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10 Tips for Creating a Stand Out Information Security Resume

Let’s be honest – there are 100 million articles out there about how to write the best resume, right?  Right.  Well, after 20 years as a technical recruiter and nearly a decade of recruitment in information security, I know what makes a good resume in this industry.  Some of these tips are industry specific, some are (or should be) common knowledge.  Following these basic principles will ensure you have the right foundation to create a marketing piece (information security resume) that will catapult you into the next phase of your career.

Contact Information

This really should go without saying, but make sure you at least put a an email address on your resume so that employers can contact you.  If you’re posting your resume confidentially, create an email address for this purpose that will not be immediately traced back to you. Also, be certain that your email address is professional and speaks to how you would like a potential employer to see you.  For example, Amy@dirty.com wouldn’t be your best choice.   Also, if you include a phone number, make sure your voicemail message is professional and you – and only you – control who picks up the phone.

Create an Executive Summary

The 80’s are over and the “objective” statement of resumes is gone too.  An executive summary can include your technical areas of expertise and should be your “elevator statement” for who you are in the marketplace, what sets you apart and gives insight into where you are looking to take your career.  This is how you get them to read further so make sure you make it exquisitely clear that you have what it takes to get the job done and you are the unique individual who can do it.

Reverse Chronological Order

Bottom line, don’t make me dig for your current title or where you’re working now.  According to a study by Ladders, recruiters will give your resume a full 6 seconds.  Make these brief seconds count by focusing your executive summary and your most recent position on the first page.  If education is important to the role you’re applying for put it on the first page too. Make sure they have the information they need so they want to read further.

Quantify your Accomplishments

Don’t just talk about what you do during the day (make copies, attend meetings, etc).  Talk about the actual impact you have on the organization in quantifiable terms.  For instance, “designed and implemented the security posture for a $100B organization, resulting in a 30% decrease in threat activity within the first 30 days.”

Visuals

  • Use white space to enhance important points through bullets or numbering
  • Anything you set out of the main body of the text will draw the eye of your audience
  • Don’t use crazy fonts or cute cartoons in your resume – they’re distracting.
  • If you want to downplay something, don’t put it in a bullet!

Length

If you are early career, it makes sense to keep your resume on one page.  If you have more than two relevant jobs,  education and an executive summary, one page means leaving out a great deal of substance or using a ridiculous font.  Two pages is just fine, three pages should be reserved for those with a great deal of substance.  Anything more than three pages should be sent as a separate attachment (publication list, related coursework, etc).  The 26 page resume will not get you the attention you’re looking for. I promise.

Technology Thwarting

Most companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) for resume search, screening and suggesting new jobs to you based on your resume.  Make sure they can do their job by not overly formatting your resume or heavily embedding them with pictures graphics or logos.  While the use of whitespace and content is critical, you don’t want to thwart the ATS or you won’t make it past first base.

Tailor for EVERY Position

This takes time, but it will be well worth the effort if you’re truly invested in making the right career move.  Start with a basic resume and read the position description carefully.  Research the company and find out more about the team using LinkedIn or their corporate website.  Make sure you are answering their primary question about you: “Can this person excel at this specific job in our unique culture?”

Align Professional Profiles with your Resume

If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile create one now.  Make sure it is robust and that the dates and accomplishments match what you have on your resume.  Including additional information on your resume is fine, but make sure they are not conflicting with one another.  The person whose resume title is “Security Architect” and his LinkedIn profile title is CISO raises an immediate red flag.  Don’t forget to update or create profiles with other professional associations you currently belong to like ISSA, ISC2, ISACA or others.

Get some help

Writing a great resume is extremely important and is often your first entrée into the next stage of your career.  You will likely spend so much time with this document that you will not be able to see simple spelling mistakes or missed words.  Make sure you have at least one other person proof read for you.  You don’t need to hire a professional resume writer, but if you have the means, it’s not a bad idea.  Just make sure to have multiple eyes on this information so you can avoid embarrassing mistakes.

Resumes are not just resumes.  They are professional marketing documents and the hiring managers and recruiters who see them make quick assumptions about you based on them.  Make sure your resume is accurate, readable and reflects not only what you’ve done, but who you are eager to become.