I was recently contacted out of the blue by one of the national labs about a social science research position. I met with three members of the team shortly thereafter and they pitched the position to me, strongly encouraged me to apply, etc. One person even said, when I asked about the hiring process, that "you can read between the lines - we think very highly of you and hope you apply." Over the weekend I submitted my application and notified the team that I applied. I haven't heard anything in response since. I'm not sure what to expect as someone who has largely only been involved in academic hiring processes the past decade or so. Is the hiring process slow? Did I err in contacting them outside the process? Would I expect to hear from someone from HR first? Or is it possible they lost interest when they read my application materials? I would think the latter would be less likely since they appeared very familiar with my work, and even quoted my book, during our meeting.

Anyway, any information would be appreciated re: how the hiring process might work in at a government/government contractor organization. Thanks!

  • 2
    I presume a US national lab? Clarity may help. At mine, HR has to review applicants before I can see them. They also may not allow much to move forward before the posting closes.
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 15, 2023 at 17:30
  • 2
    I'm not sure what to expect as someone who has largely only been involved in academic hiring processes the past decade or so. -- Given this, I would expect that you would consider hearing back within less than 2 months to be fast! :) Indeed, other than minimum wage jobs, even the non-academic jobs I've applied for pretty much all (might be exceptions, but I can't think of any now) involved at least a few weeks before I heard anything nontrivial (i.e. besides an acknowledgment that my application had been received), and probably in most cases I never heard back at all. Nov 15, 2023 at 17:32
  • Yes, a US national lab. Thanks! I noticed they reposted the job on LinkedIn the day we met. They said they'd done some initial screenings already. Nov 15, 2023 at 19:31

1 Answer 1


US Federal hiring can take a long—and I mean long—time. I worked in Defense-Department research & development organizations for four decades and I have many sad tales of excellent candidates whom we were really interested in getting on board but who ended up going elsewhere because they literally couldn’t afford (financially) to wait out our sometimes glacial process. Admittedly, nearly all of our positions required background investigations for interim security clearances (the full-blown investigation required for final clearance isn’t even begun until the individual has started on the job), so that added to the timeline. Many Federal jobs in other agencies don’t involve handling classified information, so that wouldn’t apply.

I hasten to add that there are many advantages to Federal employment, so if you can endure a few months of waiting, you might well end up quite happy.

As to reaching directly to the technical people who first contacted you, they may have very little influence on the bureaucratic process. A lot has to be done by the HR people, and they can be organizationally very far removed from the people you’d end up working with.

  • 2
    I think you need to make a distinction between Federal hiring and national labs. National lab employees aren't Federal employees, they're employees of a contractor, typically a university (e.g. University of California for Lawrence Berkeley) or a consortium with a university thrown in (e.g. University of California, Bechtel, et al. for Lawrence Livermore). Hiring is somewhat easier, so is firing, payscale isn't GS-based and benefits and retirement aren't Federal.
    – user71659
    Nov 16, 2023 at 6:56
  • Great point, @user71659. Nov 16, 2023 at 11:39

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .