Each candidate is going to have different motivation factors they are weighing for an offer to relocate. Attracting top cleared talent to smaller towns that are unlike national security hubs like the DMV area seems to be a continuous struggle for cleared recruiters.

Contractors with customer sites in smaller or slower paced towns and cities are hit harder with recruiting challenges due to an already limited talent pool.

But the situation isn’t impossible. Every smaller area in the US has their own set of advantages but the trick is to market it the correct candidate and the right time in their career. Whether it’s company culture or employee benefits, it’s important to highlight what sets your defense contractor apart from the companies that are offering opportunities in well-known or already notably attractive locations.

Here are some strategies that are effective in attracting big talent to small towns and eventually convincing them to relocate.


For a candidate to relocate their entire family, they need incentives and a convincing pitch, and the strongest competitive benefit recruiters sourcing for these locations have is leveraging their city’s unique advantages.

Once you find a candidate that looks good on paper, the conversation takes a little finesse to discover what they are looking for in terms of living outside of work. Discuss what they like to do for fun or what their ideal location is. Ask what their biggest motivating factor would be to accept a new role, whether it’s salary, benefits, the customer, position, or location.

Spend time familiarizing a candidate with the local community and its amenities, drawing similarities between their ideal location and your area. If they discuss their family or have children, mention that the schools are in the top X% in the country. Highlight the culture that may get lost in bigger hubs.

The key is to be the recruiter that gets to know a candidate, learning what they find most appealing.


More than half (56%) of cleared respondents from the 2020 ClearanceJobs Compensation Report are from just a few locations: Virginia, Maryland, California, Washington DC, Texas, and Florida. This is because these states are where the most talent is in the DoD.

But another perk of living in location outside the beltway is a lower cost of living. This translates to more savings for a candidate and their family, and better quality of life with ease on the bank account. Recruiters should constantly be gathering data on the cost of living in their contract locations and send it to potential hires in comparison to their current city. A good number of candidates place higher value on affording a larger home for a lower monthly payment instead of living the city life.


Employers are now focusing on drawing in top talent by competing for the attention of a passive candidate pool. The usual medical benefits are no longer leveraging points: health insurance for your pet, company matches to nonprofits, or unlimited PTO are new incentives.

It’s tough competing with companies that can offer more opportunities in larger cities, but it’s time to get creative as recruiters, and not only understand what people want, but WHY candidates want those things. Helping with retention, creative benefits boost morale and help candidates visualize something to anticipate.

Other perks you can offer as you are intending to convince a candidate to relocate is offering a flexible transition timeline to move, flexible scheduling for work when they do relocate, financial support and resources with moving, sign on bonuses, or help with finding their spouse a job.


Referrals make up a large base of where companies find candidates in any location. But especially in smaller cities, leverage transitioning military’s networks and develop a natural referral plan – as you source military personnel for your contracts and eventually sign someone, ask to be connected with other buddies from the military that could be retiring in the next 3-6 months and plan to pipeline.

An effective referrals scheme will incentivize current and prospective employees to recommend candidates in their network in exchange for a reward. Be generous with your bonuses because hiring someone through a referral saves your company thousands of dollars.


Recruiting, like sales, is a magical dance of psychology and the biggest proponent of your success will be knowing your audience and putting in the time to do some research.

A life change like relocating for a company you are only so familiar with is overwhelming for most people. Encourage candidates to do so by assisting them in imagining themselves and their family in your town. This could include sending a list of local restaurants, events, community groups, or other personalized candidate city guide.


Let’s say you are trying to recruit cleared talent for a contract at the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) in Charlottesville, VA. While the city may be smaller, the recruiter could highlight the abundance of wineries / breweries, beautiful landscapes to view on hikes, or the short 1-2 hour drive to Richmond or DC if you are craving a bigger city.

How about Shaw, South Carolina? If you weren’t stationed at Shaw AFB, you may be concerned about relocating to an area far from a bigger city and further from the Carolina beaches. But Shaw is town of about 40,000 and offers a festive community and space to spread out. The cost of living is relatively low, and Columbia, SC is about an hour away.

Beavercreek, Ohio is another location recruiters have difficulty drawing top cleared talent into. It’s a suburb just outside of Dayton, but could be an attractive location to candidates that are currently or thinking about starting a family. Dayton is rich with museums, parks, and music, and is a three hour drive from Lake Erie in Cincinnati if you want to take a weekend to check out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Other tips:

  • Target individuals that have moved out of the location but may be interested in relocating back.
  • Advertise locally through online targeting with the hope that people currently living in there will share ads with others.
  • If your area is known for the Air Force (or some other military branch), place ads with USAF organizations or create those partnerships.
  • Create partnerships with military spouse organizations or bloggers. Your goal should be to catch the attention of potential candidates, including their spouses.
  • Consider leveraging a local real estate agent to gather an updated list of homes for sale in various price ranges.

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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! 🇺🇸