People often ask me how I have managed to find OSINT work, since I tend to find myself giving the same advice most of the time, I felt it might be a good idea to put most of this information down for you guys to read and for those of you who want to know but are perhaps afraid to ask. Before getting started I want to say that my experience is only one of many and that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others who have forged their own unique path. You too likely come from a different background and experience and that is perfectly fine!
The advice below is meant to offer general tips on ways you can improve your chances of getting your first job in OSINT and is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Practice Your OSINT Skills
Although jobs may expect you to have experience in various techniques or technologies, this does not mean you need to already work in the field to gain such experience. Take advantage of online capture the flags, volunteer opportunities, online education tools, or other OSINT challenges. Be sure to leverage your current skills! For example, if you already have a non-OSINT skill that you are very strong in see if you can apply it to an OSINT problem. Good with diagrams? Perhaps create workflows or visual walkthroughs for processes. Like to write?
Write up some walkthroughs of a new process or technique you learned or an interesting case study you worked on. I encourage you to focus on techniques and processes instead of niche tools that may become depreciated or that many organizations may not even use. Writing is a great way to show your enthusiasm!
One final thing to mention here, and one that I felt allowed me to stand out from the crowd, is that getting a good foundation in research and traditional intelligence will likely go a long way. Be sure to know your way around the intelligence cycle and be willing to read up as much as possible on historic cases and examples. The basics can be applied to other types of intelligence (including OSINT as well as GEOINT, SOCMIT, HUMINT, TECHINT, etc) should you wish to branch out or add specialized knowledge to your investigations to separate yourself as a stronger candidate.
I managed to land my first OSINT-related job many years ago with a basic understanding of research and intelligence (just started grad school at the time) and some volunteer experience in basic OSINT and data sourcing.
The Intelligence Cycle (CIA)
A Guide to Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) (Michael Hayden)
Open-Source Intelligence (United States Army)
Building Your OSINT Portfolio
Once you have spent your time practicing your OSINT skills the chances are you have something to show for it whether it be a diagram, technique, blog post, or code snippets. I highly suggest that you create some sort of central repository for these projects that you can point back to such as a blog, website, or Github. The benefits here are two-fold, firstly it allows you to have proof of your skills and abilities, secondly it shows potential employers that you are serious about the field and willing to put in the grunt work up front. Do not be afraid to include any relevant class projects.
Not sure where to start? Do a write up on one of the daily quizzes or another OSINT-based challenge on Twitter or perhaps try your hand at automating one of your current manual processes that you find yourself doing often. Start small, don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help, and know that failures are part of the learning process.
I enjoy creating tools and documenting my investigation processes via diagrams which I often share online. These strengthen my coding and organizational skills while also allowing me to expand on my OSINT portfolio. Try looking through some of the resources below for ideas of projects you can add to your portfolio.
Sample Articles in OSINT Investigations (bellingcat)
Make Your Own Custom OSINT Bookmarklets (Sinwindie)
Creating An OSINT Resume
One of the first things you will be asked to provide for any job application, including OSINT-based ones, is your resume. As usual, you will want to tailor this to each particular job you are applying for. That being said, some of the things you want to include are the projects and skills that were generated and honed in the first two sections. Do not forget to include a link to your Github or your OSINT blog, list out published articles, etc as well as any OSINT-related trainings you might have taken. I include my Github (humble as it may be) as well as my OSINT articles and related training and volunteer experience on my resume in addition to my work experience.
You will also want to utilize OSINT keywords where possible. Take a look at common terms utilized in the job posting to know which ones to target. I also highly recommend checking out LinkedIn profiles or resumes of job seekers that are already in the field as they are more likely to know the lingo that recruiters are actively targeting.
Most of my work revolves around attribution, so I always make sure to hit home on such skills using keywords such as identification, attribution, or deanonymization and occasionally change or rotate them out to mirror what I see in the job posting.
Looking For OSINT Jobs
Once you have the skills and resume ready to go, the last major step is to find out who is hiring. It might sound unusual, but outside of the public sector many ”OSINT” jobs do not necessarily market themselves as such or even include OSINT in their titles. Here I am going to focus more on the keywords and positions themselves rather than the individual sectors or companies to look at. My biggest suggestion here is to not search ONLY for “OSINT” or “Open Source”. Be broader and look at positions that might include specific OSINT skills. What are the skills that make a good OSINT analyst? Research, analysis, intelligence, investigation, and geolocation are all some of the basics that I often see included in similar positions.
Notice any specific keywords that keep popping up in your search results? Add them to your searches! The same can be applied for positions that may or may not be marketed as OSINT jobs but still include OSINT work. Be sure to look into titles such as research analyst, intelligence analyst, all-source analyst, investigator, threat investigator, etc. If you are unsure what type of role you want to have I highly suggest taking a look at the resources below that will help find out where you might best fit in your first role whether you are interested in collection, exploitation, analysis, etc, and whether the public or private sector makes more sense to you.
I recommend checking numerous job posting sites if possible, but also please be cognizant about what information you share with them. I prefer to set up socks with little to no real information in order to find open positions and then apply directly on the company or agency website. Be sure to manually check different platforms and also set up filters and alerts to check for newly posted positions if possible. Also do not forget word of mouth on places like Twitter, Slack, and Facebook.
How to Land an OSINT Job (Technisette)
Job Recruitment (OSINT.Team)
Where to Use OSINT in your Business? (Social Links)
IC Consumers Guide (DNI)