How to Become a Penetration Tester

Penetration testing is a hot cyber security job and demand continues to grow as companies focus more on security. Penetration testers are legal hackers working for a cyber security or IT company to test network, application, and physical security among others. They are often called ethical hackers or White Hats. Job titles in this profession vary, making a job search somewhat difficult. Other titles might include variations of security analyst, red team engineer, and security specialist. Starting out, you can expect to make in the range of $60,000-$80,000 annual salary depending on the metro area you will be working in. Once you have some experience the pay can go up to about $120,00 for a senior level Penetration Tester (adjusted for more expensive areas like California, NY, DC). Demand for director and executive level positions with a security background is skyrocketing right now, so the potential growth is enormous in this field. Here is the framework for landing your first penetration testing job:

1.      Get a technical degree

It is not absolutely required to have a technical degree or any degree at all, but it becomes much more difficult to prove your value and experience without any degree. Many job postings say a degree is required but if you are technically competent and have some experience you can overcome this with a little bit of persuasion. If you have any connections in the industry a referral can often go further than a pedigree. See #4 below for tips on expanding your network. If you plan to go to school, or are already in school a major in computer science or MIS is a great start. If you know you want to go into cyber security go for a school with a cyber security program, or if you already have an unrelated degree you might consider a cyber security program as a post-bachelor option. I am located in Florida, and all of the Florida state schools have a program due to a state-wide government initiative. Make sure to talk with current professors and students to understand the scope of the Cybersecurity Program.

There is a lot of hesitation to hire people without a degree mostly due to stigma, but don’t lose hope if you don’t have one. A four-year degree can be very costly and many hackers are self-taught. You can learn pretty much everything online today so consider your options before taking on a ton of debt to go to a traditional college.

2.      Get security/penetration testing certifications

Having security related certifications will get you more interviews and will result in a higher salary level. However, getting a security certification does not guarantee you a job as a pentester. Below are some certifications you will want to investigate if you haven’t already:

EC-Council (CEH, ECSA/LPT) - www.eccouncil.org

SANS Institute (GPEN) - www.sans.org

COMPTIA Security+ - www.certification.comptia.org

Offensive Security – (OSCP) - www.offensive-security.com

Good penetration testers also have a strong foundation in networking, OS, and programming so technical certifications related to these areas will be beneficial and will vary based on the specific company. Exposure to web application security/pentesting will also be of benefit due to the growing demand in this area.

3.      Get training/experience

Look for a company or internship that will hire you without experience or volunteer on opensource projects which you can add to your resume. GitHub is one place you can go to find opensource projects to work on. You could also try non-profit organizations - even better if they support a cause you are into yourself. Maybe your church or animal shelter needs network security. The takeaway is to keep looking and taking action and something will work out. Luck is only for those that are taking action! Check with cyber security companies for internships, even if they are unpaid this can pay off in the long run with a job offer or at the very least that first step to getting real experience. You can also try freelance work after you have a little experience with projects. Most states allow you to form an LLC online for a small fee, usually not over a couple hundred. There are numerous websites dedicated to freelance work, but you might also be able to find your own leads through your network or if you hear about companies with security issues in the news. Check out our article Why consulting should be your next career move.

4.   Use your network

If you are introverted or have social anxiety you can do this! Remember, a lot of people in this industry feel the same way, that’s part of how they ended up in this career path. Unfortunately, if you get the job you will need some people skills, and the ability to communicate is often a deciding factor when candidates are closely tied with technical ability. Practice is key. Go on meetup.com and find a hacker group for example. There are groups on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook that might have local events. There are also local chapters of ISSA (Information Security Systems Assoc.) you could check out for networking opportunities.

5.  SELL Yourself in an interview

When interviewing for a pentesting job think “What value can I bring this employer?” or "What value can I bring the company’s customers?" The mistake many people make is thinking only about what’s in it for you and what your demands are. While you clearly need to consider those things, seeing it from the prospective company’s view will help you sell yourself. How are you going to fulfill the needs of the company? Good penetration testers are a little creative and come up with new ways of testing security that the company may not have thought up. Show your creative side, and if you have experience, explain how you’ve used that to solve security problems in the past. Thinking through this will help you answer those dreaded situational interview questions that all start out ‘tell me about a time when…’. I also suggest practicing before the interview as much as possible. A recruiter will help you do this, but the more practice the better. Grab a friend, roommate, or a fellow pentester and you will appear more confident when the big day comes. Glassdoor is a great place to check for interview questions for a specific employer.

6.  Call a recruiter that focuses on security roles

I do mean call, not email. Recruiters get bogged down with tons of great candidates, so a phone call can help you stand out. If you already have experience and are looking for the next challenge, a recruiter that is focused in the security space can get you in with companies. I don’t suggest using a large generalist recruiting firm for such a technical role as a penetration tester - the recruiter just won’t have the knowledge or connections to properly help you. CSOonline has a list of cyber security recruiters and is a great place to start. Go with your instinct on choosing who will represent you. If you are unemployed and really need a paycheck, find a recruiter who can contract you out. This will help you to start earning money and paying back those school loans, and also will get you health insurance and a retirement plan if done through an employee leasing company. Don’t get discouraged if the recruiter doesn’t find something right away, it’s sometimes like getting the stars to align with the right job and right location. Stay present and check in every few weeks or months.

If you are ready to become a penetration tester, or already are, email Zach@stratussearch.com to see what opportunities we have for you. Stratus Search is a cyber security recruiting firm that places professionals nationwide.

Contracting is the New Black

Contracting employees is the new norm and is just going to grow. While some companies abuse the system and classify employees as independent contractors, it can be done right and with big advantages for your company. We recommend going with a specialist staffing company over a large national general staffing firm since the niche providers will be more in tune with your needs and provide better service overall. Here's how contracting can be done right.

