How to Win the Recruitment Game for Contingent Positions in the GovCon Community

Posted by Ashley Jones
Contingent Positions

Recruiting for contingent positions in the government contracting community presents a unique set of challenges that differ significantly from traditional requisitions that are fully funded. As Charles Buchanan, Talent Acquisition Lead at Patricio Enterprises, Inc., explains, “It’s not like searching for a funded position where I can call somebody up and say, when can you start?”

“With funded positions, you have something viable that you can offer at that moment,” says Charles. “Contingent positions are a whole different ballgame. We’re offering positions that, in reality, don’t exist, because we don’t have the contract. It’s kind of like selling someone a lottery ticket—you might not win.”

The unpredictable nature of contingent recruiting demands a unique blend of foresight, flexibility, and effective communication. Employers must not only identify and attract qualified cleared candidates but also keep them engaged despite the inherent uncertainty of the timeline and outcome.

Consider the following best practices for overcoming the challenges of contingent recruiting with insights from experienced recruiters at Patricio Enterprises, Inc. and SOSi.

Timeline Dilemmas

One of the most critical decisions in recruiting for contingent positions is determining the optimal time to start posting job openings. The dilemma is finding the balance between starting too early and risking candidate disengagement, or starting too late and scrambling to gather candidates and Letters of Intent (LOIs).

Pros of Recruiting During the Draft RFP Phase

“If the draft RFP drops today, the final RFP could drop next week, next month…it varies,” explains Seble Stewart, Talent Acquisition Manager at SOSi. “But it’s always good to start recruiting when you have the draft RFP because the draft already gives you the foundation for what you will be looking for.”

“By posting it ahead of time, you will start building your pipeline,” shares Seble. “And keep in mind, not every applicant that applies will meet the requirements. So having the job posted ahead of time helps you to review and then select candidates that have met the requirements.”

Cons of Recruiting During the Draft RFP Phase

On the other side of the coin, starting early comes with some distinct challenges. Charles explained that as a company with only two recruiters, their biggest battle is determining how much time to spend on contingent positions.

We try to recruit on the draft, but then the final RFP comes out and some requirements will have changed,” says Charles. “There’s a lot of times that can bite you because you’ll get an LOI signed and then when the new work statement comes out, that position doesn’t even exist.”

From the draft to the final RFP, positions can change, tasks may be added or removed, or the number of positions may increase or decrease. For instance, “We’ll be recruiting contingent for nine or 10 key personnel people,” describes Jenny O’Connor, Senior Technical Recruiter at Patricio Enterprises, Inc. “And then when the proposal drops, they’re only wanting three, but we’ve already got nine.”

“So there’s always changes,” emphasizes Jenny. “It’s all about adaptability. The government can do and change whatever they want, whenever they want. You have to be ready for anything.”

Another hurdle to navigate when recruiting early on the draft RFP is keeping candidates engaged for prolonged periods of time (which we’ll give tips on shortly). So while it’s often advisable to get started early, the question always remains, “How far out from those RFPs do we post the contingents,” poses Jenny. “Because if we land a great candidate, how long are we to tell them to hang on? That’s the dilemma. You can lose them in that timeline.”

Gathering Information

“As a recruiter, you have to have the ability to upsell why they want to come work with you,” says Seble. “So you have to have that understanding and an ability to convince your candidates why they should sign a Letter of Intent.”

That means, “You have to be very well versed in the position,” urges Charles. “It’s extremely important to be able to explain in detail what the position is and when it’s starting.”

But as we heard from Seble earlier, the timeline between the draft and final RFP can vary. And the timing of when the contract will actually be awarded can also be hard to determine. So how do you manage expectations and convey accurate information to interested candidates?

To navigate the uncertainties that come with contingent recruiting, it’s crucial to gather as much information as possible from your Business Development (BD) teams and hiring managers.

Seble explains that at SOSi, “Business development has monthly meetings, or as needed, and they will tell us, the final RFP has not dropped, but we need to start posting our jobs and communicating with candidates.”

“The first thing you need to understand is, what is the need, and what is the timeline,” says Seble. “Even if you don’t have any timeline, business development will have an idea of something like, the government informed us we may have 30 days or 60 days, or whatever the case might be before the final RFP comes out. So use that guidance as a starting point. Those are the key elements that you need to collect to be able to communicate to potential candidates that you’re going after.”

Attracting Ideal Candidates

Attracting the right candidates for contingent positions can be another hurdle. Due to the uncertainty that comes with positions that are contingent upon contract award, unemployed candidates who need a position sooner rather than later may not be the best people to pursue.

The best thing to do is find somebody that has a current position,” suggests Charles. “And ideally, your contingent position would be a promotion for them. We tell them to stay in their current position, just keep going, and then when we get this award, they can move and it will be a pay raise and a promotion. That’s the people I prefer to find.”

