As companies struggle with retention and look to boost their teams amid a wave of resignations across the country, ThreatQuotient’s Michel Huffaker hopes a reroute of hiring methods is also on the map.
Huffaker, the director of threat intelligence at the DC cybersecurity firm, is one of many noticing one of the biggest trends of 2021: people are leaving their jobs at unprecendented rates. Known as The Great Resignation, the trend has been growing in the pandemic. A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said the “quits rate” for August 2021 of 2.9% was the highest on record in the country.
This means not only that people are leaving to seek new jobs, but that a large number of companies are seeking to fill roles. Huffaker told Technical.ly that not every company is keeping up with what employees are really searching for as they seek new jobs. To be sure, there are some strong points at the policy level, she said. When states don’t require applicants to disclose previous salaries, this can help with industry diversity and making sure people are paid what they’re worth. But she said there’s still a disconnect between companies, applicants and HR departments.
Even in cybersecurity, Huffaker said, especially considering the fact that HR and hiring managers might have different ideas about what goes into a role, job descriptions can end up with too many requirements. What that means, she noted, is that incoming employees are often saddled with unrealistic expectations in their new positions.
“[Even at lower-management levels], they’re looking for player-coaches a lot of times and using the title as bait,” Huffaker said. “But then because HR has certain criteria for those types of management roles, they pin all of that management [skill] on top of an already kind of unbelievable technical skill set.”
When it comes to hiring, Huffaker said there are a few things she’d like to see the cybersecurity industry shift towards: better job descriptions, better discussions among the team and more internal hiring. So far, she said, she’s seen many job descriptions where employers are tacking on too many extra skills into positions, like adding coding into cybersecurity roles or requiring too much experience in a junior role.
In the actual hiring process, as well, Huffaker hopes that hiring managers and HR departments can communicate more, and also think more holistically about what a person can bring to a company. Instead of just thinking about what a candidate can bring to this position, hiring managers can consider overall growth trajectory and whether or not someone might be a good fit for leadership or management down the line.
This is even important, Huffaker said, in the earliest days of a startup. Many company leaders choose to hire people they know when they’re first starting off who might be highly skilled, but lack the ability to run a company. Later on, she said, as the startup grows, leaders have to go back and squeeze in the skills that are missing.
Startup founders, she said, think “‘Hey I’m going to start a company, I’m going to hire all my best friends who I worked with in the industry for a long time,'” Huffaker said. “So you get a group of people together that’s kind of a Mighty Ducks type of team. You just have really good people that are really good at getting stuff done and then somewhere along the lines, you’re like, ‘Oh wait, this is also a business,’ so then they backtrack and try to shoehorn roles in places that I don’t think were strategically planned. ”
Looking internally, she said, is particularly important because what current employees may lack in experience, they make up for in knowledge and understanding of the company’s needs. This is especially important in the startup world and within small companies, she noted. It can be difficult for morale when hiring managers look outside of current employees to fill upper-level roles.
“It’s just a critically bad error to make and it kills culture, it kills confidence,” Huffaker said. “It makes people…kind of fall out of love with the culture that they’ve been a part of for a long time.”
By reconsidering what value candidates can really bring to a role, Huffaker said, these positions can become more accessible if hiring managers reevaluate the need for degree requirements or manager experience — and it also means managers encouraging existing employees to apply.
"Everyone needs to do their own homework and their own analysis and understand really where they fit in the market."
But it’s not just hiring managers and HR pros that need to reassess. The burden, she noted, is also on candidates who need to learn where they would be a good fit and an asset. Young technologists in particular, she noted, need to lean away from some of the folklore about tech like huge starting salaries and lavish transportation from home to campuses.
“Everyone needs to do their own homework and their own analysis and understand really where they fit in the market,” Huffaker said.
As the Great Resignation continues on, overall, Huffaker hopes the shift in employee retention can also mean a shift in hiring culture. Especially in the midst of a remote world and new priorities following the pandemic, she hopes to see the industry shift to companies helping employees feel good about the work they do. It’s a priority for many that often comes across to candidates in job searches, and can have an impact on their final selections.
“They want to feel like they’re a part of a company that has good intentions and good goals. That’s the social responsibility part of hiring and employment, and it’s more important now than it ever has been,” Huffaker said.