15 Recruiting Tips for Hiring Millennials in Government and the Defense Industry

Cleared Recruiting

Back in our parents’ day and before, it was perfectly normal, understood, and accepted that young people start at the bottom of an organization and work their way up in a very rigid hierarchical structure.

That kind of thinking no longer flies with today’s crew of fresh talent. Millennials (a.k.a. Generation Y), defined as people born anywhere from 1980 to 1999, are more empowered than previous generations. They have access to technology, communications, and publishing that simply weren’t available decades ago. As a result, their demands for career and lifestyle are often different than our parents.

“Employers that better understand what motivates and retains Millennials will be able to secure the top talent, keep them happy and productive and also make sure they are not snatched up by competitors,” said Razor Suleman, founder and chairman of Achievers, in a report by Forbes.

While salary is important to Millennials, it’s often not the primary motivation, according to a  “Class of 2012” study by Achievers and Experience, Inc.

“Once a salary meets their basic needs, Millennials still desire progression and growth, along with challenging and interesting work that piques their interest,” said Suleman.

To find out what it takes to draw in this highly-sought community, we asked recruiters and anyone hiring young talent specifically for cleared jobs what they believe are the “must adopt” recruiting techniques for hiring Millennials. Here are our favorite responses:

TIP #1: Make your work environments less hierarchical and seniority driven

This is pretty much how Millennials view many government and defense industry jobs, especially ones that require security clearance. If you want to attract this audience, you need to dispel that sentiment by being more proactive and less rigid, advises Caroline McClure (@ScoutRockLines), Principal of ScoutRock.

To achieve that goal you must be transparent and have a highly involved managerial force. Provide Millennials with a lot of attention, feedback, recognition, and freedom to do their jobs in the way they want to do it. Much of that means being flexible as a leader and with stringent policies regarding access to technologies and social media, said McClure.

“We empower our employees with trust and respect,” said Justin Clem (@Justin_Clem), Talent Acquisition Manager at Raytheon, of the open and innovative company culture they try to represent. “While it is true that those where much is trusted much is expected, we continue to empower our employees with trust.”

TIP #2: Engage in social media – securely.

“Engage with Millennials on the platform they use the most – social networks. By creating and maintaining Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ company profiles, you open the door to new potential employees by giving them an opportunity to easily get to know your company, its products, and services,” said Kat Krull (@Resunate), Associate Marketing Manager at Resunate.

Remember that while it’s important to have a presence on the most common social network sites, security-cleared candidates are often hesitant to share information with others in a public forum – as they should be. For those in the defense industry who want to network, but not quite so publicly, a secure social platform like The Cleared Network on ClearanceJobs.com offers a fitting alternative. Set within the ClearanceJobs.com career site, The Cleared Network lets cleared professionals and defense industry hiring managers meet and greet in a forum

attuned to their unique security restrictions. While it’s useful to maintain profiles on social networking sites, there’s only so much information a cleared professional can and should post. For more in-depth professional engagement, you’ll want to use niche alternative networks.

TIP #3: Put a real name and face behind the social media accounts

Along with the desire to engage comes the need to engage with real people, not corporate identities, said Paul McDonald (@BuildASignHires), Talent Acquisition Manager for BuildASign.com. “[For example,] if you have a corporate Twitter account, call out explicitly who those followers are interacting with. It makes for a more personal connection, which Millennials appreciate.”

McDonald probably knows what he’s talking about. In the two years he’s been with his firm, he says he’s hired more than 250 employees, most of them Millennials.

For cleared professionals, knowing there’s a real person behind a corporate social media account is more than just good practice – it’s critical for gaining their trust and valuable referrals.

TIP #4: Have a “why”

This tip is kind of a catch-all that includes an organization’s brand, philosophy, and attitude towards staff and others that extends well beyond a paycheck. Ultimately, a Millennial – especially one considering a cleared job in the government or defense industry – wants to know why they should take this job. How will it help them with their overall goals or serve national interests?

“Millennials need a challenge, a sense of purpose, and also a dash of vanity,” said Justin Sherratt (@justinsherratt), CEO of Gawoop Inc., makers of Sortbox.

