ClearanceJobs recently sat down with Chris Rhine from TSG Federal. Rhine has over 10 years of experience in the technical services realm and has spent the last seven years spearheading the growth of TSG’s Federal portfolio. He started his career as a technical recruiter and has since been in multiple management roles supporting different industries across the country. Currently, he is the Sr. Vice President of TSG Federal overseeing their national strategy, operations, and execution within the federal sector. Rhine shared with us the ways candidates can be savvy about how to engage with recruiters when searching for federal job opportunities.

Know Who You’re Talking to in the Industry

When you’re contacted by a recruiter, or several recruiters, it’s important to be armed with the proper knowledge to effectively evaluate job opportunities –especially during the COVID-19 crisis, as career changes pose a greater risk than usual.

Before giving out any information about yourself – particularly your resume – it’s critical to understand exactly who you are speaking with. When it comes to working with defense contractors, you’ll be contacted by a recruiter who works with one of the following:

  1. Prime contractor – works directly with the agency/organization
  2. Subcontractor – selected to support the program awarded to the prime contractor
  3. An outside recruiting company working for a prime or subcontractor

While a prime contractor may have access to more information about a program/opportunity, the number of contracts and applications they receive may lengthen the recruiting process and lower your chances of getting noticed. On the flip side, subcontractors and outside firms may have less access to information but offer a personal touch and quicker follow-ups. Every player in the business has an important role, and there are pros and cons with each scenario.

Importantly, remember to only submit yourself through ONE representative for each job opportunity to avoid ownership issues. A recruiter should ask for some type of written “right to represent” – through email or text message – to ensure they have your permission before submitting you to a role.

Implications of Submitting to Several Sources for the Same Job

It’s important to understand the implications of double-submitting yourself to different recruiters. The key is to be crystal clear when issuing permission – or lack of permission – for a recruiter to submit your resume. If multiple sources think they “own” you in the process, you could be disqualified as a candidate.

Regardless of who’s contacting you, asking the right questions can help you qualify the opportunity:

  • What’s the name of the program?
  • Has the work been awarded yet – where is it in the contract lifecycle? If applicable, how many years are left on the contract?
  • What are the interview process expectations? Who’s involved in the interview process? (ask as many questions as possible about the interview process to avoid any surprises)
  • What are the specific onboarding and clearance processes?
  • What is the scope of work?
  • If it’s a subcontractor or outside agency, what’s their relationship with the prime contractor?

It’s also helpful to understand which red flags to watch for, such as the following:

  • If they can’t answer the above questions, that should be a warning sign for you.
  • If they can only provide a job description and no other information. Changing jobs requires a full picture, so be wary if they cannot provide this.
  • If the job description is generic, be sure to ask about specific skill requirements. With some high clearance jobs, they may not be able to provide as clear of a picture as you would prefer. So, you will need to ask different questions.

Impacts of COVID-19 on Recruiting

Recruiters should demonstrate transparency no matter what, but right now, it’s particularly important to understand what a job opportunity will look like before and after a COVID vaccine is created. It should be clear if remote work is available and whether the candidate needs to relocate or work on a rotating schedule. With employees heading back into many offices, it’s important to know what the job location looks like and what efforts are being made to support employees.

A good recruiting partner will be able to help you navigate the federal job market during COVID, keeping you informed on any new processes, and helping you mitigate risk when changes occur.

Navigate the Job Search Landscape

Once you’re comfortable with both a representative and the job opportunity presented, be sure to also understand how quickly the job opportunity is going to move. Candidates should never have to follow the clues to solve the mystery of when they will receive feedback or how many rounds of interviews will be required. Watch for a process that is clearly articulated from the outset, and then, make sure the timeline aligns with your own in order to be best positioned as a candidate. While the recruiting process has its challenges, you can navigate more effectively if you’re equipped with the right knowledge and questions.


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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.