Career AdviceObtaining Security Clearance

Getting A Job Offer With An Inactive Clearance

via Randall Scasny, Director of

Changes in the economy and job market often times compel many people to reassess their careers and search for employment in industries other than they are presently employed in. I see this happening a lot with my customers who had been in the military years ago and now are seeking to get a military or defense contracting job, which often requires an active clearance. But if their clearances have gone inactive, they are often told to expect a challenging and long job hunt. So, they often give up their job search even before they start.

My suggestion is not to give up looking for a job even if your clearance is inactive.

I recently worked with an Air Force retiree who had been out of the military/defense industry for six years and his clearance was inactive. Yet, he was given a job offer after a month or so of re-launching his job hunt campaign. How did he do it?

Well, if you are looking for some magic, forget it!

There was no special form to complete or review board to apply to or attend. I feel that it really came down to his building (with my assistance) such a compelling case for his value to the organization that this immense hiring appeal drowned out the hurdle of an active clearance…

Let me analyze his job hunt campaign for you to show you how he did it.

My specialty is working with job seekers who have very difficult career transitions. Usually they have been looking for months and receive little if any job market traction. To move their job hunt campaigns forward expeditiously, I place them into a theoretical job hunt structure that consists of two phases:

Phase 1: The Resume Selection Phase: this phase deals with any action the job seeker takes (resume development, job application, etc.) to the point that his or her resume is selected by an employer for further consideration.

Phase 2: The Hiring Decision Phase: this phase deals with any action the employer takes to prune down a list of qualified job applicants (screening inquiries, onsite interviews, etc.) to the point that a particular candidate is given a formal job offer.

By placing a job seeker into this structure, depending upon his situation, I have learned how to pinpoint the job hunt campaigns problems and form concrete solutions to move the campaign forward. (As an aside, this structure also gives a heuristic in predicting employer hiring behavior, which is beyond the scope of this article.)

Here’s the job seeker’s background: In 2002, he retired as an Air Force Major. He was an operations/exercise planner and trainer. His specialties were air battle management, exercise control, and strategic planning (C2 Simulations and War Gaming). Like many job seekers, he never landed a job in the defense industry when he retired and wasn’t sure what he was doing wrong. Hence, he gave up searching and went into an unrelated field: financial services. By the time he contacted me, he was managing the financial needs for 8,000 households with five sales people working under him; he was earning a 6-figure income.

When he contacted me in October 2008, he had restarted his job search and really wanted to get a job in the defense industry. He was getting some referrals, some interviews, but nothing definite. He believed he needed some help and that’s when we began working together.

It was very clear to me that he was a Phase 2 job seeker. Why?

He was getting employer inquiries. More than a few and in a variety of jobs: Education, Training, Finance, and Operations Planning. The jobs were all posted on the well known Federal and Defense Industry online job boards. Since he was getting employer inquiries, his resume was functional.

But what was impeding from moving through Phase 2 to firm job offers?

Right before he contacted me, he had interviewed for a finance job. He did not get the job because “he did not know enough about Air Force budget processes.” This told me a lot. The employer was interviewing hard. They were doing a lot of targeting. While he merited an interview, upon analysis, he didn’t pass muster, so to speak. This is when I analyzed what kind of jobs he had been applying to as well as what content was on his resume.

This analysis was vital in determining his Phase 2 problem. He was using two techniques in selecting jobs to apply for: (1) geographic and (2) the “Aw shucks, I can do that” approach. For the geographic, he was applying to any kind of job in a target area that he felt “he could do.” For the “I can do that” approach, he was not thinking about his competition, nor the vetting processes typically employed by hiring managers. Hence, his marketing position was diffuse and weak.

In essence, he used one kind of resume to apply to a variety of different jobs with a variety of different kinds of stated job requirements. He had the mistaken belief that if he applied to more and more jobs, at some point, he would hit the bull’s eye: a job offer. Unfortunately, it’s been my experience as a “super job hunter” that the job hunt game doesn’t work that way.

I quickly broke him of his bad habits and made him look closely at his resume. I made him take a hard look at what he was doing and began asking him what kind of jobs was his resume a compelling case for immense hiring appeal? The great wave of his experience revolved around operations planning. Yes, he could probably be an Educational Services Officer (DANTES) but his resume did not match to the requirements of an ESO. (Plus, I think he would be bored by an ESO job in no time.)

He found my logic valid because he did receive a rejection email about the ESO job that stated, “he was not the most qualified of applicants” even though he had a Master’s Degree in Education/Training.

He agreed to stop all job applications that were not operations planning jobs. Of course, the operations jobs he was looking at required an active clearance. But I felt he really had something to offer an employer and encouraged him to focus on presenting his employment value. Despite my belief that his resume was functional, it was not persuasive for Operations jobs. So, we decided to re-write his resume to see if we could bring that aspect of his experience to the foreground.

His resume had worked for him but it was an average resume. Written in the standard Federal Format, I felt it hid the real jewels of his career. It’s my opinion that Federal-formatted resumes are a useful organizational template to delineate history job skills and compare an aggregate of job seekers for resume selection; however, when a job seeker needs to differentiate himself from other job seekers (the primary Phase 2 problem) or motivate a recruiter to forward the resume to a client, he needs a persuasion-driven resume.

