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Recruiters share 7 tips for getting a government contracting job

Ana Altchek   

Recruiters share 7 tips for getting a government contracting job
Careers4 min read
  • Government contracting opportunities are increasing, but entry can be challenging and nuanced.
  • BI spoke to recruiters to learn best practices to land work at a government contracting company.

As Americans seek stable work and flexibility with jobs, interest in public sector jobs is growing.

Following industry-wide layoffs, a growing number of graduates are shifting away from pursuing jobs at typical tech companies and doubling down on applications to government roles, according to a Handshake report published in January.

While lower pay in government jobs is sometimes viewed as a drawback of the sector, contracting companies tend to pay better than the federal government, and opportunities in this field are also increasing.

According to a spokesperson for recruiting company The Judge Group, the company has seen a 15% increase in government, aerospace, and defense opportunities in the last year or two.

But the world of government contracting is vast and it can be tricky to break into. While some people bid on their own contracts, there are also opportunities to work as an employee at a company that regularly signs contracts with the government.

While these kinds of companies aren't owned by the government, they have niche requirements and nuances that separate them from other corporate roles. Business Insider talked to three recruiters in the field to learn the best practices for getting a job in the industry.

1. Avoid job hoppiness on your résumé

Matt Grussendorf, a delivery manager at The Judge Group, oversees hiring for aerospace, government, and defense employers — and he said job "hoppiness" is a red flag.

For some roles, it's okay to have one six-month contract after another on your résumé, Grussendorf said. But in certain fields, like aerospace and defense, employers may be looking for longer tenure, he told Business Insider.

While short stints may seem inevitable in the industry, there are ways to avoid positioning them that way. Lauren Irizarry, a senior talent acquisition partner at A2 Federal, said if you do have shorter contracts, there's a way to format your résumé to make it look more consistent.

For example, she said if you've worked as a data scientist for 12 years with eight different contracting companies, you can put "data scientist" at the top of your résumé and list the individual contracts underneath instead of listing eight separate lines with the same role.

2. Make sure your clearances are up to date

Many government contracting roles require clearances, which can vary depending on the role and may also expire over time.

Irizarry said it's often easier to start with a larger company so that they sponsor your clearance. However, Quadesha Bynum, who worked in HR at various government agencies and contracting companies before starting her own company, said it can be difficult to land a government contracting job at a big company when starting out, so smaller firms may be a good place to start.

Whether you have the required clearance or not, it's important to accurately list it, Grussendorf said. Recruiting companies like The Judge Group check candidates' clearance, so applicants should verify their status when they apply for a role.

Additionally, candidates who are unwilling to get their clearance verified or checked can be a red flag.

3. Network, network, network

Irizarry said the government contracting industry is "all about networking." That means joining groups on LinkedIn or other platforms and getting in touch with people in the field.

Grussendorf said if you're breaking into the field out of college, you may have the advantage of attending career fairs and events centered on government contracting, he said.

While college fairs may be more accessible for young candidates, there are other networking opportunities. Clearancejobs.com, the largest platform for people with security clearance has a career fair page with a list of upcoming events to directly meet and speak with employers.

4. Reach out to recruiters directly

Since many government contracting opportunities have specific requirements, it can make a big difference to speak with a recruiter directly to find out what you need to do for that specific job.

An easy way to do so is by making a profile on Clearancejobs.com. The site allows users to browse through thousands of open roles, many of which have contact info for recruiters.

Grussendorf recommends reaching out to recruiters, talent acquisition at staffing agencies, or direct employers and telling them the job and salary range you're looking for to stay on their "candidate hot list."

5. Be open to relocation

There are several government hubs around the country, including in D.C., Seattle, Southern California, Alabama, and Denver, said Grussendorf. Most direct hire opportunities offer relocation packages, but contract or contract-to-hire positions typically don't, he said.

But Grussendorf said many employers end up extending the contract or hiring a candidate after they make the commitment to the company. Employers don't want to let strong employees or candidates go if they don't have to.

6. Make sure your LinkedIn is up to date

While some industries are more relaxed about certain standards, government jobs tend to be more traditional. Since many jobs in the sector require background checks and clearances, they may also do more digging than other corporate jobs.

Irizarry said candidates should keep LinkedIn fully professional — that means omitting irrelevant interests or experiences and using headshots from the shoulders up with a plain background.

Irizarry said she looks for information that will grab her attention. For example, if you're a cyber expert or speak multiple languages, list it.

7. Know what you're signing up for

Bynum said it's important to do research on the field before applying. Career fairs, she said, are a great place to do that.

Bynum said candidates should know details like how long the contract lasts and whether there are other positions available. She also said it's important to know what clearances are required for the job and how long that process will take to complete.




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