2020, we won’t miss you. This year has not only brought on challenges in the defense sector, but has also shown us how resilient the DoD and its workforce can truly be. Still, one of the most daunting and cutthroat jobs proves to be one of the most difficult pieces of the national security apparatus: recruiting.

Top 2020 Recruiting Tips

As we start 2021, let’s reflect on some recruiting tips that we learned in 2020. Here are the news team’s highlights on some of the most popular articles and in-demand recruiting tips from last year.

#1 Top 10 States for Cleared Jobs by Compensation

One of ClearanceJobs biggest candidate offerings is data from our 2020 Compensation Report. This shows candidates where they stack up, depending on location, clearance level, experience, etc. But this is also a key resource for defense recruiters: it shows you the lay of the land of what locations you are recruiting in (or not recruiting in), how your company salaries and market research compare, pain areas for salaries depending on job expertise, and so much more.

The 2020 ClearanceJobs Compensation Survey asked cleared candidates in each state about their paygrade for each type of security clearance level. Each report provides a breakdown of salaries in states with the largest cleared workforces, and it’s no secret that this was the top ranking cleared recruiting article.

#2 Red Flags to Spot Candidate Ghosting

Coming up as the number two recruiting hack article pertains to ghosting: a growing social trend that has seeped into the social component of the cleared recruitment process, even though it is frustrating to both candidates and recruiters.

Recruiters are still being ghosted as they try to wrangle secret squirrels, and they can now add asking candidates to switch companies during a pandemic to their recruiting horror stories. But, only the experienced talent acquisition personnel will be able to spot these red flags and avoid wasting precious time on candidates that are about to leave them hanging.

Ghosting is still and will always be an issue that defense recruiters will experience – and complain about.

#3 Recruiting Veterans

With around 200,000 people transitioning out of the military each year, veterans are an obvious talent pool to tap into when you’re staffing for government contracts. Especially in a location for the intelligence community like the Washington DC hub.

While cleared vet talent is out there, recruiters face tough competition in reaching the right veterans for the right opportunities. The good news is there are tricks you should have up your sleeve to differentiate yourself from the rest of the recruiting competition like choosing the right job titles, fostering the best relationships with advocates in the military space, mirroring the audience you’re trying to recruit, or implementing a military fellowship program.

#4 ICWatch Dumpster Fire

If you’re just joining the cleared recruiting industry, you’re probably not familiar with the timeline or fiasco of ICWatch. Like the #4 recruiting trick article states, it’s a straight up dumpster fire that should and can be avoided.

Let’s rewind back to 2013 when code names for surveillance projects were revealed, including MARINA and MAINWAY, and the discovery of LinkedIn profiles of individuals in the IC listing these code names. Transparency Toolkit took advantage of this and automated the collection of LinkedIn profiles, collating them into a searchable, public database. And with that “ICWATCH” was born, a play on ICREACH, an alleged top-secret search engine created by the NSA post 9/11.

But what makes this a great cleared recruiting tip is because it’s applicable to any defense recruiter with good staffing intention and google. A quick internet search query for an intelligence analyst with a TS/SCI will naturally bring up links to ICWATCH profiles. Staffing teams need to tread lightly. Viewing this site could potentially make your contractor a target to be exploited by the people exposing cleared personnel. You or your employees could be at risk.

#5 Cleared Recruiting Horror Stories

MY personal favorite, since #5 includes testimonials from talent acquisition personnel in this space ranging from candidates disclosing they are a witch, to creepers being creeps, to candidates taking advantage of companies that may be willing to sponsor.

We brought you some of our favorite cringe-worthy recruiting stories and whether you’re a ‘Sleepy Hollow the Head(hunter)’ type, or more of a Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ kind of candidate, these stories will remind you that it could be much, much worse.

In sales and recruiting, the golden rule should always be number one. Treat people as you want to be treated. But keep your cool if they don’t.

#6 Finding Cleared Talent When They’re Difficult to Spot

When you’re recruiting in the defense sector, most of your positions are going to be cleared at some level up to TS/SCI with a polygraph – especially if you’re headhunting for cleared talent in a location like Washington DC. Some are better than others, but cleared personnel are advised to adhere to Operational Security (OPSEC) guidelines and avoid listing special access programs or other mission specifics. Secret squirrels are difficult to spot and nearly impossible to hire, because they’d rather not be found online.

Sean Bigley, security clearance attorney states “I personally do not recommend listing your level of security clearance on your general resume that you regularly send to recruiters. If the job for which you are applying requires a certain level of clearance, the more discreet way of addressing the matter is simply making clear in your cover letter that you meet all advertised qualifications.”

So, if you’re sourcing candidates online to staff your national security programs, but the bulk of cleared talent isn’t advertising all of their qualifications on the open-source, what is a defense staffing team to do? Look for tips in #6 on maintaining your online recruiter and company brand, recruiting between the lines, and investing in credible resources to fill your cleared contract billets.

#7 Permissible Interview Questions

While some interview questions are obvious to avoid in cleared recruiting, others can have blurred lines that both candidates and recruiters wonder about.

Recruiting and Human Resources need to work together to make sure that candidates not only move smoothly through the talent acquisition lifecycle, but also move forward without any type of legal issues or lawsuits along the way.

Our last recruiting hack article gives you a run down on OPSEC responsibility, what questions are completely illegal to ask in defense hiring, and what questions are completely acceptable.

Cheers to 2021! 🥂

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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! 🇺🇸