How to Hire a CISO?


5th January 2021

How to hire a CISO? Do I need a CISO?   Most companies build their cybersecurity teams organically and in response to the demands on their industry, product or the service they provide. In today’s digital-first world, cyber-attacks are increasingly prevalent, and the security of technology systems has become of…

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ow to hire a CISO? Do I need a CISO?


Most companies build their cybersecurity teams organically and in response to the demands on their industry, product or the service they provide. In today’s digital-first world, cyber-attacks are increasingly prevalent, and the security of technology systems has become of paramount importance to almost all tech businesses.

With this in mind, having a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in place can increase your organisation’s overall safety and security while reducing your vulnerability to threats.

As your business grows and you hold more sensitive information, determining whether you need to hire a CISO can be a critical step for your business. So, when is the right time to bring a CISO on board, and what does it take to find and hire the best security talent on the market?

The role of a CISO

A CISO has responsibility for setting the vision for a company’s information and data security; however, these responsibilities will vary depending on the company’s industry, size and how the organisation is regulated.

While a CISO is varied and the tasks are many, there are many common themes or categories typically covered in their responsibilities.

Security Operations: Analysing threats in real-time and determining a fix when something goes wrong.

Cyber Risk and Cyber Intelligence: Staying a step ahead of developing security threats. CISOs will relay this information back to the board to help them understand potential threats from their business actions.

Data Loss and Fraud Prevention: Ensuring your internal teams don’t misuse or steal sensitive data.

Security Architecture: Building and implementing the security backbone of the business. It’s the role of the CISO to plan, buy and rollout security software and hardware, as well as designing the network infrastructure.

Identity and Access Management: Ensuring certain data and systems are restricted to those with the correct authorisation.

Program Management: Implementing programs and projects that mitigate security risks.

Investigations and Forensics: Determining what went wrong following a breach and implementing a plan to avoid future issues.

Governance: Working alongside the board and other senior leaders to ensure all the above initiatives are in place, working and have the correct level of investment from the business.

When should you hire a CISO?

Hiring a CISO should be done sooner rather than later and ideally before a major security breach occurs.

Companies will often hire a Director of Security with the intention they will then move into a CISO role down the line. Implementing this as a hiring strategy can be described as ‘dipping your toe in the water’ of security leadership and is often short-sighted.

It’s more common for these hires to move elsewhere for a CISO role rather than get promoted from within as Cybersecurity talent is scarce and in demand.

If you’re thinking that hiring a CISO is the correct choice for your organisation, there are several critical assessments to make first:

Is it time to invest fully in your company’s cybersecurity and have an executive-level strategy? Someone who will independently represent the business’ needs and goals from a security standpoint and who won’t get buried in the day-to-day operations? Having a full-time CISO on board will give you a direct voice with CTO, CEO, CIO and the board.

Do you need a seasoned executive to address your code vulnerabilities or firewall rules? Do you have a team in place that needs direction, leadership and focus to make beefing up your security a priority? If you find yourself reacting to breaches or issues rather than looking ahead and implementing a prevention strategy, hiring a CISO will help.

Does your business need to change how it deals with cybersecurity on a micro and macro level and across all departments, teams, levels etc? Hiring a CISO will give you the tools to recommend and implement strategic changes that will benefit your business and make it more secure.

How do you hire a CISO?

Suppose you’re ready for the investment and commitment that comes with hiring a CISO. In that case, finding someone with substantial experience to draw from is the key to moving your business forward towards a more secure footing.

To do this, there are a few things to consider as you go through the hiring process.

Do you understand what you’re looking for?

You don’t have to be an expert in cybersecurity to hire a CISO but having an understanding of the issues your business faces and the technologies involved to improve your security is beneficial.

Having some knowledge on the subject will allow you to better engage with candidates and you can look out for those who explain in the intricacies of cybersecurity in a way you understand – a critical skill for any CISO.

What are their CISO qualifications?

There are a number of skills and qualification to look out for when hiring a CISO. Candidate with certifications such as CCISO (certified chief information security officer), CISSP (certified information systems security professional) and CISM (certified information security manager) are a good place to start.

Likewise, solid IT/Data Science experience, risk assessment and management experience and strong business acumen are all things to look out for in your candidates.

Your ideal CISO needs to be data-driven, has strong technical knowledge and has a dedication to protecting the valuable and sensitive information their company holds. Consider their capacity and appetite for learning too. Do they stay up to date with the latest technologies and trends, and can they use this information to drive their strategies?

As this is an executive-level role, a mix of management abilities and technical skills is also a must. Ask yourself how their experience will impact on your team and how they will fit in with your existing employees.

Are they a good leader?

Finding executive leadership can be difficult, and you will want to find a CISO who is capable of driving change from the top while galvanising other around them. If the candidate has experience rising up through their business, this can be a good sign as they will be able to demonstrate experience working with people at all levels.

Do you need help from a specialist recruitment agency?

Doing so will tap into their networks and experience, as well as saving you time.  

If you go down this route, it’s important to work with an agency that specialises in helping businesses to hire senior-level technology professionals and not a ‘one size fits all’ agency. A specialist will understand the current market conditions and what it takes to encourage a move so you can secure the best CISO talent.

If you decide that the time has come to hire a CISO into your business to protect your data, then make sure you equip yourself with all the information you can around your existing practices, where you’d like to be in terms of security and what the expectations for the role are.

Revere Digital Recruitment have a wealth of experience hiring CISOs into technology-driven business across the UK. If you need advice on whether hiring a CISO is right for your business, then get in touch.

This is the second in our When and How to Hire’ series which looks at hiring for senior-level technology talent. For more information, you can read our articles here.