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Undifferentiated Firm Seeks Carbon-Based Lifeform with Polygraph August 30, 2010

Posted by stanleyreidrecruiting in HIghly Cleared Candidates.

When I read a recent Washington Post article about a security clearance job fair, I cringed – a lot. I don’t want to use this blog as a place to vent, but I feel I need to on this point.

People referred to as a “valuable prize”?

A “feeding frenzy” analogy used to describe the the incredibly important process of carefully choosing where to work, which company to be at to build your career, and the place you spend 40+ hours a week?

I actually had a company once tell me that their hiring need was “anyone with an active full-scope poly who can fog a mirror”.

This transactional approach to “recruiting” is dehumanizing.

Why would anyone want to work for a company with that attitude?  What happened to the concept of making a good cultural match between a person and a potential employer?  What about career growth opportunity?  What about the relationship between a person and their boss/career mentor?  What about the QUALITY of a person’s skills and their INTERESTS instead of just whether they’ve passed a polygraph?

This obsession over “getting the person with the polygraph so I can get them billing and fill my slot” is also a waste of taxpayer dollars.  No one should be hired just because they have a polygraph and happen to have a resume that matches up nicely to the specifics of a labor category and a slot on a task order.  Have you ever sat next to someone and shook your head and wondered why they ever got hired? Thank the “feeding frenzy” mindset.

Finally, and most importantly, a rush to hire because of a polygraph lessens the effectiveness of work being done.  This isn’t just about taxpayer dollars.  The programs these highly-cleared people work on directly affect national security and the lives of both our military men and women and civilians.  We need spectacular teams of people who are in the right roles, and who are happy and successful because they are in the right companies for them.  Those high-performing teams cannot be hired in this transactional manner.

My job as a search consultant is to make good matches.  I learn about where people want to take their careers and what they are truly passionate about, and then I find the companies that can provide them an environment that fosters their growth and lets them chase those passions. Yes, almost everyone has a polygraph who I work with, and yes, they all make a lot of money because the supply and demand curve is skewed – but it is my job to get people to the place where they are SUPPOSED TO BE.

If this makes sense to you, stay home the next time the career fair is in town and give me a call instead so I can treat you like an individual human being with a specific desire for your future, instead of warm body with a clearance.  Thanks for listening.

(To read the article that caused this rant, go to http://bit.ly/bsn8M0)

– Ron Stanley

Ron is the co-owner of Stanley Reid & Company, a search firm specializing in placing highly cleared technology professionals in the DC and Baltimore area and a former software engineer and technical project manager.