For employers in the IT and cyber security realms, one of the toughest challenges has been adequately filling an increasing number of job openings. While it’s difficult to find candidates with qualifications that match requirements, many employers are realizing that even that may not be enough. A major problem that companies face has been the disconnect between adequate credentials and a lack of knowledge or practical job skills. At the same time, many candidates who would be able to do the job are passed over due to perceived shortcomings in their academic or professional track record. To address these issues, employers should focus on a candidate’s personal qualities and aptitudes by testing for specific knowledge and skills that would be the most useful on the job.


Ideal Personal Qualities for IT and Cyber Security

Whether on the technical or the people side of things, being able to break down and explain complex topics – either to upper management, co-workers or potential clients – is a key skill that ensures fluid communication among team members working on a project or trying to make a sale. When developing a new product, technical personnel should have the capacity to describe specific and highly technical characteristics to their superiors in a clear, concise and easy to understand way. For sales team members, the capacity to accurately convey the value proposition of products and services to current and potential clients builds trust and helps to increase a company’s book of business over time.  For IT sales positions, just like in many other sales jobs, it is essential to be familiar with customer relationship management software (CRM) like Salesforce. If the company sells SaaS (Software as a Service), account executives and sales reps should also be familiar with the SaaS business model while collaborating closely with management and engineering teams to create a customer service-oriented work environment. In all areas of IT, innate curiosity and a passion for problem-solving are important to stimulate creative thinking and innovation. Other essential qualities include pattern recognition, deduction, and the ability to break down and process large amounts of information. While the ability to work independently with limited supervision is important in any field, successful product development frequently depends on team members being able to work effectively as a group.


Measuring a Candidate’s Aptitude

Aptitude tests can help determine if a candidate fits with open positions by checking their knowledge of important industry and company-specific subjects that would be part of their routine after the hiring process. Candidates should be tested on their ability to summarize the technical specifications of products or services they plan to create, maintain, secure or sell. A great example of the kind of tools available for measuring the aptitude of potential cyber security employees is the SANS Institute’s Cyber Talent Aptitude Assessment. In this online test, candidates have 45 minutes to answer 30 questions that challenge their IT and cyber security knowledge. Topics covered range from mathematics, networking, and programming to security procedures and hardware. Comprehension and logic puzzles test personality traits that are critical for success in cyber security, like capacity for problem-solving and coming up with innovative solutions. After completing the exam, a summary report breaks down the test taker’s strengths and weaknesses, while showing participants how they rank against others who have taken the assessment. Though this particular test ensures anonymity for participants, companies can use it as a model to craft their own assessments around the specific needs of their business. By objectively testing candidates on knowledge, skills and potential for picking up and incorporating new concepts, employers can save valuable time and resources when they’re in the process of filling open positions.