Have you ever had someone hit you with a line so perfect it’s like something out of a movie?
That happened to me recently. I was chatting with one of our candidates who is now in employment and naturally I asked if he was actively looking for new roles. He hit me with this bombshell:
I’m not actively looking but I am actively listening
For clarity, he’s not necessarily looking to move roles any time soon, but he is keeping an ear to the job market. It’s not just a great line. It’s a brilliant way to approach work in any specialised industry – not just in information security.
So even if you aren’t actively pursuing your next position, let’s investigate ten excellent benefits of working with an industry specialist recruiter, even if you’re just “listening”.
Independent, industry-specific recruiters spend all of their working day within their specialist job market. They know it like the back of their hand. Therefore, they can usually tell you what shifts and changes are happening within their specialist sector; what areas are seeing growth and which are shrinking; and even whether it’s a good time to move jobs or not. (Timing is important – stay tuned for a timing-related benefit below).
Because recruiters have this unique view of the whole market and experience with placing different candidates in different roles, they can also give you insight into how different types of organisations work. To give an example that’s close to home for Bestman Solutions, I would be able to advise a candidate on how CISO responsibilities and expectations may differ between a startup, an investment bank, or within critical national infrastructure. They may all look the same on paper, but these different types of organisations expect very different things from their information security leadership.
When you have a recruiter’s wisdom in your back pocket, you can ask them straight – “is my current salary, compensation, and workload in line with the wider market?”
There are a few reasons why specialist staff like infosec leaders may be getting a poor deal compared to going market rates. Sometimes people are hired during an economic downturn or during a fallow period for the company (potentially resulting in a lower salary and less valuable perks) and that role’s compensation simply never got reassessed. Other times, a candidate has been quietly in a role for so long that the employer has started to take them for granted a little.
I need to stress that knowing the going rate for your role isn’t just useful for people who are looking to move jobs. It’s crucial information to have when salaries are reviewed or when promotions are on the table. It’s particularly essential if the employee wishes to raise the topic of compensation discrepancy with higher ups off their own back.
With a recruiter’s help, you can walk into any such negotiations with confidence, knowing the premium that other employers are willing to pay for your skills. Remember this quote from musician and entrepreneur Joseph “Fat Joe” Cartagena: “yesterday’s price is not today’s price.”
Any recruiter worth their salt will take direction from each candidate as to what they need and when. Some people may simply be engaging in a bit of low-key listening; some may be ready to ditch their role this second for pastures new; and others may be somewhere in between – secure where they are, but prepared to move when the right opportunity arises.
Some candidates might be crawling up the walls through the boredom of “business as usual” and need to get their teeth into a challenging project that’s going to make a difference. Others might be sick of being in constant firefighting mode and need an employer who takes basic IT or infosec more seriously. Some candidates may be looking to dial up their responsibilities in the prime of their lives, others may be looking to slow down in the run up to retirement.
But it’s not just what you want from the future – great recruiters also understand your past. Some candidates may have been left shaken by an inconsiderate employer and need a more personable company culture to build them back up again. Other candidates may have retrained and entered the industry later in life, and may have had some career change hurdles to overcome. Others may have gaps in their CV that may look questionable on paper but have a totally reasonable explanation.
For me, this is all about mood and momentum. I always take direction from our candidates as to how far they want me to press: when to put the foot on the gas and when to hit the brakes – and I’ll only steer in the directions the candidate wants me to!
When exploring the job market in any industry, you’ll naturally want to know what you’d be getting yourself into within any given target organisation structurally, culturally, and reputationally, so you can include or exclude certain employers from your job searches in future.
It’s incredibly difficult to tell an organisation’s innate culture from their website or from a single job ad. Marketing of any kind is there to paint the company in the best possible light, after all. There are candidates who may be particularly keen to avoid organisations with a notoriously cutthroat culture. Others may thrive within rigid reporting structures. Other applicants may be interested in knowing whether a company is truly diverse and inclusive – or whether it’s a bit of an “old boys club”. Experienced recruiters will generally have the inside scoop – or know someone who does.
Job seekers or listeners may be on the lookout for different kinds of organisational structure too. For example, a particular bone of contention in the CISO realm is reporting lines: despite the “C” in the title, many CISOs merely report to a leader that sits on the board rather than directly sitting on the board themselves. When a CISO is a step or two away from where the decision-making magic happens, their recommendations and strategic vision can end up like a game of telephone, having to be relayed through a CTO or CIO to the board, potentially getting diluted or misconstrued in the process.
Therefore, many CISOs prefer roles where they are either on the board or report closely to it, rather than simply making suggestions from the sidelines. Where the CISO sits within the organisation’s structure – and the seriousness with which their recommendations are taken – may not be immediately obvious from a job advertisement.
During times of plenty, employers may treat their staff well because there is money in the coffers to do so. But when times are more difficult, they may equally drop previously dedicated workers with a thud. When the company is riding high, it can be difficult for those on the outside looking in to foresee what will happen to the company during a low point.
