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Under Qualified OR Over Qualified ? What Should I Do ?

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By: WhiteHat4Ever

May 1, 2019

The interviewing process can often "feel like a job" within itself as the amount of time spent on interviews and searches can easily surpass forty hours a week. The field of cybersecurity is very high demand for EXPERIENCED professionals so the demand can create a dual sided coin of the field. The demand for experienced professionals places an emphasis on the concept of qualifications as weight is increasingly placed more on hands on skills than the applicable knowledge that is often gained through coursework. Regardless of the various schedules and types of rolling semesters among universities, countless students are graduating with undergraduate and master degrees in information security. Many students strive to obtain an opportunity with a company within the cybersecurity operations yet they may receive an email which states of the choice to choose another applicant with more qualifications. The hurdle named Under-Qualification has presented itself yet what are some of the ways that a recent graduate can overcome this hurdle ?
  1. "Hands-on Experience:"Since the ability to express hands-on knowledge and expertise is a common desire by many employers, it is imperative that a recent graduate tailor the resume to list the technologies that are applicable to the role. Coursework, which was completed through the implementation of labs, often holds an overlooked benefit. Although the experience gained through the labs does not fit the ideal of "experience in the real word", it can still constitute as hands-on experience and become applicable to a particular role. If you've completed labs as part of the require coursework, then it could make a difference in your job search by providing the details of the products, solutions, SIEMs or any tools that were used as part of a lab.
  2. What do recruiters know ?: Some recruiters have very little knowledge of the various sub-areas within cybersecurity such as secure coding, penetration testing, incident response and DevSec Ops. As a result, many recruiters are simply trained to place the best candidate for the appropriate role and achieve it in such a manner where deep cyber security knowledge is not a requirement. It is best recommended to communicate with the recruiters and be able to explain in great detail your background and technical capabilities if applicable.
  3. Certifications: Certifications are great and can often make a difference in landing a job if the opportunity is within the government sector. However, certifications are likely a preference in the private sector as they are often a plus but not a requirement from the employer. It is recommended to obtain some additional training which can directly correlate with a specific certification. Example (Security +, SIEM training), (CEH, Penetration Testing training)
Although a potential candidate or recent graduate could receive a notice that someone was chosen with more qualifications, there are some instances where someone can actually be overqualified for a role. Many human resource departments send an email that seems to derive from a generic template or is rather short of words by stating that it was filled. If someone is considered as over-qualified for a position, then a reevaluation of the career path may be necessary to avoid this hurdle in the future. As an example, an information security officer would be highly over-qualified for a lower-level information security manager position yet the role of a CISO would be the right choice for career advancement. There are some points that a cyber security professional can consider when breaking the over-qualified pattern.
  1. Career advancement is possible when growth within a company has a vertical lane instead of a horizontal lane which consists of movements across departments. The technical roles may have a cutoff in regards to growth because the responsibilities of upper management have a less dependency on hands-on technical skills.
  2. The awareness of your self-worth is critical because knowing your self-worth will increase your confidence when seeking roles that are slightly above you in title but not impossible to fulfill.
  3. Salary or compensation can also be the "deal-breaker" between yourself and the potential employer. Some employers are currently attempting to remove senior-level roles and replace them with junior-level roles who would assume all the responsibilities from the senior-level. As a result, this trend increases the likelihood of college graduates aren't able to land the junior-level roles and experienced professionals who are "over-qualified" as well.
There are ways to bypass the obstacles of being labeled as potentially under-qualified or overly-qualified for certain roles. A resume is often used as a measuring stick to obtain a quantifiable idea on your experience yet the submission of a resume may not be sufficient for expressing your skills. In addition to the resume, the ability to thoroughly explain your background during a phone screen or interview can enhance the criteria of your resume. 
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