Is your company’s hiring focused on already-cleared candidates? You’re not alone – 17 percent of respondents in a recent survey noted they were only looking for cleared candidates, despite improvements in clearance processing times.

Nearly five hundred recruiters and hiring managers participated in a recent survey by regarding hiring practices and how processing improvement times have impacted recruiting. They represented government entities, contractors, recruiting and staffing firms, technology services companies and defense firms.

While security clearance processing times have improved since the Government Accountability Office put the program on its high risk list, clearance processing times haven’t improved enough, or with the consistency necessary for hiring managers to change their hiring practices. Sixty-three percent of respondents in the survey said improved processing times have not resulted in changes in hiring practices.

“Improved wait times must be accompanied by consistency to substantially change recruiting practices,” said Evan Lesser, founder and Managing Director of “While we’ve seen advancements, Top Secret clearances are still taking two to three times as long as Secret clearances for end-to-end processing. Even within clearance levels, hiring managers tell us wait times are haphazard and without rhyme or reason.”

In Fiscal Year 2010, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported an end-to-end processing time of 65 days, for the fastest 90 percent of all clearances. Processing times vary widely by agency however, with intelligence agencies including the CIA and DIA reporting significantly longer processing times – 163 and 183 days.

For employers, there’s value in hiring already-cleared talent. Not having to wait for security clearance adjudication means workers can get on the job faster. For in-demand sectors such as cybersecurity, however, where market demand often exceeds supply, the mantra is to recruit and engage early. Expect university partnerships with defense contractors to continue, as well as government programs which seek to identify and attract top talent early.

For hiring managers struggling to fill cleared positions, here are a few tips:

Go to where the cleared talent is – But if all you’re doing is searching resumes, you’re missing out. ClearanceJobs and our ever-growing list of groups are a key way to market yourself and your company. We’re launching a number of new groups in the coming weeks to help you drill down to your niche hiring needs, including Cleared .NET Professionals, Cleared Red Hat Professionals, Cleared in Texas, and more. And did we mention the job seekers in those groups are all cleared?

Keep top talent awaiting a security clearance engaged. Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents in’s survey said they’d lost great candidates due to clearance wait times. While it’s not always feasible, make the case for hiring someone with great skills and have them work on unclassified projects until their clearance goes through. Don’t leave them at home waiting for months for your call, or sitting in an empty cubicle. Keeping in touch with the candidate can go a long way.

Ensure candidates mind their paperwork.According to the Defense Security Service, paperwork issues are still one of the major hang-ups in clearance processing times. Whether it’s an initial SF-86 or you’re working to get reciprocity between agencies, keep careful track of paperwork, or be sure the candidate and your security officer are. It might be a lot of work now, but when it comes to filling high-value positions, the extra time pays off in a great employee for your organization.

Improvement in security clearance processing time is good news for both employers and job seekers. But until processing times become consistently low – especially for competitive intelligence agency positions – the demand will remain high for already-cleared talent.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.