If you are considering applying for a position at a company that contracts with the government, it is important that you understand the specialized requirements that are often included with the job posting. Due to the special nature of government contracting, the client (“the government”) will often have citizenship and security requirements that are a non-negotiable part of the contract. Being able to demonstrate that you meet those requirements at the time of your initial application will be crucial in moving your resume forward for consideration. Let’s overview some of those requirements.
Clearances – If a job posting indicates that a clearance is required, this is a non-negotiable item. A clearance is an often lengthy vetting process by the U.S. Government that requires many steps to achieve. You can not apply for this on your own, as explained on ClearanceJobs.com and State.gov. It is typically acquired through service in the military or previous experience with the government. Applying for a position at a company without a clearance is an automatic signal that you do not understand the nature of the level of service required.
Certifications – Various levels of security and experience certifications are often part of a government contract. If a job description says that a certification is required, you may assume it was either requested by the client or a part of the contract negotiations. Thus, be sure to indicate on your initial application all the certifications that you hold that are relevant to the position of which you are applying. If a certification is marked as “desired” or “encouraged,” you may assume it is not required, but is a preference of the contractor and/or the client. In this case, be sure to highlight your most outstanding skill sets, along with a desire to learn.
Degrees – Just like jobs in the commercial sector, government contracting jobs may require or encourage certain educational levels that may or may not be mandated by the client. Therefore, follow the same procedure as suggested above for certifications.
Location – Being that government contracting jobs most likely are on location at the client’s facilities, the location listed on a job is typically non-negotiable.
How do you increase the likelihood your resume will be considered? Make sure you read the job description and requirements in its entirety. Update your resume to match the position and submit a cover letter that details why you are an outstanding fit. It is common for recruiters to use various online job posting platforms like LinkedIn. Be sure to keep your profile updated and pay close attention to keywords that describe your skill set. If the recruiter is running an automated search, they will mostly likely find you by the words you use in your profile.
If you are granted an initial interview, it is important to be prepared and on-time. Research the company and the client in advance. Being able to effectively communicate and understand what the job is about will set you apart. If you are new to the industry, be sure to study the jargon and acronyms used, as government contracting has its own language. Come prepared with a list of questions, be a great listener and show a desire to learn. All these things will be essential in demonstrating your value as a team member and may help move your application further in the next steps of consideration.
Note: 12/14/2017 – Correction made to non-required verbiage in the certification paragraph.