8 Personality Traits to Succeed in Cybersecurity

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Ryne Sherman, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer, Hogan Assessments
Ryne Sherman, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer, Hogan Assessments

Cybersecurity threats are on the rise. With the rapid increase of security breaches, company hacks and data leaks, cybercrime has become one of the most significant threats to global business. Skilled cybersecurity professionals are key for the safety of companies and governments and Hogan Assessments has identified 8 traits for candidates’ success in a career in cybersecurity. Ryne Sherman, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer comments

With an anticipated skills shortage of 1.8 million workers by 2022, to find the right professionals in this space, recruiters and companies need to look beyond skillset and into candidates’ personalities. Indeed, traditional recruiting practices often overlook personality and focus on education, experience and a set of hard skills. While these are important, it is crucial to remember that personality characteristics play a huge role. A candidate with a suitable personality can be easily trained into the right role. Overall, to recruit top talent, companies should direct their attention to the power of personality.

1. Modest. Those that tend to excel in cybersecurity typically prefer to avoid the spotlight. A successful cybersecurity agenda is not egotistical or fame hungry, and instead favours a more low-key lifestyle. After all, most of the well-known names in cybersecurity are notorious cyber-criminals.

2. Altruistic. Cybersecurity professionals should want to help people. While they are working all day with systems and programming, protecting and helping people is at the core of this profession. They should work well with others and avoid isolating themselves. Fighting threats will require cooperation and trust between colleagues as they are striving together towards the same security goals.

3. Composed. The enterprise systems they are protecting from attacks are always under threat. Cybersecurity agents naturally need to have a sense of urgency, but it is crucial that they stay composed handling cyberthreats. Unnecessary outbursts when the pressure is rising can be counterproductive and shift their attention away from what is at stake.

4. Scientific. The perfect cybersecurity professional wants to solve problems using data and analytic skills. Cyber criminals are increasingly sophisticated in their attacks and this requires individuals who are highly technical and value evidence-based decision making.

5. Inquisitive. The world of cybersecurity is ever changing. When threats are prevented, new ones emerge which can require a completely different set of skills than the ones needed previously. A successful cybersecurity candidate is imaginative, curious and creative. They need to figure things out quickly, show motivation to learn and be open to new ideas.

6. Skeptical. ‘Trust no one’ would be a useful motto for a cybersecurity worker. To get ahead of the game and prevent attacks means sometimes having to think like a hacker. This means maintaining suspicion about what’s going on around you, because in a world of constant threats, naivety can be a dangerous thing.

7. Responsive. In cybersecurity, things can go wrong quickly, and you might be blamed for breaches that weren’t your fault. If someone in the company opens a phishing email and exposes sensitive information, you might be held accountable. It is thus very important for a cybersecurity worker to be open and responsive to criticisms and avoid being passive-aggressive.

8. Diligent. In a pressured environment with a firm’s security at stake, a successful candidate needs to be detail-oriented and constantly pushing projects to completion. One small oversight could lead to attacks, so cybersecurity specialists need to scrutinise every detail. They also need to value achievement and making an impact.

Pic and caption: Ryne Sherman, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer, Hogan Assessments