I write persuasion-driven resumes so I went to work on re-writing his resume. After about 10 days, we were ready to re-launch his job search again.

He resent his new resume to recruiters for jobs he was really hot about and gave them a courtesy follow up phone call. As I expected, with a resume that gave a much more detailed picture of his abilities, he reported to me that:

“I forwarded my new resume to the recruiter. His comment was, ‘it looks great!'” The recruiter immediately forwarded it to the client. Within a week he was informed that a job offer was pending.

I suggested that he should keep on looking. I was concerned that the job offer was pending because he did not have an active clearance. I’ve experienced this before with my customers. A pending offer sometimes turns into a rejection email down the road if another candidate with an active clearance becomes available.

So, he continued to wage his job hunt campaign. A month later, he reported back to me that he was still in discussion with the employer who had given him a pending job offer. He also applied to several more ESO jobs, despite my counsel. He also started job networking, which I had encouraged. He had a friend who worked for one of the Top 5 Defense Industry companies and the friend was making “some inquiries with higher ups and we’re waiting to hear back.” He also received an inquiry from an employer who specializes in software development and often advertises on However, the job required 60 percent travel. The job seeker said, “[the travel schedule] just wouldn’t work for [my] family.”

While he was pressing forward his job hunt campaign, I was working in the background, as a super job hunter. I was making inquiries, forwarding his resume, and applying for jobs on his behalf. I was conservative in my approach, choosing positions where I felt he was at least 90 percent qualified.

About six weeks after he first contacted me, he received a firm job offer for a job that required a clearance. (Another advertiser.) However, as usual with highly marketable people, he wanted a better compensation package. He could afford to be picky. He had a job. And he had two other employers that expressed interest in him. At this point, he reported, “things are definitely moving along, although too slowly for my sanity. Your resume has done wonders!! I’ll keep you posted.”

So, how did he do it? I mean, for heavens sakes, he was out of the field for 6 years, which can mean career death. And his clearance had expired long ago. Well, I like to be flattered as much as anyone but I don’t think it was an improved resume alone that had garnered him so much interest.

This is how I think he built a compelling case for his employment despite his inactive clearance:

Post-Graduate Degree Made Him More Visible to Employers: His Master’s degree gave him more visibility; recruiters looked at him often, giving him a greater likelihood of being interviewed. In other words, in the natural selection processes of resume selection (Phase 1), his degree helped him rise above his competition.

Targeted Job Applications and Re-submitting a Persuasion-Driven Resume: He targeted his job applications to positions where he was over 80 percent qualified, based on the stated job requirements. By stopping using the “I can do that” job application philosophy and implementing a “very highly and relevant skills” targeting strategy, he gain even more visibility.

Employed Rapport Building Follow Up Calls: He knew the importance of “sales” to moving the hiring process forward. So, he tried as much as possible to phone the recruiter to build rapport.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

I’ve helped a lot of job seekers over the years. This gives me a observation platform that is unique. I have the time and luxury to reflect on the job hunt process that active job seekers do not. I feel this job seeker’s experience builds a good case for investing in a post-graduate degree if you want to be highly marketable like this job seeker.

I frequently am contacted by job seekers with active TS clearances who have employment problems. When I look at their resumes and see “no” or “some college,” I tell them to read the requirements on the job ads they want to apply to. It only takes a few job ads until they see the “light” about the Importance of Education.

More often than not, when a job seeker with a clearance is having problems, their lack of education credentials prevents them from being viewed often by employers, which equates into fewer interviews and fewer, if any, job offers. Yes, you may feel you are highly trained and that is enough. However, there is a big difference between Education and Training. A big difference!

The best thing you can do for yourself to advance your career in the Defense Industry is to get a college degree. And, while you are in the school mode, get a post-graduate degree as well. It’s a worthwhile investment. If you are a military service member, the new GI Bill should make this a no-brainer, high-return, low-risk investment.

For More Assistance:

Are you having job search difficulties? If so, you may want to consider the job search assistance service I provide @

–R. Scasny, Director

Related: You can also check out our own Military Resume Templates focusing on defense and intelligence careers.

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar


    How true–show your worth and someone will take a chance. For too long, some of the best workers have been left out in the cold because of a clearance, while cleared people keep the jobs. I work around alot of people in this business everyday and see contractors in jobs they are not qualified for, only because of a clearance.

  2. Avatar

    He had the mistaken belief that if he applied to more and more jobs, at some point, he would hit the bull’s eye: a job offer. Unfortunately, it’s been my experience as a “super job hunter” that the job hunt game doesn’t work that way

    Ummm… actually it does work that way. Plenty of my friends get clearance jobs that way up here in the DC/MD/VA area. Most will take you and train for what they want as long as you have the clearance.

  3. Avatar

    As for the writers comments on education that depends on the job and area. I have plenty of friends with worthless degrees that couldnt get them a job at Mcdonalds