IT worker

This spring ClearanceJobs joined the Department of Homeland Security’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, TMP Government, a tech-enabled talent acquisition company, and Dice, a leading career site for technology professionals, to discuss the state of cybersecurity and human capital.

The CyberForce 2014 Summit gathered leaders from across the government and private sector to ask the question – what is the state of today’s cybersecurity workforce, and how can both government and industry leaders build a qualified cyber talent pool to address present and future challenges?

As a lead-up to the event, ClearanceJobs surveyed cleared cybersecurity professionals. Key findings included:

  • Being challenged and meaningful work ranked 1st and 2nd on the list  of things that keep cyber professionals engaged.
  • Compensation came in last (9th place) in the list of things that keep cyber professionals engaged on the job, and is the third most important thing they look for in a new employer.
  • Professional development and training tops the list of what professionals are looking for in a new employer.
  • Cleared professionals prefer to work with recruiters who display integrity and trustworthiness.
  • Eighty-seven percent of cleared cyber professionals agree with the need for continuous monitoring of employees with privileged access.
  • Only 45 percent of cleared cyber professionals think companies should recruit entry-level employees for cyber positions.

“Recruiters and hiring managers should take note of the importance of meaningful work as a key employment incentive,” said Evan Lesser, Founder and Managing Director of ClearanceJobs.com. “The right mission may attract a winning candidate, especially as we see salaries flatten. The other critical point is how important integrity and trustworthiness are for cleared cybersecurity professionals – particularly when insider threats are at the forefront of employers’ minds these days.”

       7 Tactics Companies Use to Attract Cybersecurity Talent
  • Mission-oriented job descriptions
  • Continuing education programs and certification opportunities
  • Hosting Hack-a-Thons
  • Funding STEM programs with local schools
  • University internships/apprenticeships
  • Mentoring programs for new hires
  • Building first-class labs where cyber stars can ‘play’ at work


The ‘wow’ factor of the mission is an advantage for government agencies and contractors alike. It’s one of the reasons the NSA continues to be competitive in attracting cyber talent – offer up a challenging, unique mission and ongoing training opportunities.While many see compensation as the most important factor for cybersecurity professionals, it was the ninth most important factor when cybersecurity professionals were asked to list what keeps them engaged on the job.  The most important part of the job? Being challenged, meaningful work and maintaining the security of U.S. citizens. Those are key factors to highlight in job postings. Be as detailed and specific as possible.

Engaging entry-level cyber talent

Poaching talent from other companies and attracting passive candidates has been the key cyber recruiting strategy over the past several years. Celinda Appleby, global talent acquisition digital media program manager at HP, said they recently flipped that model on its head. HP now brings in entry-level talent who can learn and grow with the company. “It’s a matter of bringing them in at an early age and getting them very well educated in all realms of technology, so that they’re comfortable. Then they can decide where they want to go based on where we have contracts when they graduate,” said Appleby. This strategy also allows them to begin the security clearance process. Lack of clearances, or even inability to obtain a clearance, can be an issue for entry-level hires.

DHS is also looking to attract students – its Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative places students from two and four-year institutions across the country into DHS field offices, doing hands-on cybersecurity work. “We’re hoping to accomplish two things, said Renee Forney, executive director of DHS’ Cyberskills Management Support Initiative. “Provide awareness, and get them into the process of getting their clearance.”

Thirty-seven percent of cleared cyber professionals said they didn’t think companies should recruit entry-level talent. The question, quite literally, is can they ‘hack’ it in a cyber career? Internal programs allow companies to train their own, and mentorship programs can be an excellent way for your company’s experts to train the next generation.HP also takes advantage of hack-a-thons, industry events, and STEM education programs with local schools. Getting young people excited about both cybersecurity and a career with an HP is a win-win for the company, noted Appleby.


The most important thing for cyber professionals is working with a recruiter who finds relevant jobs – but second is working with a recruiter who possesses integrity and trustworthiness. Be transparent in your interactions with cyber professionals. It’s important for candidates to know the company who’s contacting them is legitimate, with U.S.-based work and a need for both their skills and security clearance. Building a cyber talent pool for tomorrow requires innovative recruiting strategies. Engaging talent early, offering them an amazing mission and outlining how they can develop and grow within your company can be critical drivers for finding and keeping the best cybersecurity professionals.


Survey Questions and Answers

When asked which aspects of cybersecurity work kept professionals active and engaged, respondents listed these responses on a scale of 1-5:

  1. Being challenged (4.41)
  2. Meaningful work (4.29)
  3. Maintaining the security of U.S. citizens (4.29)
  4. Skills being used for a good purpose (4.29)
  5. Working on cutting-edge technology (4.19)
  6. Patriotism (4.15)
  7. Potential for advancement (4.08)
  8. Job security (4.07)
  9. Compensation (3.99)

What is important to you in an employer?

  1. Professional development/training (4.52)
  2. Accountability (4.35)
  3. Compensation (4.29)
  4. Career advancement opportunities within the company (4.28)
  5. Personal growth (4.20)
  6. Work culture (4.15)

How important are the following attributes when working with a recruiter?

  1. Finding relevant jobs (4.55)
  2. Integrity/trustworthiness (4.53)
  3. Understanding my profession (4.33)
  4. Productivity in lining up interviews/leads (4.29)
  5. Responding to my questions in a timely manner (4.25)