Elite Cybersecurity Talent in a Competitive Job Market with Mimi Gross

Elite Cybersecurity Talent in a Competitive Job Market with Mimi Gross

For over a year, labor shortages have dominated headlines, impacting our everyday lives as this crisis translates into supply chain issues, business closures, and overall longer wait times for customers across industries. On the latest episode of the Left to Our Own Devices podcast, Mimi Gross, the cybersecurity matchmaker gives tips and tricks to attract and retain top talent that jives with your prized teams.

Looking into her background, Mimi has been a ‘matchmaker’ long before it was her career. Before focusing on assisting cybersecurity organizations, she worked with non-profits to connect donors, grant receivers, and people who wanted to contribute to the given cause. “I always liked connecting people with purpose,” said Mimi. As her career progressed, she found the cybersecurity field to be exciting, dynamic, and vital to the fight of ‘good’ vs. ‘evil’. “I think it’s the persona of these good and bad personas that pull people in.”

Addressing today’s talent shortages

While all sectors are feeling the talent squeeze, Cybersecurity is part of a greater technology ecosystem that demands expertise in a narrow set of skills. This means employers need to get creative in luring people away from somewhere that they are already settled.

“Taking somebody who’s great at their job out of a current role is much harder than it ever was. That’s the number one challenge employers are facing,” said Gross. “It’s just a greater collective averseness to risk. People are saying to themselves, ‘we don’t know what will be tomorrow’.” This feeling follows years of COVID-19, supply chain snags, economic uncertainty, and geopolitical instability. In the past people may have jumped to an exciting opportunity even if success was not guaranteed. Today, with hybrid work from home models and a familiarity with video conferencing, people aren’t going to leave a comfortable situation in exchange for uncertainty.

Mimi continued that if companies want to attract talent, they need to accept that this is the current market. Putting up a job posting on a popular board doesn’t cut it the way it used to.

Leadership is getting wiser

As the skilled labor market began experiencing the ‘Great Resignation’, companies who wanted to retain their employees made sure to do it in a big way.

In the past, companies dictated working hours and set ever-higher expectations for output. Today, employees spend most of their time working from the comfort of their home, where they can care for their kids, take breaks as needed, and be productive in a way that fits with their natural rhythm. If a team works best at a time that was previously set aside for commuting, they’ll want to keep that time slot for brainstorming– and companies are happy to oblige.

As companies answered employee demands for greater flexibility and higher standards, workers got in their groove. This works in an employer’s favor as it greatly reduces the resources needed by Human Resource departments as they spend less time managing employee onboarding and churn. But, the resource-intensive recruiting process can’t be fully automated.

HR professionals need to use the human touch to pique a prospect’s interest. Once in contact with them, they must consider not only their skills, but their potential to jive with the current team.

What big companies can learn from small companies when recruiting

Traditionally, larger companies relied on paper-driven recruiting– posting, reviewing credentials, and making decisions based on experience.

This impersonal approach makes larger corporations less desirable to prospects, since they can’t directly grasp the company culture. “What startups do that I think corporations could build upon is real employer branding. Really thinking of creative and strategic ways to personalize the process– and that requires authenticity,” said Gross. “You can’t just have a production team write a script then come and do a commercial about working with you. You need to have your real employees speak about what working there is like.”

Once startups and smaller organizations have the attention of prospects, then they can begin to combine the candidate’s experience with their personality to predict how they will connect within the greater culture. “At the end of the day, it is chemistry, regardless of company size,” continued Gross. “You have to want to learn from that person. You have to feel that. They need to be somebody you want to talk with every day. Somebody you wanna give your problems to, somebody you wanna take problems from. Listen to the chemistry, listen to the red flags, if there’s red flags.”

The future of talent recruitment in cybersecurity

Gross explained that ultimately, many of the skills needed to succeed in cybersecurity can’t be taught in school. It’s the soft skills and life experience, such as experience hacking systems, that can make a candidate stand out- even if the hard skills are not necessarily listed on their resume.

If companies want to keep attracting top talent, companies should lower the barrier of entry, such as requiring a college degree, and remain aware of the state of recruiting at the moment.

During a strong market, candidates will come to your company. During a more challenging recruiting market, companies should be comfortable ‘woo-ing’ a candidate, just as they would with dating. This approach creates a balance, allowing both sides to understand what they are offering and making it easier to make that leap to a new role.