“We found one of our best hires while he was still in university. Part of our offer to him was that we would help him network and move on if/when he outgrew us (advancement). We made it clear that our company helps people get jobs (social good). And we also made sure that we were working with cutting edge systems and software (training). These three combined benefits far outweighed salary and perks at that time,” Sherratt said.

TIP #5: Connect to their emotional sense of pride

Similar to the previous tip, but unique to many cleared positions is the major impact these jobs can have on our country and the world.

Raytheon aggressively recruits at universities, trying to convince young engineering talent about the pride and value of working in aerospace and defense as opposed to current trendy tech companies such as Apple, Google, and Amazon, explained Raytheon’s Justin Clem.

“Due to the purpose of many of our products, everything we make needs to work correct, every time, all the time in all conditions to provide our troops with the absolute most accurate and actionable information,” said Clem. “There is a sense of pride working for Raytheon as there is a definite connection between the type of work and the impact of the end product.”

Because a large number of cleared professionals are veterans or have a history of working with the military, tapping into Millenials’ sense of public service and patriotism can also be a useful trigger.

TIP #6: Make sure your website and social identities are up to date

If your organization plans to have a blog and be on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or The Cleared Network, keeping those accounts and your corporate website up-to-date shows Millenials your company is fresh and current, not old and dated.

“You don’t as the employer need to be everywhere they might expect, but at least show that you’re up to date and connected in their stream,” said Ian McAllister (@ianrmcallister), founder and professional CV writer at CV4.biz.

Nothing screams “we don’t care about our company” like a blog that hasn’t been updated in a year.

TIP #7: Keep selling your company and follow up quickly

“The old mantra that the company holds all the cards in the employment landscape is rapidly deteriorating,” said Samuel Barnes (@Samuel_Barnes), Director of Talent Acquisition for ZanderMax Technologies. “We now have a candidate-centric market on our hands, which means that companies must: sell candidates on why they should join, what the Millennial’s career progression will be, and most importantly, translate how the Millennial will make an impact on not just the company, but the world.”

All of this company selling has to be done with rapid fire communications. “Millennials have rarely faced delays in communication or the acquisition of information,” said Stacia Argoudelis (@staciargoudelis), Area Director of Academic Coaching Institute.

Adapt their communications style and respond quickly as even an excellent employment opportunity, warned Barnes, can “slip through the cracks.”

TIP #8: Recruiters should expect and prepare for repeat business from Millennials

Millennials are more project-oriented than they are company loyal. If they lose interest on their current assignment, they’ll move on to something else. The frequency that Millennials change jobs is both a challenge and an opportunity for recruiters, explained Charles Caro, Executive Director at Rebounders United.

“Recruiters must use more inbound marketing techniques to build long-term relationships and relationship opportunities than the more traditional outbound marketing techniques,” said Caro.

TIP #9: Build relationships with Millennials before they enter the market

“Identify the good technical students in their freshman and sophomore years and provide them with summer internships until they graduate,” advised Sandi St. John (@SandiStJohn), Director of Recruiting of Asynchrony Solutions, a division of Schafer. “You may have some additional training or ramp up time but they will more than likely prefer to take a permanent job at a place they already know. Creating this up-front relationship will ‘secure’ a future hire.”

TIP #10: Show that you’ll help them with their entire career path

After spending four years in college, Millennials while very eager, can also struggle to focus their passion. One way to entice a Millennial is offering to provide that focus and direction.

Rachael, a Federal government employee described one technique her organization used to recruit students for their fellowship program:

“We showed we were interested in helping them start their career path, and that at every step along their way, there was a program, internship, or fellowship in the research field that they could take advantage of to learn new skills and talents. In short, we made it clear that their career would grow as their interests grew.”

Sometimes you don’t have the ability to guarantee a career path. In those situations, show that you want their involvement through the lifecycle of a project.

TIP #11: Reach out to transitioning military

After their term of service and any additional education, most military personnel entering the workforce will be on the latter end of the Millennial age bracket.

