Whenever I was struggling to fill my funded positions, I always enjoyed the quick time crunch of recruiting for a proposal effort. Some candidates are just more willing to sign on as a key resume for a response to a Request for Proposal (RFP) and that instant gratification of filling 10 slots just felt good – even if it wasn’t filled billets for the company.

Now, filling those funded positions / direct billets on contract felt better, but ultimately as a recruiter, having the assortment of both types of talent acquisition breaks up the days, weeks, and months. My belief is that variety of work is one of the best types of preventative care to avoiding recruiter burn out.

If you’re just starting in defense recruiting, there are some key differences (both pros and cons) to be aware of.


Like I said, proposal efforts are a time crunch that will shoot you full of adrenaline. Some recruiters love it, but others may not. The big difference in recruiting is that you’re obviously sourcing to fill a role that essentially doesn’t exist for your company yet – this type of recruiting is for the dreamers.

  1. The PROS – You will find some candidates that are willing to expand their opportunities by signing on with a company for a proposal (tread lightly, you can’t poach from any of your partners on that proposal). On the flip side, you will find candidates that don’t want to muddy the waters if their company finds out they are having these types of conversations. In my experience, I have found that there are a lot of candidates relating to the former. Another pro, in my opinion, is it breaks up the usual recruiting tasks with things like market / pricing research for position salaries, resume formatting, and potentially proposal writing for recruiting, staffing, and HR transition plans. Lastly, the quick turn-around efforts allow you to move candidates through the talent acquisition lifecycle and button up projects quickly, as opposed to funded, hard-to-fill positions that can remain unfilled for months on end. That, and you could potentially be getting some great news of an award in the next few months!
  2. The CONS – Some candidates who are solely money motivated will refuse to move forward with signing a Letter of Intent (LOI) if you do not have salaries readily available. With the moving parts of proposal submissions between signing teaming agreements and writing capabilities / mission specifics, your Program Managers may not have the pricing piece of the proposal complete until the night before it’s due (yes, this happens more than you think). If you’re running into candidates who will only sign an agreement knowing the salary, you could be out of luck trying to get all your slots filled. Another con relating to the quick turnaround is chasing down candidates who have not signed their LOI. This is almost always a requirement of the government customer you’re writing to for key resumes, and candidates sometimes act sluggish on returning paperwork.

The last piece of this puzzle relies on the team of companies that your organization has built, whether you are a prime or a sub. This can be a pro or a con – you could have partners that kill it in the proposal staffing game, or you could have a lot of resume holes you might be scrambling to fill with your current employee’s resumes last minute (no one loves the bait and switch).


  1. The PROS – The obvious pro of recruiting for fully funded positions on contract is the fact that it is company money (including your own commission) and mission fulfillment now. That is why recruiting is such an integral part of defense contracting. And while you can look at the recruiting functions or processes as pros or cons depending on your personal preference, I’ll list a few of them as positives here: while moving candidates through the lifecycle, you are REALLY getting to know them with multiple conversations and steps in the hiring process if they are intending to join you for a position that is open at that moment. The satisfaction of being the face of a company and helping someone obtain their new dream job takes relationship building and time, but I always enjoyed being a go-to resource for my candidates well into their employment once they joined my company.
  2. The CONS– Recruiting for fully funded positions is a much more in depth process. There are a lot of tasks: sourcing; sifting through resumes, voicemails, emails, phone screens; checking on clearance statuses with your FSO, resume submissions, follow up interviews, team lead chats, salary negotiations, submitting candidates to the prime contractor / government customer; and so much more in between. It takes time, like I said, and if you get close to wrangling that secret squirrel and are nearing the end of the process, it can be extremely frustrating if they are rejected, back out, or ghosts you altogether. It’s a lot of time down the drain.

Your partners certainly hold weight for this type of recruiting as well – and it really fuels the competitive edge of recruiters between companies if you have a best athlete recruiting approach.

Be sure to check out some of our Top Recruiting Hacks to launch you into staffing success this year. Happy recruiting!

Related News

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! 🇺🇸