Top Secret SCI Jobs - The Value of Smaller Contractors

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jon Stout

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Top Secret SCI Jobs and Contractors

The Top Secret SCI jobs market includes customers requiring security clearances, large prime contractors and smaller (generally sub) contractors. Each has specific ways of doing business and small and large contractors often compete with each other in the recruiting marketplace. 

Constant Changes in the Top Secret SCI Jobs Market

In the Federal Contracting business, there is constant change. This also applies to the Top Secret SCI Jobs market.

The federal marketplace will always operate beyond a person’s control. It is also beyond the control of their employer.  For example, contracts end, programs get downsized, funding cuts happen, contract awards get delayed and protested.

Top Secret SCI Jobs Performance is Often Not a Guarantee

You can be doing all the right things, adding immense value to your customer and helping your company build a great brand. When a contract changes even incumbents  are suddenly  “on the bench” or “between projects” or “on overhead” . You are no longer billable. As a result you have now moved from a profit-generator to a cost center. When this happens you are at risk.

When one or more contracts end they are often replaced by a new contract. This often means changes in labor categories and ,compensation rates. It also means a more competitive environment. Often contract changes require all incumbents to reapply for their existing jobs. In order to succeed in this environment the incumbent applicant requires competent recruiter support.

A new successful job search requires a persuasive and compliant resume. Recruiters with domain knowledge of the agency customer are also highly effective.. In addition  a knowledge of job requirements and how the strengths of candidate align with the requirements is essential.

This requires significant effort and a focus on the specific needs of the job candidate.

Contract Roll Off -Small vs. Large Contractors

In the market place, small contractors offer comparable benefits and often higher salaries (because of lower overhead and G&A rates) than large contractors. In addition small contractors tend to offer a more personalized, focus approach when placing individual candidates.

Large contractor recruiters are incentivized on rapidly filling job slots. In addition larger companies are often unwilling to spend the time and effort to put forth a personalized search for an individual candidate.

Because of the combination of skills and security clearance requirements top-secret sci jobs command a premium price but face a limited marketplace. In addition the contracting trend for the Intelligence Community is the awarding of a smaller number of larger contracts.

If you roll off a project in a large company, you’ll probably work with the internal HR / staffing team to try to find a fit on other projects.  There always tend to be many open positions at large companies, but there’s no guarantee those are a good fit for your skills. Further, even in a large company, success depends largely on the quality and energy of the recruiter.

Even if the roles do fit, at many companies you would need to compete for jobs against new applicants.  You would apply for each opening and then interview for it, just like a non-employee applicant would.

You may have preference as a known quantity, but often incumbents fall victim to a layoff because a new hire filled the position they wanted instead.

In an attempt to keep employees from shopping the job market however, many large company recruiters imply that small companies are too unstable. The often-used theme of many large company recruiters is that employees want to work at a big company because that provides better job security.

The size of the company is no guarantee of success however.. For most large companies, each employee (even great contributors) is often a line item on a profit and loss spreadsheet.  The fact of the matter is that there is no way that senior leadership of a large firm can know more than a small percentage of the employees.

For most small companies, however,  the CEO/President is familiar with each employee personally. For many it is  quite comforting knowing that if a bad situation happened, the top officer of the company would be personally working to avoid having to let employees go.

In a contract renewal situation, the small company’s leadership would likely make a much more concerted effort to find ways of keeping incumbent employees on board.  Losing one good person doesn’t have much of an impact on a 10,000-person company, but it has a huge impact on a 50-person company

Lastly, whether big or small, the best way to have job security is to make sure that you have impact for your customer and that you keep your skills current and relevant.  That way, even if you do suffer a layoff, you will be in demand in the market and able to quickly find another opportunity.

Some Simple Questions for the Recruiter

When you roll off a contract for any reason your primary contact is with the recruiter. When you are submitting your resume for a position to a large contractor, this will probably be the only person you have contact with.

While all recruiters are required to qualify candidates as to their suitability for positions so it only makes sense that candidates also qualify the recruiter.

Some questions to ask:

  • How many years of technical recruiting experience does the recruiter have?
  • How much agency domain knowledge does the recruiter have?
  • Is there a clear understanding of the mandatory and desired skills of the job requisition?
  • Is the recruiter honest?
  • Is there a commitment to the candidate’s needs?
  • Will the recruiter supervise the rewriting of the resume to highlight the best skills of the candidate?
  • Does the recruiter maintain a continuing dialogue with the candidate about the available job opportunities?

These and other questions should be answered before a candidate submits their resume to a recruiter.

Jon M. Stout is Chief Executive Officer of Aspiration Software LLC. Aspiration Software LLC is an Information Technology/Cyber Security services provider specializing focused on the Intelligence Community (IC). 

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