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Measuring Performance, not Pedigree, in Cybersecurity Hiring

Purple background with white text, "Data-Driven Recruiting Podcast; Why Finding and Hiring Diverse Talent is Key to Success." On the right is a headshot of Tushar Shetha, the podcast guest, with a beard and glasses.

Listen in on the conversation between Tushar Sheth, Co-Founder at team5, and CodeSignal Co-Founder Sophia Baik in Data-Driven Recruiting Episode #59. Sheth and Baik discuss how team5 is shaking up how the cybersecurity industry identifies top technical candidates.

Besides being two of the most in-demand industries today, software development and cybersecurity have another unique quality in common: in both fields, much of the top talent is self-taught. It is no longer the case that the most skilled individuals attended top-tier schools, as it was in the early days of the tech industry. 

For Tushar Sheth, Co-Founder of team5, the difficulty of identifying qualified talent in the cybersecurity space caught his attention as an exciting challenge to tackle. Founded in 2019, team5 helps companies identify and hire top cybersecurity talent by evaluating candidates based on their skills, rather than their resume.

Advancing equity in cybersecurity recruiting

Unlike many startup founders, Sheth’s vision for the company did not emerge out of experience in the cybersecurity field. Instead, Sheth saw this industry as a place to make an impact with a mission that matters deeply to him: creating better economic opportunities for people on the basis of what they can do.

Sheth is no stranger to taking on social and economic problems at a massive scale. Trained as both an electrical engineer and a civil rights lawyer (not a pairing of skills you see every day), Sheth worked as White House policy advisor addressing federal labor policy before founding team5. During his time at the White House, he felt inspired by the advanced research on AI coming out of the Department of Defense—and found an unique opportunity to bring together these diverse fields. 

He asked himself: “Could I take some of this promising technology, combine it with social and policy issues, and apply it in the real world?”

Identifying top talent based on performance

Sheth’s answer to this question takes the form of team5’s “flight simulator” model of cybersecurity hiring, which asks candidates to complete realistic security tasks that emulate those they would encounter on the job.

Cybersecurity is a relatively new and constantly-evolving field, and few universities offer a full curriculum in the field. But for Sheth, the availability of formal training opportunities in this field isn’t the problem.

“Oftentimes the things you’re learning in school are not exactly the things you need to be doing on a day-to-day basis,” he explained. And in cybersecurity, “really, the only way to learn this stuff was to get your hands dirty—to go out in the world and do it.” 

The company evaluates candidates’ performance using realistic tasks (rather than education or previous employment) reviewed by a panel of security experts. Sheth explains: “When [assessing] someone in your field that you’re an expert in, you can talk to them for 15-20 minutes and get a pretty good idea of what they’re all about.” Put simply: “game recognizes game,” as the saying goes. 

For Sheth, team5’s cybersecurity “flight simulator” is just the beginning to taking on the big issues that persist in our society. But he is sure of one thing: “tech is going to play an integral role.”

Conclusion

What does team5’s approach to cybersecurity hiring suggest about improving technical hiring more broadly? Here at CodeSignal, we think it means:

  1. Resumes are becoming an increasingly irrelevant tool for identifying skill—not just in software development, but in a range of technical fields.
  2. Skill assessment should focus on tasks, problems, or questions that realistically simulate the job a company is hiring for.
  3. Involving experts in the hiring process (like in a technical interview) is key to gaining a more holistic understanding of a candidate’s skills and potential.

Learn More

Want to learn more about how you can build a winning organization through data-driven recruiting? Visit CodeSignal to find out how you can measure technical skills effectively and objectively with its automated assessment and live interview solutions.

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