When I talk to rapidly growing government contractor executives, recruiting is almost always a top concern. Many have done recruiting in an ad-hoc manner, with individuals doing recruiting while wearing other hats. When growth climbs higher, there comes a tipping point where this way of recruiting is no longer sustainable to meet increased hiring needs. And, for many government contractors who provide services, recruiting is a form of revenue generation. We frequently work with these and other organizations to help them create recruiting strategies which will develop and sustain growth.
Competition for top talent is fierce within the government contracting arena in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area. Not to mention the fact that competition for federal work has become a race to the bottom in terms of pricing, which makes offering competitive salaries all the more challenging.
How does a federal contractor compete and win top talent?
To get started, here are some suggestions which apply to many types of firms. Here are additional talent acquisition strategies specific to rapidly growing government contractors:
- When possible, hire a dedicated recruiter. Ideally, a person with skills and experience in recruiting who will not wear multiple hats. The type of skilled recruiter we place with our clients will do much more than simply post jobs and forward resumes to hiring managers. Skilled recruiters will source candidates as well as screen resumes and applicants for the right skills, experience for each role as well as a cultural fit for the organization. They will also build long term relationships with candidates who become hires, develop pro-active strategies to build candidate pipelines and talent communities and negotiate on your behalf with candidates. If you’re not ready to bring a recruiter onboard, there are other options perfect for growing government contractors. For instance, Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), will still allow you to have a dedicated, skilled recruiter or recruiting team focused on finding the best fit for your firm without the investment of hiring someone full-time.
- Fine tune your proposal recruiting process and then follow it consistently. Incorporate recruiting into the proposal process and the earlier the better. Giving your recruiter(s) the best information possible will help them produce higher quality results in the fast-turnaround timeframe associated with proposal efforts. And, giving your recruiter(s) information that is as accurate as possible avoids issues of “false advertisement” with candidates when, once hired, they realize what they were told by the recruiter is not accurate.
- Align your recruiting, capture and program management teams. In addition to implementing a consistent proposal recruiting process, ensure that your capture and program management teams are closely aligned with recruiting. This will allow your recruiter(s) to be more bought in to the work, to make recommendations about potential strategy, and to have input on go or no-go decisions about potential work (based on their knowledge of the talent market).
- Invest in an applicant tracking system (ATS) as soon as feasible. Your recruiter(s) will have increased efficiencies which will be essential for quick-turnaround recruiting on proposals, building talent communities and pipelines, increasing the exposure of your job openings to a wide variety of sites and a broad audience. Many ATS options integrate with social sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Using an ATS can streamline your process which will improve your candidate experience.
- Salary benchmarking—determine how your pay is aligned in the marketplace. Are you at, above or below an external benchmark? If your compensation is higher than the market average, this knowledge can be used to attract candidates. If you are lower than market average, this knowledge is essential so that you can look for other ways to attract individuals (consider other fringe benefits that are low-cost to enhance your overall offering to candidates).
- Ensure you are treating employees fairly when contracts end. How you handle these situations impacts your firm’s reputation and candidate’s willingness to join your firm. Information about your company may be readily available on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed.
There is a war for talent and the ability to attract and hire talent is essential for government contractors to thrive and grow. Depending upon your organization’s size and resources, some of these ideas may be long term and some can be more readily implemented. We recommend that our clients integrate their recruiting, marketing and leadership teams to develop strategy which will enhance their firm’s ability to attract and hire the best talent.