Career Advice Tueday – “Getting Past the Gate-Keeper”

January 17, 2012

Dear Infosecleaders:

I have recently applied for a position that I believe will advance my information security career.  In submitting my resume via the company’s internet posting, I tailored many of my accomplishments directly to the criteria of the position description.   I have to admit that I am a very skilled wordsmith, and may have taken some liberties in the description and the scope of the work that I have performed.

For example, I often serve as a team lead and project manager for technical engagements, but I have never managed people directly.  The role that I am applying for has direct reports.   Also, the position description calls for an understanding of some specific information security tools that the company uses – like data loss prevention and GRC compliance software.  While I have experience with these concepts and similar tools, in depth knowledge and experience with these particular tools has eluded me.    Finally, the position calls for the ability to travel 50% of the time.    I am really not interested in this amount of travel, but I have a friend that works there and she told me that she does not travel any more than 25%.

I am now scheduled to have my first conversation for the interview, a phone conversation with the human resources/internal recruiter – given the things that I have shared with you, do you have any advice on how I should handle her questions?  I know that she is going to read the JD verbatim, and ask me questions where my answers may exclude me from consideration.

I really want a chance to speak to the hiring manager and fellow info sec professionals in the group, to articulate my experiences and demonstrate that I have what it takes to be a viable candidate for the role.

Any words of advice.


Michaele Salahi


Dear Michaele:

I would like to provide you with some advice that is two-fold for your exact situation.    First, is that some of the deficiencies that you have pointed our in your skill set may be deal breakers with the resident information security leader, so please tread carefully in your presentation in the skills that you have to offer.  There are many items in a job description that are truly requirements of a position, and no matter how great your ambition or creative your presentation, you may have to accept that your skills are going to fall short of expectations.

For example, the role may really need someone who has strong people management skills, which is not found in a “team lead” or “project manager”.  The utilization and knowledge of specific tools may be a success factor in the role, and although your friend only travels 25% in their role, this position may require double that amount of travel.

All that being said, I agree with you 100% that the decision should be placed in the hands of the hiring manager and not the internal recruiter/human resources professional.   Ideally, the Infosecleader and hiring manager are the ones that best understand their needs, and no matter how adept their level of communication, something get lost in translation – specifically granular job requirements.

You should understand that this misunderstanding is not the fault or responsibility of the internal human resources/recruiter, as it is nearly impossible for someone who works in a general capacity, to understand the nuances of what it takes to understand the specific nature of the role that you are pursuing.  However, there are certain elements of the role that HR will understand – the company’s definition of a “Manager”, the importance of specific tool knowledge (although they may not be able to make the jump from tool (i.e. Checkpoint) to concept (Firewalls)), or the amount of travel.

Independent, after doing my job for 15 years, I am of firm belief that it should be every information security professional’s goal to get to the decision maker during an interview process.  This is where your “sales skills” should come into play.   My advice for you would be to engage the internal recruiter, and leave them with enough confidence from your discussion to move you forward in the interview process.

This will enable you to get the real answers to your questions and demonstrate your level of competence to a knowledgeable party who has the ability to make an evaluation of your skills.   When you do get to that level of the interview, you have a responsibility to make it clear to the hiring manager, what your true capabilities are as it relates to the job requirements that they articulate during your discussion.

Hope this helps,

Lee Kushner

Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Behavior, Career Advice Tuesday, Interviewing, Recruiting, Resume, Skills 


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