One of the pieces of advice that I’ve given to those looking for an information security job, has been to be yourself and stand out, but what does that mean? Well, let me start with a story of my first date with my wife and how I try to embody that thought. When I first met my future wife, while I honestly wanted to dazzle her and take her to fancy places, but yet that idea didn’t sit right with me. See, the way I think…is yes there will be fancy dinners and amazing dates in the future…I wanted her to see what it was really like to date me. That means, that it wasn’t a fancy restaurant that would be normal, instead, I suggested that our first date is at my house, with pizza and a movie.
This is the same mantra I have when either a job opportunity comes my way, or if I am looking. Every interview that I have had, has been 100% myself, with my sense of humor and my real thoughts on the questions asked. I say in almost every interview that I’m in, regardless of which side of the interview I am on, that a job is only good if both sides are a fit. I wouldn’t want to accept any offer or waste the interviewer’s time if they don’t like me.
This has sometimes put in at odds with myself, sometimes it meant turning down a better title or more money for a position because I just didn’t feel like I’d be a perfect fit. I liked the job from the description and the company seemed OK from the outside, but after talking, I didn’t see myself fitting in there emotionally. Could I have done those jobs, absolutely without a doubt in my mind, but would I have been as happy as I could be…well, I didn’t think so. I understand this kind of thinking, is not something everyone can do all the time, but if you have the luxury then I highly suggest it.
Now that’s the “me being me” part, what about the “standing out” part…well that is actually easy when you are you. See interviewers see a bunch of different people and sometimes you get the same kind of answers all of the time or the same assurances that they know a set of skills. I usually stand out, because I’m humorous (at least my mom says I am) and honest. When I get set up questions that direct you to answer a certain way, I say the truth. “Do I know Python?” While I have used it in the past, it was been a good decade since I’ve really used it, but I can read it and crank my way to creating a script using online resources. “What systems would you change or bring in when you start” Honestly, don’t know the answer, as the software you have may be working perfectly well for your organization and I don’t want to make changes for changes’ sake. I’ll take time to evaluate what’s going on, and if there are gaps that another software may fill…well then I’d recommend that. While I liked some of the software I’ve used in the past…not all software is optimum for every company. One last example…”If hired what would your first six months look like?” Well, to be honest, for the first 3 months I’m going to mostly be in learning mode, and make changes that are needed, but not go out of my way to change things or processes. After the 3rd month, and I understand the organization a little better, I may work with those around me to start to make some changes and by the sixth month, I hope to understand the changes and what they impact and learn more about the other teams in the organization, so I can better help them.
Now that isn’t the only way to set yourself out from the pack, and there have been many creative people online who have great ideas for you to check out. For me, the simple approach works and I don’t see a reason to try something else. While it hasn’t always been perfect, it’s something that I’m comfortable with standing out and also a litmus test for the organization I’m looking to join. Yet, I’ll leave you with some other ways, that friends and colleagues have used to make themselves stand out.
- If there is someone who you’re connected with asking for a referral or recommendation
- Ask people to write a LinkedIn recommendation for you
- During the interview offer a business suggestion for the company
- During the interview, you can present an interesting perspective that they might not have thought of before
- Demonstrate that you’ve read up on the company and understand its pain points (I’ve been guilty of ignoring this one)
- Show that you genuinely care about the company, its mission, and the job.
While it’s certainly not an exhaustive list, let me know below the ways you use to stand out for an interview.