  1. Give potential employees a trial. Contracting is a great way to find talent who can be converted to permanent employees. Interviews are proven to be terrible indicators of how well an employee will work out, but using a temp employee for a few months first will allow you to simply discontinue the contract if it's not working out. Getting rid of a permanent employee is much harder and potentially more expensive. You could face lawsuits if a fired employee feels discriminated even if that's not the case. A high turnover rate means higher unemployment insurance rates, which is why you must consider contract employees if your demand fluctuates or the project really is short term. 
  2. It can fill a gap. If you need someone in a vacant position immediately, a contract or leased employee could be the way to go. While a permanent placement takes weeks or months, a contractor can fill in while you are interviewing and sourcing a permanent person. A contractor may not be perfect, but if they are between projects they can usually start right away versus a permanent person who may have to relocate, give notice to an old job, etc. If you have a relationship established with a leasing company or recruiter they can probably have someone available for your company within days. With cyber security roles, a vacant position could mean a breach and a loss of a client or worse. Even if the match is not perfect, sometimes you just need someone in the role, even if it doesn't last, and this is where leased employees can help. 
  3. Work with a professional. There are a lot of considerations government agencies make when determining if employees are not classified correctly, but using a leasing company or recruiter to supply your contracted employees puts a much needed barrier between you and the contractor when it comes to the IRS. If you are hiring contractors directly and telling them where to work, when to work, paying them directly, and overall acting like a boss/employer then the government will probably think you are their de facto employer. This could leave you on the hook for tax penalties, and no one wants that. If you use a leasing company that makes the hiring decisions, completes payroll, provides a work schedule, etc. then you are not as exposed to potential problems. Always consult your attorney and accountants.
  4. Use a niche leasing company. They may not be the easiest to find, but if you have a recruiter you've worked with before they may know someone reliable or belong to a network where they can hook you up with an expert. We specialize in cyber security professionals, and I can tell you from experience most generalist recruiters will have no idea where to begin if you call a big chain and tell them you need a penetration tester or an infrastructure director. The most common complaint I see on LinkedIn is that a recruiter has called someone about a job they are completely wrong for. Sometimes this happens because your profile is vague, but usually this happens because the recruiter is not specialized and also probably inexperienced. These people also tend to act unprofessional on the phone and will be representing your company to potential candidates. I have experienced this in the past myself, and almost everyone I know has a story of a recruiter being out of line. This is nearly always a big chain recruiter. The comparison is similar to going to Walmart when you need a specialty car part - it's just not going to get you what you really need. 

If you'd like more information about leasing or contracting employees give us a call anytime at 727-308-7887 or email Zach@stratussearch.com. 

How to Make Sure You Don't Get an Interview

  1. Refuse to follow instructions. I've been seeing a lot of gotcha questions within the application instructions to see if candidates are reading the whole thing. So this could be something as simple as using the font requested, to submitting any additional information the potential employer asks for. Candidates who are difficult in the beginning will get rejected in my book. Usually I will not send a person to a company if they are rude or difficult for no reason. This is not to say you should provide unusual or private information, but if a company wants more explanation on your qualifications, that means your resume might not have been clear, or maybe the HR person doesn't have a technical grasp on what you do. If you refuse reasonable requests you can bet you will be blacklisted. I don't care how great a person is technically, if they are a nightmare right off the bat I know they are not someone I want to present to my clients because those are the people that become nightmare employees and managers. At this stage everyone should be on their best behavior, so anything to suggest otherwise is a red flag. 
  2. Being rude to anyone. If you are not interested in hearing from a recruiter that's fine, but either don't answer your phone or a simple no thanks will do. It might surprise you but several times I've had some very rude responses followed up by a 'wait a minute, tell me more about this job'. I will entertain you for a few minutes but if you're rude before you understand what the call is about you can guess I'm not submitting you for the job. This goes for receptionists and anyone you come in contact with at the company if you get to the company's location. 
  3. Annoy your recruiter. I understand you are anxious about whether the company is interested, but the process can be long and involve a lot of layers of management at the company. Sometimes companies are lacking on the feedback, so I truly can't tell you what the status is. You can imagine how calling someone several times a day might make them change their mind about your professionalism. If you are selected for an interview or the company wants to make an offer you will know. As a general rule, don't annoy any gatekeepers.
  4. Get caught lying. I can do my own research and evaluation, but sometimes candidates do get away with some half truths. If you are claiming to work somewhere but you've recently been laid off, it's best to tell the recruiter. If you are purposefully misleading and it comes out later it can really mess up your chances at the job. I recommend doing freelance or contract work whenever possible if you find yourself laid off or fired. There are ways around being stigmatized for being unemployed if you're seeking a new job.  
  5. Don't check your references first. Have a friend or someone you know call your professional references first to make sure they will be truthful and not destructive to your job search. I have had people say not the greatest things when checking references. 

Stratus Search is a cybersecurity recruiting firm in the U.S. All blog articles are for entertainment purposes only and are not to be taken as legal advice. Contact Zach@stratussearch.com to submit your resume.

Pay Isn't Everything... Or Is It?

At some point hiring managers and HR professionals have gotten it in their head that people work for fun and not for a paycheck. There are new articles every day talking about how millennials in particular don't care about pay and how they want flexible schedules and other benefits instead. I don't know about you, but unless you are an heiress or have won the lottery most of us get jobs so we can make money. Money is needed for the exchange of goods and services, like food and shelter. We need money to get the things we need to live. While I agree the perfect job candidate has motivations in addition to money such as location, growth opportunity, and company culture, the paycheck is usually at the top of that list. 

