Security Clearance Wait Times Frustrate Hiring Managers, Candidates

Des Moines, Iowa — Aug. 15

Practices for recruiting America’s security-cleared positions remain unchanged for the majority of hiring managers and recruiters working in government agencies, government contractors, recruiting firms, technology services companies and the defense industry, according to a new survey from

Despite declines in the government processing times to obtain security clearances, 63 percent of respondents said their recruiting practices have not changed, while 19 percent said improved processing times had sparked changes to recruiting practices, including hiring non-cleared candidates when their firms can afford to wait.

Still, current recruiting practices continue to favor hiring candidates with existing clearances. Today, 17 percent of hiring managers only recruit individuals with active clearances for their open positions that require a clearance, while more than half (56 percent) noted the majority of professionals must have current clearances. Another 18 percent noted the minority of candidates have active clearances and just 9 percent said they have no preference related to security clearance related to their hiring challenges.

“Improved wait times must be accompanied by consistency to substantially change recruiting practices,” said Evan Lesser, founder and managing director of “While we’ve seen advancements, top secret clearances are still taking two to three times as long as secret clearances for end-to-end processing. Even within clearance levels, hiring managers tell us wait times are haphazard and without rhyme or reason.”

Certainty may be in short supply today in the defense industry, but hiring managers whose practices haven’t changed are firm in what’s needed on processing times. Nearly half (46 percent) said final clearances would need to be received in one month or less for their firms to evaluate changing their recruiting practices.

Delays in obtaining clearances is not a burden borne only by the employer, as highly qualified applicants withdraw themselves from consideration due to wait times. In fact, nearly half (48 percent) of hiring managers and recruiters say they’ve lost great candidates specifically due to wait times.