About a decade ago, Facebook was just an online platform for college students. Fifteen years before that, human resources departments were promoting job postings in the local newspaper or magazine.

It’s no secret that recruiting within the Department of Defense has not only changed drastically over the last 5-10 years, but has also became a lot more competitive. With the rise in the number of contractors in the industry, emerging technology advancements, and the proverbial ball being in the candidate/applicant’s court, let’s break down a few of the changes, hurdles, and hacks in cleared recruitment today.

The Hiring Process is More Personal

The job search has become a heck of a lot more personal these days, on both the candidate and technical recruiter’s ends. In the digital age? No way! Yes way. It’s more about building relationships and connecting with employers through networks and communities. The rise of social has allowed recruiters to make meaningful connections…just differently. There’s a greater emphasis on employer branding, because of social. Blogs, social media engagement, and online followers all can act as powerful recruiting tool and are essential to talent acquisition today. Your online presence can either attract or deter talent, and on the flip side, the probability of being contacted by a recruiter increases with the quality of the candidate’s online presence and frequency of use. Finally, a time when you won’t get in trouble for hanging out on social media at work (if you’re the recruiter, that is).

Working in a Niche market

We saw a huge spike in clearances granted post 9/11. In the later 2010s, that number declined significantly. So, you need a unicorn (or secret squirrel), who has the required systems/software experience, who wants to work out of that location, and fits in to your salary range.

I hear the notorious sarcastic laugh from a recruiter to their hiring manager. HA. HA. HA.

Let’s sprinkle an active security clearance right on top of that impossible sundae. ‘Please find me a physical scientist with a PhD, lab experience, rapport with INSCOM, an active TS/SCI and experience in intelligence collection and analysis.’

Tech: Talk Nerdy to Me

Speaking of work location, some candidates are not able or willing to relocate due to their personal circumstances. One extremely positive change I’ve seen is new technology for meeting, video interviewing and interview scheduling software. Not only has this helped to simplify the hiring process, but allows employees to work from other locations. So, if you have the rapport with a client to sweet talk them into allowing a candidate to work from another SCIF closer to their home, right on! What was once a high-ticket software/hardware/system is now affordable for businesses of all sizes. Virtual employment is the future in technology.


The rise of tech leads in perfectly to my next change. We’ve seen a huge increase in employers who offer part or full-time remote work schedules. If candidates are given the choice of a position working directly at the customer site 100% of the time, or a position that allows for some telecommuting, most people would take the flexibility. It’s a little difficult to convince your employer to build out a SCIF in your home. But even on cleared contracts, the option for at least part-time remote work is more often on the table. These options are amazing if a company is able to offer them, and can act as a great advertisement for your company’s work-life-balanced culture.

A Buyers’ Market

The biggest change (and the most complained about) in recruiting over the last 10 years? Employers just don’t have complete control over the job search due to the historically low low unemployment rate. Recruiters are scrambling to find candidates who are actively seeking. Ten years ago, it was applicants who had to show off their talents, banging down several companies’ doors. Employers must now focus on drawing in top talent by competing for the attention of a very passive candidate pool.

Negotiating Points to Win Over Your Top Candidate

Salary, benefits, and company culture can be a huge help for hurdling over this buyers’ market obstacle.  But we’re not just talking the usual medical benefits. We’re talking about the high demand, not so common health insurance for your pet. Your company matching donations to the nonprofit you volunteer with. Unlimited PTO (studies show employees take less unnecessary time off if they have unlimited). Death benefits. Intern housing. Student-loan debt reimbursement. Bring your dog to works days. No official work hours. 16 weeks of PTO for moms & dads. Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

All these wonderful new additions to a company’s benefits package are your selling points. Highlight why your company is THE BEST in a market where candidates are able to picky about jumping ship.

Data. Analytics. Data is a science now?

Recruiting analytics can be defined as using data to inform hiring strategies and processes.

These new buzzwords are extremely valuable to talent acquisition teams because they show patterns and predict future success when it comes to hiring talent, in any industry. For example, instead of guessing the type of candidate who will make the best addition to the current team, program managers have come to rely heavily on data and figures to guide their choices and save time and money in the process.

The Final Hack

All these changes within the recruitment process leads me to my final point. Now, and through the decade to come, recruiters need to learn to adapt… quicker than the next recruiter, too. There’s a reason the ‘Agile methodology’ in the tech industry is called what it is. Recruiters need to be able to learn new skills and adapt to a changing technological environment. They need to be open to learning new processes and be innovative with their ways of reaching talent. Those who refuse and decide to stick with posting their job requisitions in the local newspaper or the same way things have always been done because it’s comfortable, will absolutely get left in the dust.

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Katie Helbling is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 10+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