Overcoming the Candidate Supply Problem to Score Quality Talent

Recruiting the right candidates for security clearance positions has gotten more difficult over the past several years. Combine the lengthy clearance process with a surge in demand following sequestration, government shutdowns, and the OPM hack, and you have a classic underdog scenario for clearance recruiters.

Companies looking to win the recruiting game are faced with two urgent questions: Just how hard is it to find and recruit the right people? And what can you do to overcome those challenges?

Why It’s Tough to Hire For Security Clearance Positions

The candidate supply problem has been simmering for some time now. The number of people holding security clearances has dropped by almost 1 million since 2013. At the same time, demand for clearance talent has increased, averaging 9% growth in 2016.

The number of available candidates with security clearances represents a fraction of the total number of job seekers in the market. And only about half of those hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The security clearance supply problem extends to many types of positions, from administrative assistants to senior management. But the most in-demand positions lie in the technology sector, accounting for 44% of open positions.

The reality facing many companies is that qualified candidates just aren’t available. Cleared jobs score an average of 61 on the Hiring Difficulty Scale compared with 50 for the average non-clearance position. And it’s even tougher to fill IT openings.

That brings us to our second question: What can you do about it?

Best Practices For Your Clearance Recruiting Playbook

Lengthy clearance processes and salaries that can’t compete with those available in the commercial workforce have contributed to the drop in supply. To hire people with the right skills and security clearances, companies will need to rethink their recruiting strategies.

Let’s take a look at six best practices you can implement as you develop your playbook for attracting and engaging more of the best candidates:

  • Optimize Your Job Description With Keywords
    Candidates search for jobs using skills-based keywords. You can increase your chances of being found by including these keywords in strategic places like your job title, skills requirements, and description. Also consider adding alternate spellings, acronyms, and abbreviations to a separate keyword section.
  • Use Military Jargon
    Research and use military jargon and acronyms in your job descriptions and postings to increase your visibility in searches. Transitioning military personnel often have security clearances and make excellent candidates for a wide variety of positions.
  • Diversify Your Recruitment Efforts
    Cast your recruiting net as broadly as possible. Post in niche job boards that specialize in clearance recruiting, perform keyword searches to find candidate resumes, and ask for referrals from your own employees or other professionals in the industry.
  • Recruit Veterans
    Monster reports that 58% of security clearance candidates are veterans. Because most already have active clearance, they represent a ready-to-hire pool of candidates with a wide range of skills, from leadership to IT. Consider contacting transition offices and military career centers to find qualified candidates.
  • Work With a Recruiting Firm Specializing in Security Clearance Positions
    Look for a recruiting firm that specializes in finding qualified clearance candidates for your industry. These firms have much broader resources at their disposal including data mining technology, large candidate databases, and extensive networks they can tap for passive candidates and referrals.
  • Hire for the Future
    Sometimes it pays to hire a candidate who doesn’t have a security clearance yet, but who will be likely to complete the process successfully. Pre-screen candidates for standard criteria like criminal convictions or use of controlled substances, and look for character traits like honesty and strong work ethic.

Sometimes, the best way to hire a quality clearance candidate is to find someone already working another job and reach out to him or her with a proposal. If your offer is attractive enough, the individual may consider a switch. These passive candidates almost always come with an excellent track record and flawless job history. And you won’t have to worry about an expired clearance.

Security clearance recruiting can get complicated, but with the right playbook you can score quality talent for your open positions. When you make an offer, be prepared to include perks like a signing bonus or relocation expenses to sway the candidate in your favor.

The ball is in the candidate’s court these days and companies who hope to win will need to step up their game.

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