Skip links

Breaking Down the Challenges of Employer Branding for Government Contractors

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Creating recruitment marketing content or employer branding for government contractors can be different than creating it for a commercial business. You’ll find (even more) employee stories tied to mission and purpose, which is a recruitment marketers’ dream… but you can’t shout those inspiring specifics from the rooftops, which is a real recruitment marketers’ challenge.

If you’re working in a secure environment, you can’t show the office (and oftentimes employees are working on client sites anyway). You can’t talk about specific projects if they are classified secret. But, employee stories are still what your candidates are after, and it’s still the best strategy despite these challenges.

We’ve now worked with several government contractors and have learned a few things along the way. Here’s how we’ve solved employer branding challenges for talent acquisition and employer branding leaders in government consulting environments.

Challenge 1: You can’t talk about what team members are working on.

We often ask our “storytellers” about favorite moments or the projects they’re proud of. In a secure environment, these details are protected by employee and facility security clearances.

And yes, sometimes keeping these innovations under wraps can be painful when you’re hunting for cool stories about the work your company is doing. After all, some of the greatest innovations in the world have come from government development: GPS and the Internet are two life-changing examples, that couldn’t come to commercial fruition for years because of its US defense applications. The reason they’re secret in the first place is because they are saving lives right now or will be in the near future.

However, you can still tell specific and personal stories in a broad way that demonstrate your innovative culture. For example, at Visionist, we heard about how employees were submitting proposals against a government agency’s request for interesting ideas:

We don’t have to be specific on what the exact solutions were. Instead, the story shows how Visionist has access to interesting challenges and is supporting their employees’ ideas enough to fund the time it takes to respond to a proposal.

Even if you can’t talk about specific assignments, there are ways to talk about what work means to employees. We worked with BAE Systems to capture corporate culture for their career site. Nick, a BAE Systems team member, talks about his favorite project below.  

He wasn’t specific about the technique or capability of the project he was developing. However, it still shows how the BAE Systems team members handle tough problems, short deadlines, uncontrollable situations, and excitement of successful project work.

Through unexpected winds and an unsuccessful first hour, Nick and his team regrouped to overcome the unexpected adversity within a tight deadline. This insight into how teams handle challenges and celebrate success is key for candidates.

Challenge 2: Many team members are out at the client sites, rather than their employer’s office.

Like with any consulting environment, team members may be on client sites, immersed in their physical and sometimes project culture. As a result, storytellers may be experiencing two different cultures: government client and consultancy employer. In fact, it is common your storytelling coworkers may feel more in tune with the 9-5, day-to-day client culture, rather than the company they’re actually employed by.

To combat this challenge, we ask what the overall organization has done for them. How has their company helped get them to where they are today or invested in their future? This re-aligns the storyteller’s thinking with the home organization, rather than their client sites. Here are the stories we got in return.

Another route we explored is asking people about their personal passions, because the people make the culture.

Challenge 3: You can’t show the physical environment

For those that work in SCIFs, it’s never possible to film inside. But, that doesn’t mean your interviews need to be filmed with talking heads only. Using photos and videos from off-site events showcase your culture and break up the interview footage.

There are challenges when creating recruitment marketing content for candidates that will work in a secured environment. However, there are still more stories to be uncovered than there are challenges to hurdle. There are candidates looking for insight into a company, and you can open the curtain (just a little) for them to better understand what the work environment is truly like. 

There are still plenty of stories rooted in company culture, diversity, professional development and more, that can help candidates decide if they are the right fit for your company. So, we just take different angles and ask unique questions to keep the stories rolling…while still keeping things classified!