Unfortunately, these incoming military personnel are often stigmatized as having post-traumatic stress (PTS), an inability to shift from command-and-control culture to less direct management style, or incapable of working in a for-profit environment, explained ScoutRock’s McClure who developed the military recruiting strategy for Lockheed Martin.

McClure offers a host of different ways to attract these talented, diverse, and often cleared personnel:

  • Help translate military titles and backgrounds to the language of for-profits so they understand what types of jobs they should target.
  • Build relationships with the transition centers at the bases you want to attract talent.
  • Offer mentorship programs with someone who made the transition from a command-and-control culture and management style to an engage-and-create environment.

TIP #12: Show what it’s like to work in your office

One way to promote your company brand and culture is to simply show what it’s like to work in your office. You can do that one of two ways:

  • Invite potential hires to spend time in your office: At Asynchrony, they invite potential candidates to spend anywhere from an hour to half a day just to sit with their developers. It gives them a good idea what the working environment is like, and gets them excited about working there, explained Asynchrony’s St. John.
  • Shoot a “day in the life” video of your office: Create something very professional like what Rackspace does or have employees record informal video interviews about their work. A video acts as a first level filter, allowing candidates to pre-interview their potential employer, and that will either repel or attract potential hires to actually apply, said Will Stanley (@willstaney), Director of Talent Acquisition for SuccessFactors.

TIP #13: Offer telework options

“Millennials don’t want to fit their lives into an inflexible job,” said Sara Sutton (@flexjobs), CEO of FlexJobs, “They’d much rather have the ability to blend their work and personal lives together in a way that makes sense for them.”

That flexibility can take on many forms such as telework or commuting from home, a flexible schedule with non-traditional hours, or a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE).

“Gen Y want to build parallel careers with flexibility to balance ‘the other things’ in their lives. In short, they want what their parents are just now achieving,” said Sahar Andrade (@SaharConsulting), Executive Director of Sahar Consulting.

TIP #14: Build a talent community

This tip bookends the very second tip in this article which is to actually engage with the community of potential hires via social channels like Facebook, Twitter – and more secure platforms like The Cleared Network. Once you’re comfortable with social engagement, the next big step is to create a talent community where those interested can have open and frank discussions in a comfortable online/offline space with hiring managers and employees.

“As a recruiter, if you can – in addition to branding your company – brand yourself as the name and face behind your company’s recruiting efforts, you do your company a great service,” said Evan Lesser, managing director of ClearanceJobs.com. “Then you’re actually able to gain the trust of these candidates and show them that you’re a real person…you’re not just the nameless faceless department, and you’re someone they can network with.”

Recruiters and hiring managers looking to build a pool of cleared talent can use niche talent communities to not just hire for today’s needs, but build relationships for the future.

TIP #15: Only look at sites with cleared professionals

This last tip argues you should throw out all this advice and limit your search with lists and sites of cleared candidates.

Don Wallach, President of Wallach Associates, is a self-admitted “old geezer” who has 46 years experience recruiting technical professionals to work in the defense/intelligence industry. Wallach argues that recruiting Millennials with clearance is all about first finding the ones with clearance.

“We could find a bright Millennial with a master degree from a first class school, with several years of excellent work experience and it’s to no avail unless the person already has high level clearances,” Wallach said.

For that reason, Wallach stays off the social media sites and focuses his energy on career sites like ClearanceJobs – where 100% of the candidates have an active clearance – and direct mail to lists of cleared professionals.

CONCLUSION: Treat Millennials the same as any other generation

While we do talk about Millennials being different and demanding more, they truly want the same things as previous generations, said Steve Guine (@SGHRC), Project Staffing Manager at SGHRC.

“While this group grew up during a time of almost unprecedented technological achievement,” said Guine. “I think what makes this group more special is the fact that they have watched their parents and loved ones in their careers as they grew up and internalized some valuable lessons. This generation will not be married to the firm as with the previous workforce, but rather spend more time with their family or in pursuits which bring them personal satisfaction. This, I feel, is the reason work-life balance takes center stage as opposed to money.”