Writing a resume for your first cybersecurity job can be a daunting task. People don't love writing resumes in general. Writing one for a new career field can be understandably intimidating. Here’s a few tips to clean up your resume before sending it to prospective employers.
Get an Experienced Reviewer
Find someone to review your resume and give you feedback. Preferably someone who has experience hiring people. They don’t need to work in cybersecurity (though it wouldn’t hurt). Early in our careers we’ve seen very few resumes. Some people have only seen their own.
Thus we have limited perspective of how our resumes come across to a recruiter or hiring manager. Professionals, who are regularly involved with hiring, have likely seen hundreds of resumes (or more). Basic problems with your resume will stand out to them, even if they know nothing about cybersecurity.
Format and Readability
We like to imagine a recruiter or hiring manager with a printed copy of our resume in hand, reading through every line of our experience and qualifications, giving ample consideration to our candidacy. In reality they’re reviewing your resume on a computer screen (maybe even a smartphone screen) along with resumes for a few other candidates they’re considering.
If you’re lucky, they’ll spend 30 seconds reviewing your resume. That means your resume needs to be written in a readable format. Key details need to jump out and be easy to find. Fifty percent of resume writing is about content. The other 50% is about displaying that you can concisely describe your experience in a manner that makes the recruiter want to know more about in just one to two pages.
Conventional wisdom is that you get one page of resume for each decade of work experience that you have. If you’re 23 years old with a three page resume, you risk being rejected on principle. You don’t need to write your life story or every internship. Presenting your best self requires conciseness.
Choose the Right Bullets
If you’re recrafting your resume for a new career field, you’ll want to revisit your resume bullets. Develop or recycle bullets that highlight any experience you have with technology, process development, or simply that you’re a fast learner. If you followed the Roadmap to a Cybersecurity Career, then you completed Self-Education and Credentialization. Highlight relevant training, certifications, and experience (even volunteer experience) that support your new career ambitions.
If you’re hurting for space and you have educational bullets that don’t align with your cybersecurity career goals, consider removing portions of them. The Education section is a good place to highlight classes and/or projects, which do align with your cybersecurity career goals (even if they weren’t part of your major).
Consider your skills section carefully, You’re not going to impress cybersecurity professionals stating you are proficient in Microsoft Office. That’s table stakes. Highlight skills that are at least cybersecurity adjacent. You have limited space. Focus on skills which align with your career goals.
This unassuming section at the bottom of your resume is underappreciated. The Interests section is a freebie! You can put anything you want without a requirement that you be good at it. If you’re transitioning to cybersecurity, you should have at least 2-3 technology- or cyber-related interests listed. (Note: Writing something like penetration testing, cyber threat intelligence, or cryptocurrencies is potentially useful. Writing cybersecurity is not.) Be prepared to discuss whatever interests you write though.
Unless specifically told otherwise, always send a PDF of your resume. It allows you to control how your resume appears on the reader’s screen. If you send a Word document, it might look messed up on the reader’s computer (and it usually will on their smartphone). You don’t want that… especially, if they’re likely to spend less than 30 seconds reading your resume.
Nowadays, if recruiters or hiring managers find your resume interesting, they often will want to check out your LinkedIn profile. Include an HTTPS hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile in the header to make yourself easy to find.
This is not an exhaustive list of resume tips. Make sure to read more advice online. Your resume acts as your avatar in the job search process. Prepare it to represent you well!