BUILDING A RESUME FOR CYBERSECURITY
Creating your resume may seem like a daunting and confusing task, especially when it comes to deciding on what to include. The main goal of your resume is to describe your experience, education, and interests in a way that is relevant to the position for which you are applying. Keep in mind that the hiring manager is looking at many resumes so your resume must get their attention – not through smells, or flashy colors, but by quickly showing you meet their needs. To create one that is polished, professional, and relevant be sure to focus on what employers most want to know.
Contact Information: Feature this prominently so employers can easily reach you, including:
- Email Address
- Phone Number
- LinkedIn Handle
- Github User Name
Objective: The objective states what you are seeking, serves as a headline for your resume and summarizes what you have to offer. You should customize this for different applications if the objective doesn’t correspond to the job posted.
Applicable experience. For cyber hiring managers, relevant experience is more valued than education, so this portion of your resume should go first and include internship, research, tutoring, or jobs that have allowed you to gain knowledge, skills, and insights relevant to the position you are interested in. If you are just starting and your experience is in fast food, then put your education first.
Employment information should be in reverse chronological order and include:
- The organization’s name and location
- Position held
- Dates of employment (month and year)
- Bulleted descriptions of your accomplishments. Begin each one with a verb and concentrate on areas related to the position you are seeking.
Tailor the descriptions of your experiences and duties so they highlight your results. Do not only describe what you did, describe the value of your work to the company, e.g., provided level one SOC support, or created technical documentation. Always note if you spearheaded a project or were asked to take on additional work beyond your regular role. Pay attention to the first word of each. Use power words to show your role (Led, Implemented, Established, Designed, Developed). Don’t over use the word, though – mix it up.
Employers hiring in cyber security will scan your resume for examples of how you have applied security concepts. Have you done risk assessment for a company or developed a new software? List any relevant projects. Be sure to highlight leadership or creative experiences and any special projects you worked on or aided.
You do not have to list every position you have held. If you choose to include a job that is less relevant to the position for which you are applying, keep the description to one line. Use this opportunity to showcase the value of working while going to school (“Successfully managed to work 10 hours a week as a server while enrolled in 18 credit hours.")
Pertinent skills. Technology, technical writing, and professional skills are the top three skills considered desirable by employers in the cybersecurity field. Include skills you have used inside the classroom, as part of a project for a student organization, for prior employment, or in independent research. If the job requires a specific technological skill set that you have, be sure to include those skills and types of knowledge on your resume. Do not forget to include professional skills like technical writing, teamwork, communications, and your adaptability to change. Only list skills that you have and can speak to knowledgeably in an interview -- you will be asked.
Most employers today assume applicants for cybersecurity roles know how to use Microsoft software; list “Microsoft Office Suite” instead of individual components, then use the extra space to highlight what makes you stand out.
KEY WORDS TO INCLUDE ON YOUR RESUME
Besides key words found in the job description, employers looking for cybersecurity talent frequently search for these keywords in resumes:
Education. List details about your education in reverse chronological order, with the most recent or current item first. Be sure to include:
- University and Location
- Major(s) and Minor(s)
- Expected graduation month and year
- GPA (cumulative GPA is recommended, or you can include your major GPA which is listed on your degree audit)
Interests, activities, and leadership experiences. In cybersecurity this is an important section where you can share things that indicate passion and interest in related fields. Recruiters are interested in well-rounded students who have assumed leadership roles and participated in other activities during their time as a student. Showcase your accomplishments, gained skills, and knowledge. When choosing what to include on your resume; a general rule of thumb is to list only those that are most relevant to the position for which you are applying. List a bullet point or two under each activity to show the value of your experiences and the impact you had on the organization. Not every activity has to be structured. Consider activities you enjoy that demonstrate security skills such as jigsaw puzzles, board games, escape rooms, ham radios, technology interests of any kind, music, history, etc.
Honors and awards. If there is room, use extra space to highlight pertinent honors and awards, like a prestigious scholarship or a “best poster” award.
Relevant Coursework/projects. List ones that highlight differences between Trust (law policy, ethics, psychology, international studies, security, etc.) and Cyber (data analytics, networking, database administration, etc.).
THINGS TO REMEMBER
Give the employer what they ask for. If the employer asks for both a resume and a cover letter, be sure to provide both. If you only provide one or none of the requested documents, chances are good you will not be chosen for an interview.
Cover Letter is a must. Unless the post specifically states no cover letters, you should provide one. It is the first thing the hiring manager will see, it helps the HR filter to know you fit the position, and gives you an opportunity really emphasize a few things about you, your interest in the position, and why you are a good fit for this.
Be concise. Keep your resume easy to read and brief, so recruiters can easily see your most relevant (and impressive) experiences and accomplishments. f you do not have a lot of experience you should stick to one page for your resume.
Sell yourself. Use your resume to spotlight accomplishments and experiences that are relevant to the position you are seeking. Use pertinent vocabulary, coursework, and experiences to underscore your suitability for the job, but keep it third person. Your cover letter is where you can get into details and “I”.
Formatting matters. Your resume and cover letter create a first impression of you for employers. Careful, consistent formatting signals that you know how to do things well.