Companies used to be notorious for trying to keep their candidates off of career networking sites, or discouraging them from attending networking events. But that strategy not only seems archaic, it sounds downright laughable in a market where a cleared professional with coveted skills is guaranteed to be sought after—whether they’re looking for new work or not.

5 Ways to Keep Your Cleared Employees From Jumping Ship

It may seem impossible to keep candidates from considering new opportunities, but it’s not impossible to promote happiness with their current salary and work. If you’re a cleared recruiter or company hiring manager, what can you do to promote job and salary satisfaction, both with new hires and for those who have been with your company for years?

Based on the data and our interviews with recruiters, we can offer the following recommendations:

1. Gather business intelligence.

A security-cleared candidate knows their worth on the open market— they’re fielding dozens of calls from recruiters and most of them are receiving numerous cleared and non-cleared job offers. Turn your best candidates into your career intelligence analysts—don’t be afraid of candidates being contacted by recruiters. Ask them to communicate with you about the offers they’re receiving. What is most attractive? Can your company offer it? If you’re afraid to talk about compensation and competing contracts with your employees outside of an annual review, don’t be surprised when they walk out the door without telling you a thing.

2. Involve department managers in salary conversations.

Two things are clear from the data—salary and job satisfaction are strongly aligned, and next to salary, mission is the biggest driver of employee exits. As a recruiter or hiring manager, you may be responsible for salary conversations, but you may not have control over whether or not an employee is doing work they love, or involved in a mission that matters. That’s why you must work with department managers and supervisors to make sure employees are happy. Have regular pulse checks concerning flight-risk positions or mission-critical personnel. If an employee begins to be unhappy about the work they’re doing, it may not matter if they have a top-line salary. Likewise, you may not be able to offer the best salary—but if you can offer mission critical work a candidate can’t do anywhere else, they may consider your offer.

3. Ask employees to list what they love most about their work during talent reviews.

A busy security clearance holder is likely not spending a lot of time waxing philosophical about what they enjoy about their work. And the annual performance review process is so fraught with emotion and the demand to show value-add to the organization, the employee may not stop to look beyond the bottom line and consider what they enjoy about their work. Make them. And if they can’t come up with anything, start looking for their backfill now—they won’t be around long.

4. Pipeline, pipeline, pipeline.

The ClearanceJobs Salary Satisfaction Survey highlights two stark statistics—57% of respondents had been in their jobs 2 years or less, and 83% were at least somewhat likely to make a move in the coming year. You must be building out relationships with cleared talent, even knowing that candidate may not be willing to move to your organization, today, tomorrow, or in two years. Be a resource, before you need to make a hire. And take advantage of the best online talent pipelining tools and candidate communication options. Because you can’t just build a talent pipeline—you have to keep it warm.

5. Be transparent.

Cleared professionals are strongly motivated by salary. But given the number of job offers they’re receiving, it’s clear candidates are far from pursuing every opportunity to make a move. Of candidates surveyed who reported no change in base pay, 40% said they didn’t know why. Maybe they’re lying, or maybe they work for companies who really care so little about their employees that they’re unwilling to be open about their career options and job performance. You may not be able to offer a pay increase that can compete with what a candidate can receive when they accept an outside offer. But if you don’t have transparent pay-related conversations with your employees, you’re not even trying.

Cleared Candidate Mobility Impacts National Security

The high level of candidate mobility is bad news for mission readiness on cleared contracts. Every cleared professional who leaves one role to pursue another leaves behind a mission critical function that still needs to be filled. And while the government is finally making inroads in reducing the backlog of pending security clearance investigations, the average initial Top Secret security clearance investigation for industry is 421 days. That means DoD/industry still faces significant pressure in trying to hire candidates. To meet hiring demands, employers rely on poaching from competitors, rather than depending on an uncertain clearance investigation process. “The government is doing little to acknowledge the supply vs demand issue,” said Todd Keys, program manager at Cantada. “In this environment, highly-skilled, highly-cleared individuals are getting a dozen phone calls and emails per week. If they leave, then the programs they are on will suffer. If they don’t leave, then the new program with an important mission will suffer due to lack of personnel to work it.” As a result, the high demand for cleared professionals isn’t just a problem for the defense industry—it’s a problem for the whole country. Losing a cleared employee—whether it’s to another cleared position or outside the cleared space—has negative impact far beyond that company or agency. Until clearance processing times improve, American national security depends on companies finding ways to find and retain its supply of cleared talent.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.