At the beginning of my professional career I started looking for a new job after my then current employer laid off a lot of people. There were a lot of rumors but the signs were not good the company was on the upswing. A recruiter had reached out to me and I interviewed for a sales job for an automotive parts company. The job required traveling constantly to Canada, Michigan, and Wisconsin to dirty plants and working alongside the real salesman who was Japanese and I would be a sort of translator (who could not speak Japanese btw). The job sounded like a lot of work. I learned during the interview the pay was around $30,000 with no commissions (for a sales job!) and a potential for a small bonus in the second year. My wife laughed at this when I told her and neither of us could believe the recruiter/company thought someone would take this job. Granted, this was back when the country was still recovering from the Great Recession, but that pay is laughable. I consider all time spent away from home traveling as working hours, so when you break down the hours required by this job you are probably somewhere near minimum wage. I decided I would be better off going back to work as a lifeguard than taking this job.

I declined the second interview much to the dismay of the recruiter. I was not a recruiter at this time, but had managed our staffing function, but I knew this lady was not taking the right approach. I would never push a candidate into a terrible job for them. I would not even work for a client with such crazy expectations. She even tried to bargain with me to take the job and work a few months until her guarantee was up so she would get paid and leave her client high and dry. I told her absolutely not and that the salary was terrible for the long hours and travel required for this job and asked why there was no commission. She said the company did not want someone motivated by money and that the Japanese culture valued hard work over greed. I'm willing to bet the owners of the company spewing that nonsense get paid so much because they can swindle their employees into believing this BS. She tried to make me feel bad about wanting a wage appropriate for my skill level and the demand of the position. I realized I shouldn't feel bad about wanting to be paid fairly for the work I gave to a company. As a sales professional I have always enjoyed working on commission because I can be compensated for my level of input directly. 

Around this same time I discovered Grant Cardone, a sales trainer and motivational speaker. I listened to all of his sales books (audiobooks ftw) and his online videos. He made me realize I should not feel bad or greedy for wanting a fair wage. Making money means supporting my family and causes I believe in. We are constantly bombarded with messages like 'money isn't everything' or 'money is the root of all evil' but money is not a bad thing and we shouldn't feel bad for aspiring to have some money or a lot of money. Life is hard with or without money, but it money can make things way easier. Working two or three jobs is hard. Taking the bus or walking miles to work is hard. Having no money is hard. This notion gets pushed that it's hard to make money but living without any is a lot more work. 

Don't be afraid to leave your job or start a side gig to make more money. I have explained this before, but rich people tend to have multiple sources of income. If you have income from rental properties, a consulting gig, or other means you will not be a slave to your day job. You will not worry endlessly every time there is a management change or layoffs. You will not have to compromise your values and stay at a company you do not align yourself with if you have other means of income. I read that the average millionaire reports seven sources of income to the IRS. If you have one source of income you must consider diversifying yourself. I have written this before, but you are a corporation and you should not rely on one client to buy your services. The one client right now is your full time employer. 

If you find out you are being paid below your market value you should usually leave the company you are at and seek another opportunity. Your employer most likely knows they are thieving you out of your time without fair pay. You can try asking for a raise but how often do you want to do that? Never try to get an offer just to get a counteroffer. This is passive aggressive and will make you look bad to your company even if they make you a counteroffer to keep you. You will go down in their book as a traitor. 

If you are seeking employment elsewhere and the company wants to know your current salary, do not tell them. You never want to anchor the negotiations. Always get the company to say the first number. Your current salary should not matter. What should matter is the market value for the position being filled. It is not in the best interest of the company to rip you off in the long term, so it is a win-win situation. If a prospective employer is pushy about this or otherwise makes you feel unease, then you should evaluate whether you really want to work there. 

Every day there is a new article from a middle aged baby boomer telling us what millennials want, and how pay isn't important to them. It is. Everyone wants to rightfully be paid enough for their skills, their time, and to live a comfortable lifestyle. Younger people may also want flexible work hours and value results over a strict 9 to 5 culture, but that doesn't mean they want to be paid less. They want pay in addition to the other things. Yes, they may not get it all, but if their skills are in demand they just might. 

While money is not a job candidate's only consideration, it is an important part that should not be looked down upon. I'm sure if we were all rich we would not choose to be software developers or other difficult occupations, we'd all be professional dog cuddlers or candy tasters. We all know the truth is the main reason any of us spend years of our life going to college, studying, going into debt, etc. is so one day we can live the dream and make some money. Let's all stop pretending we put ourselves through all that for prospect of having a job with an air hockey table.

You're Turning Away Great Candidates Right Under Your Nose

You may have heard the acronym "ATS", which in our context means Applicant Tracking System. Most larger companies have their own ATS, and others probably use a commercial ATS in their hiring process. Time and time again I call great people for a job I am recruiting for and hear "I've already applied!". Most of these people are frustrated because they never hear so much as a polite rejection. An ATS is supposed to help with the hiring process but in reality I find this is not always the case.

  1. The AI is not good enough yet. These systems are supposed to intelligently sort through hundreds or thousands of applicants and know who is a good fit. The problem is people design these programs and people don't always know what is best. The program is only as good as the designer of the program. I'm sure in the future we will see an improvement in this arena.
  2. Applicants are soured on your company. Without so much as a half-hearted 'we'll keep your resume on file' most ATSs are a black hole that leaves almost all of the applicants hanging. It's the professional equivalent of being ghosted, and no one likes being ghosted.
  3. You're missing out on cross-functional applicants. Even if the applicant is not a perfect fit for the current job, they are likely to be a good fit for another position within the company, or a position that opens up in the future. The ATS black hole causes hiring managers to start from scratch every time they fill a position. 
  4. HR doesn't understand the technical requirements. If the person using the ATS doesn't understand the technical skills needed for a position then good people who've applied get looked over. This is often caused by a lack of communication between HR and the technical managers. In a larger company setting this can be difficult to overcome. Companies should hire specialty recruiters, either in-house or outsourced, whenever possible.

