Done properly, it yields an immediate tactical benefit. The more you work as a team to refine the process, the better it gets. 

Take a moment to reflect, then share

These ideas are quick, effective, and easy to put in place. If you need help now, make time to focus on these.

This is a quick attempt to offer solutions. It only scratches the surface. Let’s keep the conversation going. Explore the shifts in thinking and changes in approach we need. 

Share your experience, challenges, and celebrate your successes in the comments or on twitter. 


Michael Santarcangelo develops exceptional leaders and powerful communicators with the security mindset for success. The founder of Security Catalyst, he draws on nearly two decades of experience of success advancing security in variety of operational roles. He guides leaders and teams on the best next step of their journey.

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