Wondering how the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting job seekers and companies in defense? A subscriber to the ClearanceJobsBlog – an online forum and discussion site for security officers, background investigators, and security cleared professionals – recently asked:

‘Does anyone know if the new candidate hiring process is halted due to coronavirus outbreak? This is for the IC agency in VA. I have an interview next month and no one is answering the phone when I call them. Curious if anyone here has a similar situation.’

National security mission-based processes don’t stop because of a pandemic, however, agencies have different mission sets and processes/tools to accommodate remote hiring. Some agencies are also struggling to adjust to the influx of remote workers in the wake of COVID-19 office closures.

While the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) is using VTC and phone screenings to accommodate background investigation processes, and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is advising agencies to virtually onboard employees, some agencies just do not have the bandwidth to support widespread teleworking.

One individual in the discussion notes that an IC agency in MD that they were communicating with explained they are not extending final offers until it is safe to bring individuals physically onsite for onboarding/indoctrination briefings. Usually, this happens on your first day of employment, where the customer will identify your personal security responsibilities, provide an understanding of the security policies, explain the importance of protecting government assets. Some customers may be weary of doing these over video conferencing because of cybersecurity implications.

Communication is key here: keep the conversation going

When it comes to job seeking (even outside of this unprecedented situation) always utilize other avenues of communication. Email, call, text, social message, etc. Now more than ever, people are not only very busy with work and homeschooling children, but probably a little overwhelmed.

But if you’re going through your first phone screen or video call, don’t enter the interview process with any specific expectations. This is uncharted territory, and while some agencies have a clear battle plan, many do not or are scrambling to get one together. As the effects of COVID-19 are largely unseen into the future, be patient and continue to check in at reasonable time periods. If you are in the job market, do your best to understand the customer and focus your energies toward organizations that have the capacity to continue business as usual through this crisis.

Reach out to your network and continue discussions with people in your industry or role of interest. Community will play an essential role during your job search anyway, and remember that community is at its best when people help each other, so engage.

Some agencies or contractors will naturally go into a hiring freeze during the crisis and if you receive the initial communication that there is a freeze, ask the recruiter or hiring manager how to best follow up and when. Be direct, even though they likely won’t know specific timelines. That way, when timelines do become apparent or the bandwidth for virtual onboarding becomes a reality for your agency, you have already set the expectation that you will be following up and ready work.

Ask about processes, and if interviewing will be done virtually or if that could be option. If you’ve never interviewed via skype, MS teams, or other video platform, brush up and utilize the many resources with tips, hacks, and best practices. Make sure your tech is up to date, you’re in the prime location of your home, and you have every tool at your disposal (noise canceling headphones are a must).

Some however, will continue their recruiting, such as the Pentagon continuing with military training missions while taking precautionary measures to limit a possible spread.

Not every organization will slow down during the pandemic / economic downturn. The bottom line is people get hired during layoffs and even when there’s an influx of jobs, candidates have trouble getting work. Fact is, you just have to continuously knock on their door to find out.

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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 8+ 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! 🇺🇸