If you've ever bought a house or participated in online dating, you may be familiar with the creative ways people euphemistically stretch the truth, or how they'll bore you to tears with dry lists of facts. It's not just dating and real estate where this is a problem; most job listings are every bit as bad, and cybersecurity is no exception.
We all know that when you see a listing for a "cozy" apartment, that it will have roughly the same floor space as a coat-closet. And if you see a dating profile with a list of "must haves" as long as your arm, you're likely dealing with someone who's nightmarishly impossible to please.
Typically, employers seem oblivious to the message their choice of wording sends to would-be employees. For example:
- Pay commensurate with experience = "We will low-ball you on salary."
- Must be detail oriented = "We're probing for any excuse not to hire you."
- Self-starter = "You'll get no direction on what you're expected to do,"
- Fast-paced environment = "You'll be putting out fires, day and night."
- Growth opportunity = "Employees will be ground into paste until they quit."
- Passionate = "Bring a sleeping bag, because you'll be living at work."
It's entirely possible these conditions are accurate, in which case your next hire should be someone who can help you address your less-than-perfect cybersecurity work environment. But if your company truly is a great place to work, it might behoove you to steer clear of these and other common job listing clichés.
To start, don't be that company with a massive list of "must haves." Get realistic about what skills are truly required to do the job, rather than using commonly accepted signifiers for those skills. A particular degree, industry certification, or a specific number of years of experience is less indicative of ability than, say, fluency with a particular software language or technology. It's also important to make sure that your HR department understands the reasoning behind these specific criteria so that they don't undermine your efforts.
Sending the Right Message
After far too many years of online dating, I finally got the idea that dull lists describing either my ideal match or myself were not attracting the people I wanted to meet. So, I decided to include more creative and descriptive material in my profile. Right away, the people who contacted me were more compatible, which told me I was headed in the right direction.
To test the theory further, I asked a friend to participate in my experiment. I suggested that he describe the life he'd like to share with his match, rather than making exhaustive lists of hobbies and interests.
His first draft was rather rough: It included three paragraphs describing all the high-quality, grass-fed beef in his freezer. This was not the best use of a first impression. But subsequent drafts described his life in a way that sounded fun and inviting. The impression his words created was as warm and enthusiastic as he is in real life. Unsurprisingly, he found a long-term match very shortly after posting that update.
Work Culture? "I Love My Job"
If you want to attract the most suitable candidates to apply for a cybersecurity job, craft a story that answers a few questions:
- What will the right candidate love about this job?
- What would a great day at work be like?
- How can they make a difference within the company, or in the world at large?
- How would working for your company make their life better?
- What strengths will help them succeed in this job?
Make sure the photos you include in the help-wanted ad and on your website are reasonably flattering and diverse; if they feature people from only one demographic, anyone who isn't in that demographic is likely to keep scrolling. Make sure your social media presence creates an attractive image too. And lastly, make sure you're doing a good job of communicating clearly, and in a timely fashion. (Nobody likes being ghosted!)
Whether you're trying to attract a potential homebuyer, date, or employee, the first and most important step is to make sure that the environment you're trying to draw people into is attractive, interesting, and functional. Once you've gotten that far, then you can create an appealing description to entice people to inquire further.