While there are some recruiting trends that can be applied across industries, interviewing in the defense contracting world can have vast differences from the commercial sector.

Basic Questions

With the security clearance backlog at its highest in the last few years, a recruiter’s first (and most important) question is still “Can we verify that your security clearance is active?” For some recruiters or staffing organizations, this may be one of the only questions besides, “When can you start?” or “Are you within this salary range?”

Meeting these minimum requirements is great, but other questions asked in a phone screen or interview can show an applicant that they should choose you in such a buyer’s recruiting market. And they’ll show you they are the best candidate for the team you’re recruiting for, of course.

Questions That Make Your Contractor Stand Out to the Candidate

Industry/Job Specifics Now if you scroll through any professional social media platform, one of candidates’ number one complaints about recruiters is that they have no idea what they are talking about. That’s absolutely true. As a recruiter, program manager would come to me with a new WMD Analyst position that required experience within the nuclear propulsion fuel cycle. As you can imagine, I didn’t learn about that subject while majoring in social work.

  • While research is such an important component of recruiting, consider a question that shows you’re invested in the industry and that it is important to your employer, like this one: “When it comes to national security, what does your ideal strategy look like within (insert specific position i.e. intelligence, cybersecurity, AI, etc)?”
  • For intelligence specifics, I’ll give you a freebie: “If you had to choose one as an all-source analyst, do you have a favorite between the different intelligence disciplines when it comes to tools?” This shows you’ve researched their role, previous experience, or even know a thing or two about the different shops they’ve supported on deployments.
Benefits & Compensation It’s no secret that people enjoy being asked their opinion in any conversation, but especially when it comes to perks a company offers. These questions show (again) that the employee is valued, and they also give you a leg up when you get to the overall compensation / benefits negotiation:

  • “Would you rather have more PTO, and less tuition benefits? Or more bonus opportunities and less work from home/flex time?”
  • “What are your motivations for accepting an offer if you have a few on the table? Benefits? Salary? Location? Work/life balance? The overall mission? Management Style?”
Veteran/Military Focused With 200,000 veterans transitioning out of the military each year, defense recruiting interviews are most likely interviewing someone currently leaving the armed forces or having left recently. Transition is a scary time after you’ve had so much structure in the military. Asking these military friendly questions shows your employer is veteran oriented, whilst making the candidate comfortable to ask you transition questions if they have them:

  • “As a veteran / transitioning veteran, how do you think civilian employers can be more veteran friendly? What programs have you appreciated in the past with former employers?”
  • “What is important to you as a veteran with your next employer?”
  • “How do you think being in the military will set you up for success in this position?”
  • “When it came to your transition, where did you find the best support – your transition program, mentors, or something else?”
  • “What was your favorite station location / team and why?”
Culture Whether you’re recruiting for one of the small businesses (50-100 employees) or one of the massive contractors in defense, candidates have a preference when it comes to employee count. Some like to support organizations where you have the ability to watch growth happen and are able to have that glass of champagne with the director of proposal development after a win. Others like the stability of a large contractor where they know there is another place for them if their current contract is not extended.

Asking if a candidate prefers the culture of a smaller or larger company will tell you more about the day to day like that the candidate is seeking in a job. It also may shed light onto some of their insecurities they have in contracting.

  • I always love a random, but professional question (Some find it cheesy, but in my experience, it shows if someone has sense of humor): “If you could live watching one person’s life in history, who would it be and why?”

If they scoff at this question, and you’re recruiting for an interpersonal team that is constantly collaborating and customer facing, you may want to move on to other candidates. If they play ball and throw you a funny answer, perhaps they’ll remember this positive interaction if they are deciding between a few different offers.

Questions Reveal a Caring Culture

We demand a lot from employees when they start with a new company, from tedious onboarding processes to churning out innovating ideas to meeting tight deadlines. But for workers to meet those demands, organizations must create a culture of well-being, and it starts with recruiters. These questions show the candidate that your organization cares about the employee perspective, and you as a recruiter, are truly interested in what they have to say.

 

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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 7+ 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! 🇺🇸