If you are a hiring manager, corporate talent acquisition specialist, or otherwise need assistance please contact Zach@stratussearch.com.  Stratus Search is an executive search firm specializing in IT and cybersecurity positions. 

All articles are for entertainment only and not intended as legal advice. 

How to Hire Millennials

Recently we wrote an open letter response to all of the negative articles out there hating on millennials. You can find the article by clicking the link here. Now that you understand this generation a little better I will explain some ways to hire experienced millennials. A lot of articles say we don't care about pay but I assure you that's still a factor, it's just skilled workers are usually offered a similar salary range in most positions so pay becomes more of a commodity rather than the main concern. 

  1. Look outside of LinkedIn. Some young professionals are on the network, but just as many do not regularly sign in to check for connections or messages. You will have to use other means to find young technical people. Instagram and Facebook advertising and organic reach can do wonders for finding younger talent, however don't trust your social media presence to just anyone that looks young and can use a computer. You still need someone skilled at marketing and talent acquisition to properly reach your target audience. Recruiters such as Stratus Search can help in this arena because we have a large online presence and following and can reach potential candidates that old-fashioned recruiters are using a rolodex cannot. 
  2. Offer teleworking. If the job or any aspects of the job can be done from home then let your employees do so. Most jobs are done online especially in the IT world and can be done from anywhere, so if companies are wanting employees in the office for no practical reason it's usually because they don't trust their people to do work at home. Employees understand this reasoning and everyone wants respect and trust in their workplace. If you don't trust your employees to work unsupervised maybe you need to reconsider why that is. 
  3. Get rid of the 9 to 5 schedule. This applies to everyone, but younger people especially find the 40-hour (or more) work week is a waste of time. Most of use waste tons of time getting coffee, chatting, and checking our newsfeed because the workday is so long. Let employees work core hours, or work out some arrangement where if the work is done so are they. Nothing is worse than managers who yell at you for leaving 10 minutes early when you worked on a project at home until midnight the night before. If the work is done and the position allows flexible hours then this will definitely attract talent. Some people are just not morning people and want to work at 10, others are early risers and want to leave by 2 to pick up their kids - let them. Freedom will keep more talented employees than any pay raise. Furthermore, European cultures work way less than Americans and are just as productive. Benefits such as this can mean the difference between keeping and lose talented workers with offers at your competitors. 
  4. Stop the power play. The demeaning interview questions have got to go. Some industries such as cybersecurity are short on talent and employers need to realize they are not the ones holding the power. We work mainly with passive candidates who may already have a comfortable job. If these passive candidates interview at a company that is rude or otherwise provides an unpleasant interview experience they will not work there no matter how great the offer may be. This comes down to basic manners and respect for anyone interviewing with your company. Making candidates jump through hoops is not a good thing. I always hear 'well if he/she can't figure out the 100 step interview questionnaire we don't want that person anyway'. Yes, yes you do. The candidates will see silly inconveniences as a company who is not efficient and somewhere they don't want to be. Your overall attitude should be one of a mutual value for you and the candidate, after all you are getting their time, knowledge, and dedication for your money. See our article How to Scare Away Good Candidates for more information on this topic. 

If you are in need of fresh talent and need help communicating with candidates please give us a call at (727)308-7887 or email Zach@stratussearch.com for your cybersecurity recruiting needs.

Stop Putting Down Millennials

I am a millennial by definition, so I might be biased. I can't go a day without seeing an article or hearing about generational diversity training at workplaces. If I were to get out the microfiche I have no doubt I'd find similar articles referring to the baby-boomers, which let's face it, were way worse that us - they were the hippies after all. Your business needs to stop lumping in all young people together and learn how to work with each individual. We all know deep down all this 'how to work with an entitled, lazy millennial spiel really means "I'm resentful of the young people at my company and I haven't kept up with the times so now I feel threatened by their skills". Let's discuss how we can fix the real problem, which again is not an entire generation being "entitled".

  1. Keep up your skills. No matter your industry this is a must. When I graduated college I thought 'finally, no more homework, tests, and learning!' - wrong! Now I like learning, even the boring stuff because I can feel accomplished when I better myself with new or improved skills. Tons of places like stackskills.com have low cost courses. There are free college courses online and when all else fails, youtube.com has almost every tutorial you can imagine. I read audiobooks while driving or working out as well, but I like to get ones that are narrated by the real authors. If you get comfortable and don't keep up, technology will pass you by and you will have no millennials to blame for your lack of effort. 
  2. Don't whine about change. We all have at least one person who will gripe at every meeting because something is changing and surprise they hate it. Everyone else rolls their eyes and thinks 'shut up already so we can get out of here'. Get used to change and if you don't like what's changing then be the one making the changes. Volunteer for everything and I guarantee you will have some say in the changes that are made. Don't sit back and let everyone else decide on the changes and then cry about it.
  3. Earn their respect. This goes back to number one, but if an older coworker tells me they just can't understand basic functions on Microsoft Office I will lose a little respect for them. If you think millennials are throwing attitude your way maybe you haven't been pulling your weight, keeping up with skills necessary to do your job and you deserve their eye rolls. I had a coworker tell me they just weren't going to bother learning anything to do with Excel (we're not talking advanced functions) because they were retiring in the next decade. As you can imagine this creates more work for your millennial coworkers when they have to pick up your slack because you can't be bothered to learn the tools you need to do your work. 
  4. Stop discouraging their enthusiasm. Yes, seasoned vets know some things just can't be done, right? Well maybe your jaded attitude is throwing them off. Let them dream they can make positive change, because it does happen. They certainly don't know everything but that doesn't mean their ideas are always bad. A fresh perspective can help your company if you let it. More importantly managers should encourage all employees to speak ideas freely and not put down people for trying to make things better or more efficient. 
  5. Stop generalizing us. Yes, we are probably better at technology than you but no one likes being stereotyped. Don't assume the twenty-something new hire can run your social media marketing campaign. Don't assume we hate the phone or will only talk via text. We want to do a good job just like everyone else. If you think we are all entitled and need participation trophies just remember, it's the baby boomers who had the idea to hand out participation trophies because they couldn't handle not having the best kid on the team. All we cared about was getting ice cream after the game. Also we were six years old, and maybe t-ball isn't our strength okay? We are living at home more, but that's a financial reason, not an independence issue. It is also highly acceptable and tradition to live in multi-generation households in most of the world, and recently in the U.S. as well. Maybe we realized we don't need to go into massive debt for a huge house we don't use. If you are finding your millennial hires are not able-working adults that speaks more to your hiring efforts than a generalization of an entire generation. We are entrepreneurs, financially savvy, technologically skilled, and have great potential.

