How to Recruit Cleared Candidates for your Government Contracts

May 27, 2021

You just won a government contract but now cannot find capable security-cleared candidates to execute it. You end up losing money and time. What should you do?

When recruiting for government contracts, one of the most difficult aspects of the work is to reach and hire cleared candidates. Anyone who is going to perform in an environment that requires access to sensitive information must hold a security clearance. From janitors to office assistants to IT personnel to senior management positions, cleared candidates are always in demand for direct hiring by the government and federal defense and military contractors. Often government contractors need to submit resumes of security cleared key personnel in order to win bids on government projects. Simply put, it is very lucrative for a company to hire security-cleared candidates successfully.

Government Proposals and Contract Recruiting

Cleared recruiting for a federal contract is burdensome. Effectively servicing such a government contract can provide a major lift to the finances of any firm. However, working with a government agency or department, especially one that requires security-cleared resources, is not the same as servicing a contract with a corporate client.

The primary anticipations of state and federal agencies are that your company will do its best to hire from a candidate pool that includes minorities, women, veterans, and the differently-abled, whenever it is reasonably possible. The crux of compliance means that you will always conduct a good-faith recruiting effort to hire from such a pool. Government contracts differ from private sector contracts in four primary ways:

  • Budget

Approved government budgets don’t have the same flexibility that private budgets do. Because government funds have been earmarked for specific projects, budget constraints may prevent the re-allocation of funds, even if there are external environmental shifts.

  • Procurement Management

Public sector procurement follows rigid rules that can’t be easily changed. Unlike the private sector, procurement procedures can’t be modified without legislative approval, which means contractors have little to no wiggle room with regard to submission dates, budgets, and project specifications.

  • RFPs and Personnel

Because government procurement procedures are heavy, RFPs can be much larger for government projects than they are in the private sector. In addition to technical and cost proposals, these RFPs often include personnel proposals. Bringing the right talent to the table can provide a competitive advantage for bidders by demonstrating that they have the technical expertise needed to meet the project requirements.

  • Exclusivity Clauses

Candidates may be required to sign a letter of exclusivity ensuring that they will not work on a competitor’s team and that they are available to do the job. Recruiters usually provide exclusivity letters to candidates and can negotiate the language. For example, they might state that they “intend to be available” rather than that they are “committed to being available.”

Why are Cleared Candidates hard to find?

The number of professionals with active security clearances is believed to have gone from 4 million in 2017 to 3.7 million in 2020-21. In 2017, as per a survey,  only about 1 million individuals had a Top Secret clearance. With fewer cleared candidates in circulation and job openings requiring security cleared personnel being at an all-time high, it is really difficult to access and hire cleared candidates for government projects.

DOD Cleared Candidates Circulation Graph
Source: Clearance Jobs
Hire Cleared Resources | iQuasar llc
Source: Clearance Jobs

Building your Cleared Candidates Recruitment Strategy

The competition for cleared candidates is so strong that the contractors need to carefully craft talent acquisition strategies designed to attract these highly desirable cleared professionals. An alternative to having this function in-house, Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) can be a cost-effective and on-demand approach to gain a competitive edge. A sound RPO company helps government contractors build a feasible talent pipeline and maintain the aggressive edge needed to win in the marketplace. Let’s take a look at some key recruitment strategies for attracting qualified, cleared candidates:

Understand the Fundamentals

Get familiar with different types of clearances and the basics of the industry. For example, understand what Public Trust, Secret, Q Clearance, Top Secret (TS), Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), TS/SCI with Full Scope Polygraph (FS Poly), CounterIntelligence Polygraph (CI Poly), Lifestyle Polygraph, etc. mean.

Build a Talent Pipeline

A key ingredient of success is a  strong pipeline of talent ready to work on government projects immediately as the projects become available. Talent pipelining helps companies to think beyond the present roles, putting them in a better position to plan talent acquisition for their company. It also makes it simple to fill hard-to-fill roles, increase your team’s productivity, and lower your cost and time to hire.

Build a Strong Employer Brand

Prior to building out your talent pipeline, it’s important to take a second look at your employer brand. This can serve to draw the right prospects into your pipeline. A trusted brand can be easily recognized by candidates both on social media and on job boards. Post hiring needs on social media accounts and includes elements like personnel photos and conversational posts to establish a connection with candidates.

Job Portals

Availability of resources in accessible repositories is by far the most important prerequisite to filling open positions. Similarly, when looking for cleared candidates, job portals are what we can bet on. There are many different large and small job boards and sites out there where you can find cleared candidates.

Expand your Network

To make sure you’re able to always fill your pipeline with great talent, your team needs different plans for sourcing cleared candidates. Networking is one of them. Networking helps to find the best candidates, so take the time to search for cleared candidates on LinkedIn and other social media outlets so that you can contact them about your openings.

Build Relationships with Passive Candidates

It is believed that 81% of cleared candidates are passive, which means they already have a job but could be open to a new opportunity. Create a dialogue with these individuals in your network using message boards and niche groups so you can build positive relationships that may result in employment opportunities in the future.

Spread the Word

If you can’t find your ideal cleared candidate with searches and job boards, reach out to similar cleared candidates in the area and ask for a referral. Communicate your hiring needs to your network and ask for referrals from relevant cleared candidates. This is also a great way to access passive candidates when they are ready for a change.

Approach/Reaching out

You found your perfect candidate. Now what? You tried to get in touch over the phone, but no response! It’s because most of these top talents with high-level security clearances work in a secure environment where they have restricted access to their electronic devices. It is important to understand these nuances and build the experience for successful outreach using email, text messages, and different times of the day.

Social Media for Recruiting Cleared Candidates


A strong network is the best asset a recruiter can possess. With more than 756 million members, LinkedIn is a very powerful tool that can be used to post jobs and network with passive candidates. The Jobvite Recruiter Nation 2020 report found that 72% of recruiters find LinkedIn to be the most effective tool in finding vetted candidates. Also, LinkedIn provides an option of being a part of groups where recruiters can get in touch with cleared candidates.

X-Ray Search

The X-Ray search is also a powerful Social Media Recruiting Method to search public profiles on any website. Also known as “Site Search”, X-RAY search helps you find the data, web pages, and documents that are not directly accessible via links on the main public home page.

Want to Recruit Cleared Candidates?

Recruiting cleared candidates can be challenging, but with a comprehensive strategy, rigor, and experience, you can overcome this challenge. iQuasar has been in the recruitment business for more than 15 years, and we can help you find qualified candidates with active security clearances, given our experience, our internal proprietary processes, industrial-strength tools, external portal licenses, and deep knowledge. We have a well-defined strategy to help our clients fulfill their recruitment needs. Our recruiters work as an extension of your team to find the right people with the right skills for an existing project, contract, or RFP response.

Talk to Us Today!


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