Beyond Certifications: What are the Qualifications that Really Stand Out on a Resume?Hint: There's Nothing Like Hands-On Experience The CISSP has become almost ubiquitous among information security professionals. The same can be said for many industry- and technology-specific certifications.
And while certifications are not perfect, they are a decent way for security professionals to learn how to perform complex job functions and display basic expertise in required skill sets, as well as enhance their standing as generalists. At the same time, certifications offer a potential employer a standard by which to assess whether a job candidate has the security expertise he/she is going to need to know for a specific job.
"Certifications in this arena have become a prerequisite for an information security job," says Tracy Lenzner, CEO, Lenzner Group, an executive security search and consulting services firm based in New York. "We are seeing more and more employers make certification a standard and a criterion for hire".
So, what is it - beyond certifications -- that really jumps out from a resume and impresses a prospective employer?
We asked several hiring managers for their insights on what they seek in prospective hires.
Nothing Like Experience
Certifications show a certain amount of base skills the candidate will possess in terms of the theoretical understanding and knowledge. But there's nothing like hands-on experience in the job, says Nathan Johns, Executive with Crowe Horwath LLC, and former Chief of Information Technology at the FDIC. "If two equal candidates in terms of work experience are vying for a job, then the candidate holding certifications will probably have the upper hand," Johns says. "However, a certified person with little experience will not fare so well against an uncertified person with a lot of experience".
Jennifer Bayuk, former CISO at Bear Stearns & Co., looks for security professionals who are able to distinguish themselves via their resume by communicating the type of problems they can solve and by providing a clear picture of how they best fit the job position by giving examples of work accomplished in the field. "There is no substitute for hands on experience".
For Debbie Wheeler, Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Fifth Third Bank, certifications make a difference when evaluating a multitude of candidates and are used as an initial prioritization of candidates. "Certifications can initially draw a hiring manager's attention to a specific candidate, but hiring decisions ultimately come down to the hands on experience and overall qualifications of the individual."
Among the factors weighed beyond certifications:
And then there are the soft skills. Security professionals need to know how they project themselves to their colleagues and management team. What is the impression of them and their work that others around carry and talk about?
Kushner further adds that security professionals will need to give importance to moving beyond baseline requirements by:
Tips for Moving Beyond Certifications
Hiring managers offer these tips to security professionals who want to enhance their resumes after they attain their necessary certifications: