Hiring the Right Candidate for Information Security Success

By Fortra's Digital Defense

Finding Great Talent

As anyone who works as a hiring manager in the information security field can tell you, acquiring new talent can be a real challenge.  I’ve had discussions with IT/INFOSEC hiring managers all over the country, and they all feel the same pain that I do.

Put plainly, interviewing can be rough, especially when you begin to ask technical questions like how the candidate would craft a script to automate a particular duty in their job. While many of the candidates have an academic understanding of the principals of information technology and information security, few have the practical knowledge that would allow them to contribute to the team on day 1 of their employment.

It also doesn’t help that the INFOSEC industry is white hot, making the job pool of qualified candidates relatively small, even here in San Antonio, Texas, which is second only to Washington, D.C. in terms of the number of information security practitioners.

Facing the Challenges with Innovation

As a result of these challenges I opted to create an innovative internship program that has grown considerably over the years.

We take a different approach to internships. We encourage the interns to become part of our team.  They are not put in a corner and given menial tasks to complete.  Hardly!  They do real work, not document filing or shuffling paper.  By allowing them to take on challenging work and interact heavily with the different teams within the company it becomes easy to determine who will be a solid fit for our organization when they graduate.  To date we’ve hired numerous individuals that started out with us as an intern and then went on to show themselves to be a valuable asset to the company.

What Does It Take to Become a Strong Intern Candidate?

While you may be thinking that what we want in an intern is someone who is technical, you’d only be partially right.  Here are 3 key skills that we seek in every candidate

  • Writing skills: Interns need to have the ability to write in a clear and concise form.  Depending upon the team they intern with they may be writing reports that are read by a Vice President or C-Level exec, or perhaps they will be constructing instructions for job duties that are going to be assumed by someone else at the end of their own internship.  Sadly, you have no idea how many writing samples we’ve seen that ended up making us opt for a different candidate.
  • Soft skills: Ah yes, soft skills.  Far too many people who want to intern with us assume that they will never meet with a client because we operate in the INFOSEC space.  That is honestly the farthest thing from the truth. Between contacting clients as part of their job duties or meeting a client visiting from out of state, chances are they’re going to have to interact with someone at some point.  Even if they end up working in a non-public facing role, they will be interacting with internal team members every day.
  • Basic Scripting: So this one is a little off.  Could we teach someone how to write basic scripts in Python, Bash, or PowerShell?    Do we want to?  No.  What we look for is someone that has gone beyond the C# and Java programming taught at the universities and taught themselves how to script tasks and thereby make the work they do more efficient.  Learning a scripting language also illustrates that the candidate understands that learning goes beyond what is required for their university degree.

Is an Internship for Everyone?

That’s an easy question to answer.  No.

Interning is not everyone’s bag, especially when it is at a fast moving information security firm like Digital Defense, Inc..  However, for those who want a challenging job and want to learn skills that will be valuable to them in their career, interning is an excellent idea and a great way to get their foot in the door at the right firm.

For more information on internships and career opportunities, please visit https://www.digitaldefense.com/careers/

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