Interview: Recruiter and Career Coach Jeff Snyder
Jeff Snyder has been recruiting technology professionals since 1990 and information security professionals since the mid-1990s. Information security recruiting has led to IT Risk Management, Governance, Global Compliance, Global Privacy, high-level Corporate Security and Business Intelligence recruiting through SecurityRecruiter.com. His recruiting has covered geography in Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Peru and the United States. Additionally, Jeff is a frequently invited public speaker.
His coaching services can be found at JeffSnyderCoaching.com.
1. You’ve been a technology and executive recruiter since 1990. What hard and soft skills do you need in order to do the sort of job your clients expect?
For the 25+ years I’ve been in the search business doing both technology and executive recruiting. The skills that have served me well (in no particular order) include: sales skills, psychology skills, intuition, the ability to ask questions that generate information that doesn’t appear in my client’s job descriptions and the ability to see the big picture.
My top two strengths include Futuristic (visionary) and Strategic. These two strengths of mine are also strengths that technology leaders need to possess in order to be successful. Because I have these strengths, I’m able to recognize these strengths in others.
2. When your clients seek your help in finding IT, IS, corporate security and other tech professionals, what sorts of skill sets are they looking for?
Today, I’m seeing significant demand for information security and corporate security professionals who have more than just one bucket of subject matter expertise. My clients are asking me to deliver candidates who have several areas of technical expertise, as well as candidates who also have the capacity and ability to constantly learn. The technical skills I’m frequently asked to deliver include information security architecture, network security architecture and engineering, project management, SIEM, IDS/IPS, Firewalls, Forensics, Identity Management, Application Security and Secure Software Development, IT Risk Management, Compliance and Governance.
Beyond technical skills, companies turn to me when they need security professionals who possess strong business skills, strong communication skills, strong relationship building skills, and skills such as persuasion, negotiation and selling skills. Technology expertise will often get a candidate in the door but it is a technology professional’s emotional intelligence skills that will separate good performance from a great performance. Candidates who can be trusted to work with business unit owners and senior executives are in high demand.
3. What trends have you noticed in terms of what skills clients are looking for now versus what they were looking for when you first became a recruiter in 1990?
This is a tough question as my skills, knowledge, understanding and expertise have grown since I first started recruiting. When I first started recruiting COBOL, RPG and Assembler programmers back in 1990, I didn’t have any technical background at all. What I did have that my clients valued was the intuitive ability to connect the dots between my clients challenges and the people who could come in and solve their challenges.
Over time, I’ve been fortunate to be able to stack up a baseline understanding of technology and how it all fits together. As the security skill set moves closer to becoming an actual recognized profession, technical skills remain important but more and more of what companies turn to me for is my ability to identify and deliver the frequently intangible skills that they want, need and expect in security professionals.
4. You have a huge LinkedIn network, with just south of 30,000 direct connections. How does this network, one of the largest on the site, help you to do your job?
For more than a decade, as my network on LinkedIn has grown, so has the size of my personal relationship rolodex. I have connections on LinkedIn who have followed my work for as much as a decade. I’ve been fortunate to have coached many of my LinkedIn connections.
One of my resume coaching clients from 3 years ago just called last week to talk about me finding talent for his company. He is now the EVP, CISO of a regional bank. LinkedIn has enabled me to get my Security Recruiter Blog in front of my LinkedIn connections. I’ve been able to launch new products and services and the first group of people who learn of my new offerings are my LinkedIn connections.
Nearly 3,000 of my LinkedIn connections are also followers of my SecurityRecruiter.com LinkedIn business page. This number grows every day. LinkedIn has provided significant opportunities for me to establish my branding and marketing strategies. Anyone can take advantage of the same opportunities that I’ve already leveraged and continue to leverage.
5. What, in your opinion, makes for the sort of LinkedIn profile that would appeal to recruiters such as yourself?
A LinkedIn profile appeals to a recruiter when it is Clean, Clear and Logically built. When building a LinkedIn profile, the profile owner needs to step into the shoes of their audience. When I coach my LinkedIn Profile Optimization clients on how to most effectively build their profile, I don’t try to teach them everything there is to know about LinkedIn.
I do, however, teach them how to build a profile that will be found more frequently by people like me…people who could help my clients to advance their careers by way of having attractive career-building job opportunities to offer. These offers can’t be made if a person’s profile hasn’t been strategically optimized to be found for the right reasons by the right people.
6. How can potential job candidates in the tech space differentiate themselves from their rivals?
Today, anybody who wants to can create a personal brand. A client I just took on searches with told me that he will do a Google search to learn about a candidate when he receives a resume. He told me he’ll look a candidate up on Facebook, on Twitter and on LinkedIn to see what kind of public image that candidate has created on the Internet. A job candidate can leave the results of an on-line search of their public image to chance or they can apply a more strategic approach to their on-line personal brand and image.
Aligning one’s resume message with their LinkedIn message and their telephone or face-to-face interview message is a significant way in which a candidate can separate themselves from the crowd. Job candidates who invest time to learn about their natural strengths are candidates who can then explain to a prospect employer what they have the potential to be great at when they interview. Their interview answers will be much more crisp, clear and focused than the candidate who is going through life settling for what they “Can” do rather than focusing on what they “Should” do.
7. What are some of the mistakes potential job candidates make that might leave you more bearish rather than bullish on their suitability for job openings?
Candidates whose resumes fail to talk about their Accomplishments, Contributions to the Business and the Business Value they’ve helped to create don’t strike me as candidates who are going to possess the business-focused interpersonal skills that so many companies are asking me to deliver in candidates.
8. Do clients insist on specific certifications or are they willing to accept industry experience in lieu of certifications?
This loaded question does not have a simple answer. Some employers ask for certifications because they have certain certifications. These types of hiring managers tend to hire in their own image (I’ve experienced this).
Some employers ask for specific certifications because someone in their peer group gave them advice to ask for certain certifications (I’ve personally experienced this). Some employers appreciate a couple of certifications that align with a candidate’s areas of subject matter expertise but they aren’t focused on any particular certifications. These types of employers are generally looking for certifications as a sign that the candidate is a student of their chosen profession (I’ve personally experienced this).
9. With security increasingly becoming a hot-button issue, how can would-be job candidates position themselves for positions in this space?
Continuously study what skills are in demand in the market and keep up with the skills that align with one’s areas of interest. The next generation of security leadership will consist of security professionals who have invested in themselves to master soft skills, presentation skills, relationship building skills and emotional intelligence.
One of my mentors, Marshall Goldsmith, PhD wrote a book called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. I refer to this concept daily; the technical skills that get a security professional to a certain level in their career growth are frequently not the same skills that are required to get to the next level.
10. What advice would you give to a college or university student who wants to get into the IT or IS industry post-graduation?
Information Security or Cybersecurity…whatever you want to call it…is a career choice that does not show any signs of becoming less viable in the near-future. If I were advising a college student today, I would encourage them to find out what their strengths are as soon as possible so they can begin to make decisions that align with what they have the potential to become great at in the future as they accumulate education, certifications and experience.
We first spoke with Jeff Snyder in 2012; that talk can be found here.