Stratus Search is a cyber security executive search firm, but we are happy to help you if you are having trouble attracting or retaining millennial talent. Sign up for our newsletter to get hiring and interviewing tips straight to your mailbox. Coming soon... "How to hire millennials"

How to Keep Up Hiring in Your Growing Company

Technology and Cybersecurity Industries are growing at a rapid pace but there is a limited market of candidates on the market. I’ve seen expected shortfalls of 1-2 million open cyber security jobs in the next few years depending on the source. If you are growing faster than your ability to fill your job openings, here are 5 strategies to consider when in a rapid growth phase:

1.      Streamline your hiring process. Don’t interview people you don’t think are qualified for the position to meet a quota. You should only meet with the best fitting candidates and should not need to meet with them 10 times to figure out if they are good. Focus on the value your company can bring to their personal and professional development and the value that person can bring to your organization. This problem stems from HR people who do not know exactly what the job requires. You need to get a technical recruiting expert or train the hiring decision maker. 

2.      Use your network. Use social media and all the marketing tools available to your company. The more people that are aware of the opportunity, the more likely the right person will find it.

3.      Reward your employees with a referral system. Encourage your employees to give referrals. Offer bonuses or other perks to employees for helping with the process. This person can also act as a pre-interview reference for the candidate. Working with friends is great for your current employees’ morale as well – who doesn’t want to work with people they like?

4.      Hire contractors in the interim to fill an immediate need. For technical positions or projects, this is ideal. For sales positions, consider hiring inside sales professionals to qualify leads and generate interest in your product. Good contractors can also act as a trial employee that you can hire if you like their work. If you don’t like the person, you don’t have to deal with the fallout of firing a regular employee.

5.      Use a recruiter with expertise in your industry. This is especially important when hiring outside of your comfort zone. If you are a medical company for example, and you need to hire a cyber-security expert full time to manage information systems you likely don’t have an HR manager who knows how to hire for that position. Every company needs cyber security in this age and we can help companies fill the gap with our network of professionals and deep understanding of the qualities you will need in a job candidate. You will save money in the long-term with better-fitting candidates who will want to work at your company for the right reasons. Always go for a niche recruiter when possible – they will be much more likely to get you an exact fit.

If you need cyber security professionals for your growing company please contact us today at stratussearch.com. Cyber security professionals are always welcome to contact Zach@stratussearch.com to keep informed of opportunities that fit your profile. 

How to Scare Away Good Job Candidates

Times are changing and your interview process should be too.  There's a reason we all hate interviewing.  The wrong attitude can make or break whether your company can hire top talent. Skip the old questions your HR handbook tells you to use and follow this advice instead. Here are all of the ways your company is scaring away good talent. 

  • Have an extensive interview process.  If it takes you more than three interviews to decide on a candidate they will question your decision making capability.  They are likely taking time off from their current job and possibly travelling to each interview, so you are creating an undue hardship and they'll see it as a wasting their time.  If your interview process is longer than three meetings, consider where you can cut the process shorter.  If the real decision maker is the department manager then you may be able to relieve HR of interview duties, especially since we will do all the screening and qualifying for you.
  • Take too long to make the offer. If you interview a candidate and even go as far as telling good candidates they were great, then wait several weeks to make an offer they will realize you choked.  They'll think you really aren't that interested in them or you were looking for someone better.  If a great candidate comes along hire them, don't assume you can find someone better.  If you think there is someone better, be up front and let the candidate know.
  • Assume you have all the power. Technical people and well-qualified candidates may have several good offers or will be a passive candidate with a job they are willing to stay in.  Skilled people do not like being asked demeaning questions in an interview (no one does). Questions which we all hate being asked are:
    • What is your biggest weakness?
    • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
    • Why should I hire you?

These questions have become standard but can make a great candidate leave with a bad impression.  Instead of asking these questions which really don't give you valuable information, ask about their technical experience and projects they've worked on.  Everyone has been told to say their biggest weakness is being a perfectionist anyway.  If you don't know why you might want to hire them, then you shouldn't be interviewing them.  We can help you come up with great interview questions to really get to know your candidate when you work with us on your search. We can even attend the interview depending on your needs. If you need assistance finding or interviewing top talent call us now at 727-308-7887 or email Zach@stratussearch.com

Send us your resume now to be considered for top-secret positions. 

How to Get a $40,000 Raise

No, this isn't a trick.  I have gotten people who have worked with me an increase in salary of $40,000 or more. 

