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Disclaimer - Using a temp account as my real account is having login issues with 2FA.

I have interviewed a handful of candidates for newly opened Info Sec auditor or InfoSec analyst positions in the last several weeks. If hired, these people will be reporting to me or will be working very closely with me on our separate InfoSec team. I have found quite a large portion of the candidates that did apply to be unsuitable in their technical background or communication ability. To give examples of what I mean:

  • Unable to succinctly describe the tenets of the CIA security triad (Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability), how these concepts relate, and importance in InfoSec.

  • Unable to explain concisely what a security control is, types of controls, and example of each without rambling.

  • Unfamiliarity with principles of Least Privilege or Segregation of Duties, or data classification / sensitivity labeling.

I have re-read the job description that I drafted and the requirements of the job seem clear as well as the qualities in ideal / desired candidates. Prior to interviewing with my team (am team lead) or separate InfoSec team, candidates are screened through HR who is non - technical. I believe the reason weak candidates are moving forward to the interview stage when they should not have been invited is that this initial screening process is flawed.

I would like to strengthen the screening criteria so to improve efficiency in the actual interview stage, without being too blunt or offensive by suggesting to HR that their screening technique is bad.

How can I do this in the least offensive way possible while being honest?

  • What criteria did you give the HR team prior to them screening? – HorusKol May 8 '18 at 3:16
  • Are your rejecting the candidates after a phone interview or an in-person interview? – Philip Kendall May 8 '18 at 3:21
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    Use a lot of bold with them. That will come off as least offensive. – paparazzo May 8 '18 at 5:02
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    "Rambling" in an interview can be due to nerves and a lot of technically very capable people may be slightly socially awkward. Plus, it's easy not to "ramble" when you're the one interviewing. I suspect you've been in your position for too long and have forgotten what a mental minefield job search can be. Maybe have a chat to your HR department and ask them to explain to you the human element in interviewing. It might help you find the right person and stop turning down capable applicants (who all go home wondering what they did wrong) – solarflare May 8 '18 at 5:02
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    Do you expect your HR reps to be experts on those three bullet points? Probably not. IME it's not typical for HR to screen for technical requirements or skills, rather they check for overall employability and the hiring manager is the one screening/interviewing for technical fitness. – dwizum May 8 '18 at 16:44
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You do the phone screening yourself. Don't make an excuse like you're busy. If you feel the HR is incompetent, you take it yourself. A technical phone interview should take like 10 minutes, do it while you're buying a coffee. Prepare a few fundamental questions.

Inform the HR their time is too precious for the screening. You ask the HR to do simple filtering such as incomplete CV, job titles clearly not matched the job description, no cover letter, no working visa etc. But you do the actual phone screening. They'll be happy to do less work for the same pay.

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Based on my experience one will always struggle with HR being non-technical: on one side they can be "too loose", like you experienced, or on the other side they can be "too strict" on certain keywords, neglecting synonyms.

Just sit down with HR and give a factual feedback on the screening, mentioning the issues you have experienced: address the issues, don't blame the screener.

Ask how can the position description can be improved to make them easier to filter the candidates, and use your examples as test cases.

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"Without offending" - HR knows that they cannot test whether an applicant can handle a technical role, so they won't be offended if you tell them that you can't. If they are offended, they would need to be replaced.

All that HR can do is check for keywords in the application. But all that this can achieve is giving you candidates who know the right keywords. The more they filter, the higher the chances that you miss out on excellent candidates that don't know to add the right keywords.

What you need is a cheap filter that you perform yourself. 10 minutes on the phone should be enough to filter out unsuitable candidates. My last phone interview, the very first question was one that would have filtered out 90% of unsuitable candidates. HR can only filter for candidates who are good at writing CVs, not for candidates who are good at the job. You'll have to do that yourself.

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