It’s a common complaint: your defense contractor is intending to have lowest bid when responding to a Request for Proposals (RFP), and in the process, salaries are slashed. Recruiters are constantly trying to staff for positions that have unrealistic salaries due to companies hoping to expand their portfolio and win government work.

Procurement personnel in the government recognize lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) contracts as the safest method for reviewing proposals because it’s objective and the chance of a protest is minimal. But even if you aren’t staffing for a LPTA effort, it’s starting to seem that way across the board. So how can you avoid recruiting for positions where candidates are unable and unwilling to accept these low salaries?

Be an EMBEDDed Recruiter IN THE Proposal PROCESS

There’s a reason that proposal managers wait until the last minute to put together pricing. 1) Writing to mission fulfillment and your company capabilities is an essential part of securing work and 2) they are hoping that their recruiters can secure candidates for the key resume portion of the response without discussing potentially low salaries.

It’s a strategy used by some companies, but recruiters incur the negative impacts later when the contract is awarded. To avoid this, simply embed yourself in the process. Insist that you are a part of the market research for key personnel and investigate what average salaries are offered for the location and cost of living the program will be working in. When proposal managers are faced with hard data and metrics on what salaries are offered in that field and location, they will have to accept the fact that their numbers are too low (which can also be cause for a proposal not being awarded).

Recruit with THE WHOLE PACKAGE IN Mind

If you hear from your program managers on salary, don’t make a snap judgement on the numbers being too low. Recruiters can easily say that $70,000 per year for an entry level software engineer in Washington DC is a bit low, but what if your benefits package equates to $25,000?

It’s important to understand the full picture of what your company is offering candidates, and in your understanding, you will be able to perfect your pitch when you start to source for the program.


It’s royally frustrating when you work months and months on a position, and it goes unfilled. The customer is angry, your program managers confused, and you are nearing burnout. You continue to have candidates pass phone screens and whose resumes / skills are accepted by the internal team. But toward the end of the hiring lifecycle, they are flaking out because the salary is too low. It’s time to make some moves.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” -Albert Einstein

Don’t drive yourself mad. Talk with your program manager and government customer about easing up on the requirements: be as honest as you can as a company without losing your dignity on terrible preparation, and see if there are certifications, degree requirements, or years of experience that can go down a notch with the work still being able to get done. This one is about relationships – just like the proposal process can be.

Slashed salaries don’t have to be your demise…you just need to work smarter and have a contingency plan in place.

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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 8+ 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! 🇺🇸