  • You can't just go ask your boss for a huge raise.  You can sometimes stay at the same company but at the very least you'll have to change positions or make yourself invaluable to the company. You can find a way to take on a sales role and earn a commission. If you are an engineer, for example, become a technical salesperson.  You can learn to sell, so don't be afraid to take on a new type of role with your company.
  • Changing companies is your best bet. If you are not being compensated for the contributions you make to your current employer you'll have to make a career move to make this happen. This isn't a trick and the company who made these offers weren't swindled.  I found people out there who were big fish in a small pond.  Some of these people had patents and had generated huge revenues for their previous employers but they were not able to market themselves the way they needed to get the kind of income commesurate with the work they were doing.  Changing jobs is scary and uncomfortable but necessary to make a big leap in income. 
  • Don't disclose your current salary. With states like Massachusetts prohibiting potential employers from asking your salary this will give you even more negotiating power and allow you to get paid what the position is really worth. If you're being underpaid now, don't set the bar low.  The company should know what the position is worth and your prior salary is not relevant to that.
  • Join a growing company. The companies making these large offers were not tricked. They were able to see the value and potential revenue increase with hiring these individuals far outweighed a high starting salary or commission structure. $40,000 is nothing when the person you're hiring can create a new product, save you millions with new software, or otherwise affect your bottom line by much more than that amount.  If the lack of a person fulfilling an open position's job duties is costing the company money (for example a lack of sales people) $20,000 or more to pay a great candidate is likely much less than the opportunity cost of lost revenue each day that position is open.


If you are ready to take the next step in your career and increase your income send your resume to Zach@stratussearch.com

Let us know about your career interests by filling out the form below:

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Call Back That Annoying Recruiter

Do you apply for every job posting on Monster or Career Building hoping for a return call? What's your strategy for your next career move?  Whether you are shy or just don't know how to really go after a job change we can help you.  If you call a company and try to sell yourself you may come across a little stalker-ish. If a recruiter calls on your behalf it is much more credible and will get your name out there.  Depending on what openings the recruiter is trying to fill, it may be awhile until he or she has something that fits your area of expertise.  

  • Do not give up if a recruiter doesn't immediately have a job for you.  If you are polite but remain in contact with your recruiter, once something comes across their desk that fits your qualifications you will be the person they think of.  Many times I've talked to a great candidate but just didn't have a spot for them at the time, but a few months later I did and I immediately thought back to that person and how personable they were on the phone, or whatever happened to impress me.
  • Go ahead, work with more than one recruiter but you should also beware of who you are giving your information to.  Many will share your information without your consent!  We will NEVER share your personal information such as your name, current employer, etc. unless we have your permission. 
  • Always be polite. I get it, sometimes you are at work and don't want to talk to a recruiter, but you should never be rude.  You never know who knows who these days and word can get around.  Business is global, but your industry can be more like a small town when it comes to gossip.  You never know when that person may be the key to your next career move. If you don't want to talk or can't just simply say no thanks. 
  • Figure out the real reason you don't want to talk to a recruiter. Are you worried you may not be as happy at your job as you think?  Often the most resistant customer is the one who is most likely to be sold. What's the harm in hearing them out to find out if there is a great opportunity in their pocket?  Successful people are always looking for great investment opportunities, and that's exactly how you should view a career move - an investment in your future. If you're busy tell them you have 2 minutes to hear them out.  At Stratus Search we have new opportunities on a daily basis and regularly change the future of our candidates and also the companies we work with.


If you want to be kept in the loop about career opportunities that match your skills, send us a message below. 

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Why consulting should be your next career move

Maybe right now you have a stable salaried job, or maybe you’ve been laid off and are looking for work.  Either situation is risky and I’ll tell you why. Think of yourself as a corporation - how many clients do you have?  If you work for one company and depend on that company for all your income, that’s risky. Maybe you have stock investments or some sort of passive income, but most people don’t have any other sources of money other than their day job. Why wait for your only client (your employer) to decide you aren’t the product they want anymore? Contract work and consulting are the safer way to go because you diversify your risk. If one client doesn’t want your services anymore, you have others making up the difference. Working for a company gives you a false sense of security, no matter how stable is the company you work for.  Consider the following:

1. A company name gives you credibility. You may be providing the same services you did as an employee but now instead of Jeff, you are Jeff Consulting Inc. As a consultant, you are literally your own business so give yourself a great company name to give yourself a boost in perceived credibility.

2. You may easily transition into areas where a company wouldn’t hire you. Sometimes companies don’t know what they actually need in a position. HR hiring professionals might think they know what the last person’s credentials were that did the job, so they go with that. Oftentimes companies are edging out great potential employees with a huge list of required qualifications. If they hire you as a consultant it’s less risky if you’re not as qualified because they won’t have to fire you, they can just end the contract. It’s like the company and you both get a limited trial and then you can both decide if it’s working out or go your own ways with fewer entanglements than traditional employment.

3. Flexibility in schedule and mobility.  Companies are more comfortable letting consultants work from their own offices, so this could be your house or wherever you want to work. This could mean working from anywhere in the world sometimes. Most tech jobs can be done from home but some companies are just not trusting of their employees. As a contractor it is beneficial for companies not to give you a desk to keep that line clear that you are not an employee – which would mean tax implications for them.

4. Allows you to charge market price. You won’t have to beg for a raise and be at the mercy of your one client. If a client doesn’t pay your value, don’t give them your services because others will.  The more often you negotiate your value, the better the chances you are being paid market price. If you stay at a job too long with 2 or 3% cost of living increases, you will fall behind your market value. Therefore people end up changing jobs because they can easily get a 10-20% or higher raise, which would be much harder just asking for a large raise at a job. By adjusting your prices often, you can stay at the price you are worth.

