Business & Technology

Interviewing Veterans for Cyber Security Positions - What I Look For as a Civilian Employer

By Geoff Kreiling | November 10, 2017

Over the last three years, it has been my privilege to be one of the first civilian interview experiences that candidates in our Veterans program go through. For those of you that do not know, Fortinet runs the top Veterans employment program by any pure play security vendor bar none.

My role in the program is to give Veterans Program members their first civilian interview for cyber security positions, ranging from business development to systems engineering roles. I also support the Veterans Program team lead in guiding these warriors from military service to rewarding careers in cybersecurity. During my support of the program over the last three years, I have literally interviewed hundreds of candidates.

What’s unique about our program is that I am not the first interview they go through, nor the last. Before a veteran makes it onto my calendar, they are interviewed by a retired Marine recruiter who is looking for the raw materials that make up a FortiVet regardless of their background.

While this is no simple task, we take great pride in the caliber of individual we bring to partners and the industry. The candidate’s first experience is speaking to a veteran who has successfully made the transition to a civilian career in cybersecurity. This veteran-on-veteran experience is their first exposure to the program, and makes a daunting prospect more relatable and comforting.

Once they get through the Master Sergeant, they get onto my calendar for a civilian interview that is more geared to what they will experience during their job seeking efforts.

As we prepare to honor our Veterans this Saturday, I felt this post might be enlightening for Veterans considering the program, and employer partners browsing our candidates. This will give you an idea of what I am looking for in a candidate, and better inform your selection process.

Here’s what I am looking for:

Professionalism – Look and act the part of a professional. Treat this interview as you would treat any job interview. I am looking to see how you will respond in an interview situation for a civilian job and I need to feel confident you will impress a hiring manager. Showing up in jeans and a t-shirt doesn’t make the best first impression.

Attitude – Be positive, confident, and upbeat.

Be prepared – Know my background. Read my LinkedIn profile. Study up on Fortinet and our Executives. Be able to explain how your military background would prepare you for the role(s) in which you are interested. Tell me how a project you were assigned or a role you filled while serving makes you a great candidate

Be yourself – Tell me what motivates you. Let your personality come through. I (and Hiring Managers) want to know if you will be a good fit with our Corporate Culture.

Talk the talk - You must be able to back up your resume. Be prepared to discuss the skills that you have highlighted on your resume.  Don’t claim a deep background in something if you have only encountered it a few times. You would be amazed at how many people are tripped up when trying to pad their resume.

Have a plan – It doesn’t have to be a regimented monthly plan, but an idea of where you want to go in the cyber industry helps you stand out, whether you want to be a Systems Engineer, or play a role in Human Resources or Marketing.

Interview the interviewer – While I am interviewing you, you should be interviewing me. Ask questions. Ask yourself if you would enjoy working with me (or a Hiring Manager.) Remember, in the interview process, while I (or HR) are assessing if we feel you would be a good for us, you should be doing the same.  We are looking for creative, smart, goal oriented individuals. It is in your best interest to be asking yourself if the company offers you the challenges you will need to stay engaged.

The goal of this program is to facilitate the transition of exceptional veterans from military service to the cyber security industry. Fortinet is putting its name on these candidates, so we do not take this process lightly.

If you are a veteran planning your transition, or you are an employer looking to help staff your security team, you can be assured that this process is designed to find exceptional candidates with a variety of different backgrounds and skillsets that possess the drive, espirit de corps, and communications skills considered to be prerequisites for membership.

We feel strongly that the operators that make it through this process have the potential to be fantastic contributors to employers and that the cyber security industry can help replace the camaraderie and sense of purpose that so many veterans miss from their time in the service.

To those that serve – we thank you. To those that hire – Get Hiring!

Read more about the Fortinet FortiVets program