6 Ways to Attract Cleared Talent **Spoiler** its not Pay

You’re hearing it everywhere right now, It’s a candidate’s market and employers are hurting to find and pay for qualified cleared talent. In this crazy world of security clearance recruiting, when is it not a candidate market?

As a business in this space,  it’s impossible to compete on salary alone.  Most teams simply just can’t afford to pay what large companies are offering which leaves them struggling to fill their programs with great talent. Yes, in many instances salary is king, but there are strategies you can adopt to develop interest and ultimately convert that dreamy candidate into an excited and motivated new hire. The bonus is, you can do this without breaking the bank and it only takes some internal alignment, creative thinking and dedication.

At Mount Indie, we are always thinking about the intangibles and how we can turn overlooked features into company benefits that attract candidates. We developed the following tips by examining both what motivates employees to change jobs as well as what drives them to stay with a company long term.  The key is leveraging that motivation to engage with potential employees while retaining valuable team members you already have. Remember, the most successful recruiting strategy is not having to recruit… or strong retention. So as these tips are great for new hires, they also provide added value to your current team.  

Here are some tips you can incorporate immediately:

1. Know and sell your additional benefits

Every company pretty much offers the same medical, vision, dental, PTO and 401(k)… so what else do you offer? Seriously, what are you offering that the rest of industry is not?  You’ve got to get this into an easily sharable document that is visually appealing and straight to the “what’s in it for me (WIFM)” facts. Do you allow for reimbursement for relevant certifications or even a training/conference allowance? This is huge to candidates considering joining your team – it shows you are willing to invest in their development. Do you have commuter benefits, cell phone reimbursement, pet insurance, company sponsored events… What else does your company, or could your company offer aside from the traditional benefits programs?

Often times what companies sell as “competitive benefits” are really just basic run-of-the-mill offerings. We also suggest getting familiar with what your competition is offering and seeing how you can enhance your offerings. 

What we see as the “standard” benefit package is this:

  • 15 days PTO, 11 Federal Holidays
  • 3 levels of Medical Plans with the lowest plan, usually called “Bronze” offering 100% of the employee premium covered
  • Vision and Dental paid by employer
  • Tuition Assistance up to the IRS Max
  • 401(k) 6% match with limited or no vesting
  • Supplemental benefits (AD&D, Term Life, etc…)

So if you are offering the above.. you are not offering “Exceptional Benefits”, you are offering industry standard. 

So what are some above and beyond benefits you ask?

  • Xtra day off for your birthday
  • Spot bonuses 
  • Gym Reimbursements 
  • Profit Sharing 
  • Employee appreciation / recognition 
  • Family planning services –  Family Leave
  • Summer Hours
  • Home office equipment budget

2. Communicate your company mission and vision clearly 

Another buzzphrase we frequently hear is “mission driven”, yet companies fail to align themselves to a clear mission that resonates with potential employees. Increasingly, we hear people want to perform meaningful work  along side people who care… This should be a layup in this industry, how are your programs important? I think they have something to do with national security right?

What are your company core values and purpose? When this resonates within your team it creates an inviting and focused environment where people are more passionate which is magnetic to others. Speaking of “buzzwords”… what we have just described are also the building blocks of a true company culture. Having this vision will also help steer you away from making hiring decisions that don’t align with your company’s core values and mission.

3. Ensure your interview team is prepared for the interview

This is huge and always overlooked. If your company does not have a standard interview process, no standard is being followed. Ever step into an interview with someone who didn’t know what they were interviewing you for? I have seen this happen many times and it is the quickest way to send candidates running for the hills.Being unprepared as an interviewer can lead to losing out on top candidates. Nobody wants their time wasted and nothing signals waste of time more than an unfocused, unproductive and unprepared interview.

To avoid this, sync up with the full interview team 10min before to discuss the goal and clear your head and take the time to debrief after. Have a set standard questions for each role you interview for with a system for unbiased ranking of answers. During the interview it is a great practice to be prepared to discuss the challenges that the new hire will be helping to solve – people LOVE to be a part of a solution.

4. Create and communicate a career path

Candidates are looking for stability and growth, so show them their path. A great place to start is in the interview. Spend time outlining what will be expected of them in the position as well as the room for growth and achievement and help them see what they can expect in the first 30, 60, 90 days in the role. Then, layout the bigger picture of opportunities for advancement beyond the role they are currently in. Are there any examples you can provide of employees that have come into this role and been promoted into higher level positions or shifted into other internal teams based on what they learned? Talk about the success stories you have in your very office, I am sure you have plenty of them. 

5. Extend the offer with excitement

Have you ever seen a boring offer letter email…. We have. We have literally seen a manager drop an empty email to a potential hire with the offer letter attached and not a single word in the body of the email. Seriously… Don’t do this. Call the candidate and express to them why you think they are a great fit for the team and how they will be able to make an impact at your company. This human interaction can go a long way and should not be overlooked! Use the offer letter email as a way to further brand your company as a welcoming and exciting place to be, not a stuffy corporate environment. 

Candidates all have competing offers and counter-offers are becoming very common in our space so we have to do everything we can to ensure our written offers are being accepted. Why not have your CEO write a little note and extend the offer? What could have a bigger first impression than that?

Oh Bonus point here, make your offer letter easy to sign – digital signature people…. DIGITAL… SIGNATURE. 

6. Realize the process doesn’t end when the offer is extended

Set expectations for what is happening next and when they new hire should expect to hear from HR. On-boarding should be a process, not “we will get it all figured out on their first day”. A great practice is to establish a buddy system where you assign a new hire to a current employee — this does not need to be their manager (in fact, a colleague is better) to ensure they have someone to ask questions to when they start and know what to expect with things as simple as what all is in the break-room (fridge for lunch, we always to go lunch day one, we have Friday team lunches etc). 

This system ensures that your new hire has someone other than their busy manager helping them feel comfortable in the new environment and just checking in on the basic things we’re looking for as people – feeling a sense of belonging and safety in a new place. Veteran buddy system is also a great idea for newly transitioning folks to help ease this transition into the corporate world. 

In our decades of experience managing teams in the security cleared space we have seen that money is only important to the point of taking the issue of money off of the table. So once the salary expectation is met, other very important motivating factors come into play. Doing important work, mastering a skill, working with a high performing team, having support to work outside of the office and grow independently… these are all things great employees are looking for. 

I am willing to bet you are probably even offering benefits to your team that you are not advertising. A great roundtable exercise is asking why do people like working here? Hint: it’s not about ping pong tables and after work BBQ’s.

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