5. Builds your network. If you stay at one company too long you become isolated. By consulting or doing contract work at many different companies you are meeting new people all the time and you never know when that next connection will be your key to a great opportunity.

6. Expand your horizons. Technology changes fast. By consulting and expanding your network you can keep current on what’s happening in your industry instead of just what your one company is doing. You get the bigger picture. If you are laid off or otherwise unemployed, consulting is the difference between staying in the game and becoming obsolete.

Consulting may not be easy - but we can help!

When you start a consulting business, there are a few things you will want to be aware of.  You will have to provide your own health insurance, retirement planning, and other benefits.  You must be able to work without constant supervision.  You may need to hire an accountant or someone to help you with your finances.  And most importantly, you must be able to SELL your service.  You must be comfortable with getting in front of large corporations and convincing them of the value you provide.  If you need help getting in the door, get in contact with me and I will help you get clients.  

Contact Zach at Zach@stratussearch.com today to learn more about how to start your consulting business.

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I Make Less Money Than All My Friends

One thing I hear all the time when I'm calling prospective job candidates is 'my friend over at so and so company makes more than me doing the same thing!'. If all of your peers are making more money than you, then you are not being paid your market value. 

  1. It's not as taboo to talk money. My friends openly talk about money and strategy in ways my parents' generation never did.  Some companies try to stop this with policies to punish employees who share their salary, but you can easily find a salary range with sites like Glassdoor. If you're embarrassed to talk about money think about why that is. Do you wish you were making more? Are you afraid your friends will be jealous?  I'm not saying go around bragging and being obnoxious, but don't be so secretive and you'll learn more as well.
  2. Don't compare apples to oranges.  If your friends have responsibilities you don't then that could explain why they make more.  Do they have to manage other employees?  Do you have non-salary benefits they don't such as flexible schedules, working from home, stock options, etc.? People don't always talk about the less glamorous side to their jobs so maybe there's a reason they get paid more.
  3. Have you been at the same company too long? If your company only gives a 3% cost of living increase every year, it's almost certain your pay will not keep up with the market. If you work in a technical area, the cost of your skills may be rising at 10% each year. Switching companies generally gives you a 10-15% increase in salary, so if your company is not paying you your value, consider other options.
  4. It's in the company's best interest to pay your value. They might think they're getting a great discount by keeping employees under market value, until the cost of replacing and training new employees is factored in.  What about lost sales or lost clients? Employees that know they're underpaid will lose their willpower to give it their all. 
  5. Don't assume time or education have value. Focus on your output and what you offer your employer and not on things like how long you've been there to determine your value.  Just because you took night classes to get your masters doesn't mean your employer gets any added value, so this alone should not be a reason for a pay increase. 

Once you have a good grasp on your true value, approach your company with the evidence. Explain why you're worth more and what you do for them.  If you've taken on more responsibility with no or little increase in compensation this is the time (better late than never) to bring it up. Don't approach this with a whiny attitude, but rather a business mindset.  Don't threaten to leave or make any rash decisions if they don't agree.  If negotiating doesn't work, then contact me at Zach@stratussearch.com and I'll help you determine your market value and a company that will pay you what you're worth.

 

Change industries without starting over

Jobs are evolving so quickly today your job may not exist in a few years. There's a lot of talk politically about bringing certain jobs back to the U.S. but I wouldn't hedge your bets on that happening.  The fact is, technology is the force evolving our job market.  A.I. is eliminating jobs and creating new ones at a staggering pace, so you should be prepared to keep up your skills and switch industries if necessary. Even if you are not a spring chicken you can change your career.  People are not retiring at all, or retiring very late.  Even if you are fifty years old you have seventeen years until you can get social security. You may be working twenty or more years yet.  That's a long time to spend in an industry that you don't like, or a dwindling industry. It can be overwhelming to change careers so here are a few pointers:

  1. Think about how your skills can be used.  If you are in sales, you can transfer to another industry pretty easily.  You may need to learn a new product, but generally you have a wide variety of options open to you. If you are in finance or accounting you can move into a strategic budgeting position or a financial advisor role. If you are a software engineer you could move into software sales. Write down your skills and figure out how those skills apply to the industry you want to be in.
  2. Always be learning. Keep up with the latest technology through online tutorials, books, articles, etc. There are so many learning tools available today, at a low or no cost most of the time, there is no excuse.  You should always be developing yourself and your skills. Technology evolves fast and you should try to keep up with the skills employers are in need of. Right now that might be natural language processing.
  3. Use your connections. Send a message to your old college friends that work in the area you'd like to be in.  Ask them if their companies have any openings and see what they like about that industry. If you don't have many connections, or at least not in your desired area, go to a meetup group.  Meetup.com has networking events for almost anything you can dream up, or you can create your own group. 
  4. Pick up the phone. Call up the hiring manager where you want to work.  This will help you stand out.  If possible set up an in-person meeting with this person.  At the very least you will be able to ask what their industry is like. 

If you'd like to change careers or change industries completely, start with talking to Zach by emailing zach@stratussearch.com or call 727-308-7887.

 

Why your resume will get thrown away

We've been on the hunt for new recruiters at our firm, and in the past few weeks I have gotten nothing but a slew of terrible resumes. I cannot bring myself to hire a recruiter who doesn't understand the basics like how to write an eye-catching resume.  At this point I'd almost settle for a mediocre resume that isn't so horrible it makes me wish I'd never opened it. Chances are, your resume is getting a two-second glance before that person deletes it or archives it to the "we'll keep your resume on file" status. Here is why your resume still looks like a pile of garbage to the poor hiring manager or headhunter.

