Hot Tech Skills Bend Resume-Writing Rules

What grabbed the recruiter’s eye was the security pro’s certification, on top of his resume and smack dab in front of her face.

CISSP: How’s that for a resume title?

The acronym stands for Certified Information Systems Security Professional. Listing just the acronym without spelling it out, let alone using a more generic term such as “Security Engineer,” might put off the uninitiated. But to recruiters and hiring managers in the know, CISSP says it all: It’s one of hottest tech qualifications on the market.

Make no mistake: Most resumes need to be tailored to an HR generalist. But for a few specialized roles, such as this area of security technology, recruiters steeped in the discipline are trained to look for specific jargon like “CISSP,” and putting it front and center makes sense.

Before you bend resume rules to lead with a term like CISSP, do market research to find out if your qualification is really a golden ticket to a new job. That means talking to recruiters familiar with your field as well as peers in the same role and former bosses.

“The CISSP [certification] is very sought after, very hard to get,” said Elizabeth Lions, an author and career coach who was headhunting recently for just that type of professional. “In 10 seconds, [the candidate] made me know he had that credential. It’s to engineering as CPA is to accounting. [It’s a credential that’s] sought after, that takes time and energy, and that separates him out from other candidates.”

The hiring process is far from transparent, so it’s always enlightening when a recruiter pulls back the curtain on the mysterious decision-making process — the one that makes them pluck a resume out of the applicant pile. This time around, Lions shared some specifics about what it was in this professional’s resume that scored him the job. Read on for a peek into her impressions of a winning resume.

Revising Resume Rules for Special Cases

Most of the time, resume-writing protocol mandates that resumes start off with name and contact information, followed immediately by a title. An executive summary most often follows the title.

In this case, the candidate, Nate, started with his name and contact information. But then, in place of a job title such as “Security Engineer,” he instead listed the title “Certifications,” under which he put the sole acronym “CISSP.”

Nate then replaced the Executive Summary with a “Skills” section that contained a slew of bullet points, including: * Checkpoint * Juniper * Cisco * Bluecoat * Nortel * Crossbeam * Nokia * SourceFire * RSA * TippingPoint * Qradar * Qualys * Solaris * Tufin * Firemon * ASA * Citrix * Netscaler * DLP

If you’re as hot as a CISSP, the rules are clearly a little different, Lions said. Nate’s certification is his title. His list of skills is his executive summary.

“His title is Security Engineer,” she said. “If you did a Google search on the top most sought-after IT skills, that’s in the top 5. I already know he’s in high demand.”

A title like “Security Engineer” can mean a lot of different things and include duties that don’t necessarily get into the nitty-gritty skills her client was seeking, she said. By inserting the specific certificate title, Nate got across the fact that he had met the certificate’s rigorous requirements: a minimum of five years of direct full-time security work experience in two or more of 10 information security domains. (A four-year college degree, a master’s degree in Information Security, or a number of other certifications can substitute for one of those years.)

Catching the Recruiter’s Eye

In a nutshell, here’s why Nate’s resume jumped out of the pile for Lions, in her own words:

  1. He outlined all his skills at the top, so they are easy to find for any recruiter, HR person or manager.
  2. His skills are in top demand, and he knows it.
  3. He put his recent credential at the top, knowing that this credential is hard to find in the market.
  4. He has worked for top companies that are well-known.

In addition, Nate had his act together when Lions interviewed him. Here are factors that impressed her beyond the printed page, again in her own words:

  1. He was very clear in his career moves, which were well thought out when I spoke to him.
  2. He had a profile of where he wanted to work and where he did not want to work.
  3. He could clearly tell me why he is all that and a bag of chips. He has his sell.
  4. He knows who/what/where he wants to be when he grows up.