So you want to be a federal contractor?

By Courtney Jones

Communicate Better with IT ManagementYou’ve been working in the private sector for a while now-- maybe right out of school, and you’re starting to get calls from recruitment agencies about government contracts. The wheels may begin to start to turn and you think, “Maybe I should start consulting?”

But what does this even mean?

Here are the top three things you should know about government bidding:

#1 The RFP process

The government hires through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process where selected vendors (i.e. recruitment agencies) get invited to bid on government jobs – the vendors coordinate with Consultants/Contractors and work together to respond to these requests.

Unlike the private sector, where companies can sort through simple three page resumes, these RFPs can include long corporate requirements and bidding structures that would make individually applying to these preferred roles very difficult and sometimes next to impossible.

So what to do? As a Consultant, it’s best to:

  • Align yourself with vendors (recruiters and managers) who get to see these requirements daily and let them know what opportunities you would be interested in.
  • Ask your recruiter lots of questions. To an experienced competitor, each RFP is different, and there are a lot of nuances. Some opportunities may take up to six months from RFP submission to be awarded, some may be as quickly as two weeks. Asking questions will help you understand the timelines and process for each contract.

#2 Government resumes

The difference between a private sector and public sector resume is about 30 pages… Just kidding, but not really!

Most government RFPs don’t feature an interview, instead they rely on extensive resume and proposal documentation to evaluate candidates.  This means there’s greater importance in defining what you’ve done in writing. The old three page resume rule doesn’t apply – the more detail the better. Here are a few tips to get you on the right track:

  • Clean up the dates. Government policies and evaluators make overlapping jobs/projects very difficult to get credit for. Despite having worked on multiple projects concurrently, you’ll need to break these apart in your resume and clearly state beginning and end dates to each project.
  • Details, details, details! Each of your projects/work experiences should have a summary, along with specific tasks and duties you completed. Also, be sure to include what technologies were used.
  • Education/Certification – while you would commonly list these within your resume, most proposals will require a copy of your diploma or certification to be included. Best to get those ready to go ASAP.

Remember, this is just a start! When bidding, there will always be more to include that’ll speak directly to each requirement.

#3 Security clearance

Nearly every Federal Government RFP will include a security condition that requires potential bidders to hold a valid personal security clearance and possibly an organizational clearance if you are to work as an
Independent Contractor.  Security clearance levels range from enhanced reliability (lowest), secret and top secret (highest) depending on the project and information within. More on security clearance levels can be found here:

It’s becoming more and more common that Candidates must have an active clearance when participating on a proposal rather than at contract award/start date. So, how can you apply for a clearance?

  • Establish a relationship with your recruitment agency to review whether you might qualify for a security clearance, and to find out what level you might need to work in your field.

If you qualify for a clearance, application processing times range from 1-2 months for enhanced reliability and significantly longer at higher levels.

Wrap up

Every government RFP is a little bit different and many of them will have surprises, so you won’t know what’s exactly required until you start working on a live opportunity.  Despite this, the three preparation steps above will surely put you on your way to being eligible to bid on (and potentially win) a contract within the Federal Government.

To get further information on any of these topics feel free to contact Procom Ottawa, or myself

About the author

Edmund Watson is an IT business development and recruiter for Procom Consultants Group in Ottawa, Canada. In his role, Edmund works with Procom Clients and Candidates to match IT professionals with a career position beneficial to both the Contractor and Client. Edmund specializes in public and private sector agencies, helping businesses acquire talented people and manage their contract workforce.

by Courtney Jones

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