  1. It's unbearably long and detailed. Your resume should generally fit on one page.  No one wants a minute by minute detail of what you do every day.  Include your education, employer, title, and your job description.  The job description should be basic - how would you explain what you do in 1 or 2 sentences to someone from Mars who has never heard of a natural language processor? Call up your grandma or someone who will have no grasp of what you actually do and test this out by seeing if they can figure out from your two sentences what your job entails.
  2. You revealed you're close to retirement. Don't put your graduation date and don't put your job you had in the eighties at McDonald's. Include your last job or two and leave it at that. No one will admit it to you, but if you're over forty-five you're going to be filtered out at the beginning by a lot of companies.  Make the company love you before they realize you're not a spring chicken.
  3. You tried to be Elle Woods.  Stick to a white background, black ink, and leave out the sparkles.  Seriously, do not use a weird font or try to be cute. Whatever you do, do not include a picture of yourself. Unless you are applying for some sort of design job, stick to the facts or else you will look unprofessional.
  4. Your facts don't add up. I was about to call a guy for an interview when I realized his LinkedIn job history didn't match his resume. It looked like he was unemployed but trying to cover it up.  The thing is, if he was unemployed it wouldn't have mattered to me, in fact it would have been an asset because he's a veteran and there's a tax credit for hiring unemployed veterans.  But, because he lied or sent me a really old resume, I couldn't hire him. 

If you're still feeling lost, contact Zach@stratussearch.com for help with your resume. You can also fill out the form below and let us know if you need resume help, or if you are looking for a career opportunity.

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How to convince your partner you should relocate

Maybe you started the interview process on a whim, thinking nothing would come of it. Next thing you know you're being offered a job in Tulsa. What do you do?  What if this is the opportunity of a lifetime for you? Even with candidates who are very serious about making a change, most still hesitate when it comes to relocating for a job offer. This is understandable since you probably have friends, family, maybe a church or other community you belong to and leaving makes you feel uncomfortable. The thing is, you should make yourself uncomfortable if you really want to succeed. You should always be expanding your networks and meeting new clients or colleagues. I recently moved about 1000 miles to the other side of the country and can understand the difficulty of making a huge change. The biggest objection I hear is "my wife/husband doesn't want to move".  Here are some ways you can help persuade him/her:

  1. Visit the potential new city. Be a tourist and show your spouse all the great things you could do if you lived there.  Put some effort into planning the trip so you can really impress him/her. Think about what your partner enjoys and focus on those things.  If they really like going to new restaurants then find the best in the area to give them a taste of what could be.
  2. Help you S.O. find their own career move. If you are working with a recruiter maybe he/she can find your spouse a job as well.  This could be motivating for the recruiter if it's the only way you can move.
  3. Try working remotely. These days it's easier to work remotely so check if that's a possibility for either you in the new role or for your spouse to relocate. 
  4. Break up with them! Just kidding... sort of. If the relationship is new, think carefully before putting your career on hold.  Really consider why your partner doesn't want you to move and think about their motivations. If you have only been dating your boyfriend a few months picture yourself staying put and passing up this opportunity and then the relationship doesn't work out. 
  5. Use the power of persuasion. Think of all the ways a move would benefit your partner and let them know. You can even make a deal that if they just try it out for six months you can move back if it doesn't work out. 

Check out our featured opportunities or email us at Zach@stratussearch.com to be considered for exciting new openings. 

Why you shouldn't take that job offer

Congratulations if you have a solid position at a company and have been offered a new job.  This is a huge decision and might be the right direction for you, but you can't decide. If you didn't immediately accept the offer that doesn't mean it's not a good offer, but you also don't want to leave a steady successful job for the unknown.  Here are some indicators you should not accept the offer.

  1. The salary isn't what you were expecting. This is not the end of the road.  Try negotiating for a higher starting pay, better commission structure, or other benefits valuable to you.  If you aren't working with the right recruiter they might not try to get you your top dollar.  We strive to always get top candidates and our clients within a range that works for both parties. If one party feels they are getting screwed, it's not good for either of them. If you are employed and currently happy you have nothing to lose here - just ask for what you're worth, but have reason to support it.  Think about what you really bring to the table and not in terms of "well I deserve $80k because I made $70k at my last job".  Instead provide how you can increase revenue by a certain amount.  Justify your value.
  2. The company took too long to make the offer. Generally, a week after the last interview is an acceptable time frame to make the offer. If it took the company a month after your last contact to make the offer you either weren't their first choice or they might be a mess internally.  Sometimes there are good reasons for such a delay, but you should try to find out why the company suddenly had interest in you again.  Good talent is hard to find these days and companies must act quickly and realize they are not the ones in a position of power when it comes to top talent. 
  3. The interview didn't go well. The plans were changed at the last minute, the interview was rescheduled, or the attendees changed. A disorganized company will show its true colors in the interview process. The company should know its own interview process and not constantly change what's going on.  If your interactions at the company were not pleasant this might just be a one-off case but it also might be a company culture you don't mesh with.
  4. You're not excited about it.  It's normal to have cold feet when it comes to big decisions, but you should feel some glimmer of excitement or gut feeling that this is the right move for you.
  5. The offer is a bait and switch. Make sure the title is the same as what you were expecting.  This is a surprising but often heard complaint that companies are not realistic throughout the hiring process when it comes to the job responsibilities, pay, and benefits. It's always a good idea to have these things in writing. Again, everything in life is negotiable so don't give up on the offer without explanation.  Go back to your recruiter, or the hiring manager and explain your hesitation and go from there.  If you don't have a recruiter ask the company exactly what the benefits are - often companies offer stock options or tuition reimbursement but don't think to bring this up with job candidates.  If you aren't comfortable negotiating for yourself, use a good recruiter to work on your behalf.

We can help you make the right decision with your next career move. Contact us now at zach@stratussearch.com to find out about exciting opportunities in your field.