When you have a specialist recruiter in your corner, someone who spends all of their working day with their ear to the market, you can ask questions like “what is the structure like at [organisation]?”, “what is [organisation]’s culture like?”, or even more direct queries like “what is [organisation]’s track record on diversity?” or “what’s the worst thing you’ve heard about [organisation]?”.
The answers to questions like these can mean the difference between a candidate envisioning a future at the organisation or staying safely put!
Skilled, industry-specific recruiters have a rich and unique knowledge of their industry. Therefore, they can often help you decide on whether certain qualifications are worth your time and investment.
Certifications are important – especially in sensitive industries like information security. But there are so many qualifications and certifications out there that it can be difficult to choose which path to take. Independent recruiters, however, can share their top-down view of the market with you and share their knowledge about the qualifications that hiring managers are actually looking for.
Whether you’re looking for advancement, improvement, or you’re lining yourself up for a job move in future, run through your training options with a recruiter. The savvy ones will be able to tell you what options are a sound investment and which ones aren’t.
One of the advantages of “actively listening” to the market with a recruiter is that you quickly get an idea of which organisations are constantly recruiting. You also learn quite quickly that an organisation that is constantly on the lookout for new talent isn’t necessarily great news.
On the positive end of the spectrum, it can mean that the organisation is rapidly growing. Usually this is positive, but given the recent redundancies and turbulence in the tech job space at the time of writing, I would personally approach certain tech companies experiencing particularly rapid growth with a healthy amount of caution.
Yet when a more established organisation is always on the lookout for new staff – especially when all the vacancies appear to be in a given department – that could mean a number of things, none of them good. It could imply that there is a cultural problem within that department or organisation. It could hint at a bully or culture of bullying in places of power. It could even indicate micromanaging and a lack of trust in the team.
When proactive recruiters (like us) identify an organisation that always seems to take up real estate on the job listings pages, we’ll willingly don our Sherlock Holmes hats and investigate. The answers we find may mean the difference between sending great candidates their way or steering well clear!
A specialist recruiter can help you strategically time your movements within the job market, because there are a whole host of misconceptions around when it’s best to move jobs.
Firstly, I’ve observed that both employers and candidates are happily active when the economy is good, but seem hesitant to listen, look, or leap to new opportunities in times of economic stagnancy, perhaps assuming that the opportunities just aren’t there. Many of us need to be cautious about our income when the economic chips are down, but in terms of job opportunities, it can be a great time to find diamonds in the rough.
I like to explore which employers are out there taking wise, calculated risks during a downturn. What employers are out there looking to grow and bloom out of the economic manure? Why are they looking to recruit – and why now? What sort of longevity does their recruitment initiative have? All questions that a recruiter can help answer.
There can be significant misconceptions about the right time of the year to listen, look, and leap, too. Sometimes, candidates let their guard down over the summer – especially over the school summer holidays – as they assume that everyone’s winding down for summer. I don’t quite agree with that, either.
If an organisation identifies a need for staff, they will advertise it, regardless of the season. And yes, a lot of people will be away on holiday or sporadically available over summer. But that includes your competition, who are potentially less likely to be applying for the good positions.
An experienced industry recruiter will have seen the yearly peaks and troughs multiple times over, and can help you strategically identify the best times to hang tight and when to move.
Recruiters can help to bridge the gap between your role now and where you want to be in a way that is difficult to do on your own. Not only would most recruiters be willing to have a heart-to-heart with you about what is likely to be different in your desired role, but they can help ease you into it when the time comes to make the jump.
Let’s say that a security leader cautiously sees a future as a CISO; we would likely help them explore CISO roles at smaller organisations to help ease them into the, often quite stressful, world of the CISO. Alternatively, we might look at deputy CISO roles with this candidate, so they can get to grips with the challenging and multifaceted world of the CISO before they commit.
This extra spot of support and hand-holding can be a real source of strength for a candidate who is exploring such a significant career move.
Because recruiters have all of this knowledge about both employers and candidates, they bring more than just a job description to the table. They can come to applicants and “listeners” with detailed intangibles like who you’ll be reporting to, what the psychology of the place is like, what team dynamics to expect, and what the role will potentially look like in three years’ time.
They may also know what key projects the successful candidate will be working on, why the position is available, and what kind of budgets you will be working with as a leader.
Details like these can turn many individuals from listeners to active applicants if the offer is right!
Alas, no single recruiter or agency can ever know the whole market. It would be easy for me to say “if you’re exploring the job market in the cybersecurity sector, you should only be working with one agency: Bestman Solutions!” However, it behoves me to inform you that people generally have one or two recruiters on their speed dial.
After all, sometimes a second opinion is a good thing, and the two agencies you work with may know about different opportunities, specialisms, and sources that could benefit you equally.
Your list of personal contacts you can turn to when dealing with life’s issues should include, a Doctor, a Car Mechanic, a Lawyer (never know when you might need one) and a Recuiter. Like the other professionals, our job is to diagnose a situation and provide you with a solution.