Employers search your resume for hard qualifications like an advanced degree or foreign language proficiency. But they are also looking for things that don’t translate so easily on a job application. Sometimes those talents are just as valuable as a hard skill. Employees of the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) – a longtime research partner of the federal government – certainly have impressive hard skills. 25% of their staff have served in the military – with all branches represented. 90% of their researchers have an advanced degree. But they also have something a little harder to quantify.

“When I think of an IDA employee, I think of ‘highly motivated,’ I think of ‘passionate,’” says Dr. Rebecca Medlin, a research staff member of IDA’s Operational Evaluation Division. “They like asking questions, they like finding the truth.”

IDA Knows Complex Problems Are Solved by Complex People

IDA serves as the go-to research capability of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President and the National Science Foundation. So it’s no wonder that they seek candidates who are not only rigorous researchers, but who can provide innovative solutions to the challenges of their government sponsors.

“Some of the questions and challenges that come across our desk are the ones that are hardest to tackle,” says Dr. Ian Simon, Research Staff Member in IDA’s Science and Technology Policy Institute. “If they were easy, they probably already would have been done.”

For questions like these, IDA understands that it’s not always just about having the smartest people on the team — it’s about having the right people on the team.

When looking for talent, IDA seeks people who are:

  • Motivated.
  • Passionate.
  • Inquisitive.
  • Analytical.
  • Open-minded.
  • Curious.
  • Problem-solving.

A Company that Values Soft Skills Values its Employees

It only takes one bad job interview to realize that interviews work both ways; they’re just as telling for the candidate as they are for the company. A company that only cares about qualifications and gives little regard to other criteria probably isn’t building the best teams. Employers like IDA understand people aren’t just walking resumes: they have their own values, interests, and personal goals. And they invest in their employees accordingly.

“In my experience in this field, IDA pays more attention to and actually invests more of its own resources in supporting and developing its staff,” says Dr. Daniel Chiu, Division Director, Joint Advanced Warfighting Division. “Everything from professional development, education scholarships, training opportunities…to ensuring that there are long-term career paths for folks who join IDA, even if they join straight out of school.”

Dr. Simon appreciates that IDA values him as a person, but also as someone who wants to stay preeminent in his field.

“There are plenty of opportunities to stay preeminent in your field, to publish, to go to conferences, to present papers, to stay relevant as a thought leader in your given field…I have the job I always wanted back in graduate school when I was thinking about what a career in science policy would be, this was the job. It’s been fantastic.”

With so many opportunities for continued learning and a culture that values its employees, it’s no wonder that once people are hired at IDA, they tend to stay there for the rest of their career.

“What I heard is ‘When people come to IDA, they come to stay,’ said Dr. Medlin. “After getting my interview here and getting the offer, it was a no-brainer. This was where I wanted to be.”

Interested in Institute for Defense Analyses? You can see IDA’s open positions here.

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Caroline's background is in public policy, non-profit fundraising, and - oddly enough - park rangering. Though she once dreamed of serving America secretly in the CIA, she's grateful she's gotten to serve America publicly - both through the National Park Service and right here at ClearanceJobs.