In order to attract talent who will be open to what the process entails, it’s important to be clear in all of your communications that the position is contingent. “I think that’s something that some companies don’t do clearly enough,” adds Charles. “Make sure the positions are stated as contingent, not funded.”

Keeping Candidates Engaged

Setting clear expectations from the beginning and maintaining regular communication is essential to keeping candidates engaged. “The key is staying in constant contact with them so they know we didn’t forget about them,” adds Jenny.

After the candidate has signed a contingent offer letter, it’s crucial to keep them committed to the job as we await the contract award,” says Seble. “It’s common for the candidate to accept a contingent offer and continue to search for other job opportunities. So as recruiters, we have to stay in touch with the candidates. It could be on a weekly basis, every other week, or at least monthly.”

Think of creative strategies to stay in touch and keep candidates engaged. This might include sending regular newsletters or invitations to upcoming webinars or meetups. Seble even suggests inviting your candidates that have signed LOIs to attend your job fairs.

“We would invite them to make them feel like a part of the team,” explains Seble. “Then they would know we’re trying to keep them engaged, and in the event that we win the contract or bid, they’ll be part of the SOSi team. You really have to think outside of the box.”

You also want candidates to know they can always reach out to you too. “I’ve had people with signed LOIs that change their minds,” shares Charles. “We might be 30 days out from doing the proposal, and now this person doesn’t want to be part of it. So I’m staying in contact with this person to also validate that we can still use the resume. Or you might find out they have a really good updated resume that makes them look even stronger. So it works both ways.”

Communicating Updates and Changes

“The government has a tendency of moving award dates 30 days at a time,” reminds Charles. “It becomes extremely involving when you only have a small recruiting section in your company because the follow-up and keeping in contact with those people becomes extremely important after about 90 days.”

When changes to the timeline arise, let your candidates know right away. Charles suggests saying something like, “Unfortunately, I told you that this was going to happen on this day. It didn’t, but I’m reaching out to let you know we haven’t forgotten about you. I will keep you updated and you’ll be the first to know if anything changes.”

“It can be as simple as an email, but that individual knows that you have not forgotten about them,” says Charles. “Again, one of the biggest keys to contingent positions is to not let people feel forgotten once you find them.”

When You Don’t Win the Contract

Despite best efforts, sometimes you won’t win the contract. And therefore, you won’t have the jobs you intended to offer your candidates. It’s crucial to handle these situations with care to preserve relationships and maintain a positive reputation.

After all the time and effort you spent finding and engaging everyone, the last thing you want is for candidates to leave the experience with a bad taste in their mouth.

“Keep in mind, the candidates we’re reaching out to for these contingent positions, are all somewhat in the same wheelhouse,” shares Jenny. “So they know each other. They’re in their chats, groups, cliques—and they all talk. If one says, don’t go with Patricio because they don’t follow up, they’re rude, or whatever the case may be, that spreads like wildfire. Then you’re really in trouble.”

“It’s about relationships,” emphasizes Charles. “They can’t leave the relationship bitter, which is sometimes hard to do. Say I did 20 LOIs for a contract we didn’t win – all I did was irritate everybody. It’s like getting engaged and setting your wedding date, and then when the wedding date comes up, you say, I don’t really want to get married.”

“You have to make sure they’re not upset with your company, because there will be other contracts,” reminds Charles. “So I’ll say, ‘Unfortunately, we didn’t win this one, but do you mind if I keep your resume? We might have something come up with one of our open funded positions.'”

Staying Positive

If you’ve been in the government contracting community long, you know firsthand how tiresome this particular aspect of cleared recruiting can be. Charles admits, Contingent positions are the absolute most frustrating positions there are. It’s like walking into a Porsche dealer and not having enough money to buy a Porsche. You want one, but you can’t have one.”

“Never let yourself get frustrated to the point on these contingent positions where the applicant knows it,” cautions Charles. “You have to be in charge of the conversation and talk with confidence as much as you can. And like I said earlier, keep them updated on changes in the situation. It all goes back to building the relationship.”

By starting early, keeping candidates updated and engaged, and maintaining positive relationships even when contracts aren’t won, you can position yourself for success. The process may be challenging, but with the right strategies in hand, it can also be rewarding.

Find more articles about cleared recruiting here>>


  • Ashley Jones

    Ashley Jones is ClearedJobs.Net's blog Editor and a cleared job search expert, dedicated to helping security-cleared job seekers and employers navigate job search and recruitment challenges. With in-depth experience assisting cleared job seekers and transitioning military personnel at in-person and virtual Cleared Job Fairs and military base hiring events, Ashley has a deep understanding of the unique needs of the cleared community. She is also the Editor of ClearedJobs.Net's job search podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who's Hiring & How.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 11, 2024 1:02 pm

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