Over 1,200 interviews and 400 job offers later, DHS wraps up two-day career expo

A two-day DHS career expo resulted in hundreds of tentative job offers, and the agency expects to extend even more job offers in the coming days and weeks.

CHANTILLY, VA — For two hot afternoons last week, hundreds of people waited outside in long lines to get through security and into the Dulles Expo Center.

Over the course of a two-day recruitment event, more than 8,000 hopeful job candidates eventually made their way out of the summer heat and into the Department of Homeland Security’s much-anticipated career expo.

“They are long lines — and it is hot today. There’s a little bit of cloud cover,” Sharon Wong, DHS’s chief employee experience officer, told Federal News Network at the event. “But it’s really pepping them up. [We are] stopping in line and just grabbing groups of people and just really saying, ‘Hey, how are you doing? What kind of jobs are you looking for?’”

Wong, who’s also executive director of the Strategic Talent Recruitment, Inclusive Diversity and Engagement (STRIDE) program, worked all day at the expo, speaking to candidates and organizing and running the event.

Once inside, candidates were greeted by a large, open warehouse with more than a dozen booths representing the wide array of DHS’s offices, agencies and subcomponents. Department representatives in everything from the Secret Service and the Coast Guard, to the Transportation Security Administration and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), were there to speak with the applicants.

Image of DHS career expo crowd.
Thousands of potential job candidates showed up to the DHS career expo at the Dulles Expo Center. (Source: DHS)

DHS’ open-to-the-public recruitment event exhibited all kinds of positions that were up for grabs — IT specialists, analysts, investigators, law enforcement officers and transportation security officers, just to name a handful. With that many open roles, it’s no surprise the vast amount of people who showed up to start the application process.

“We have huge numbers,” Wong said. “We are amazed — this turnout is fabulous.”

Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Kristie Canegallo described the expo as a “one-stop shop” for departmentwide career opportunities.

“This event is really broad in terms of the different skill sets that we’re targeting,” Canegallo told Federal News Network at the event. “Everyone, from someone right out of college, to someone who has had several decades of experience, I think could find opportunity here.”

But beyond just coming to learn about the openings or submit an application, attendees could also get through many of the early steps of the recruitment process onsite. In addition to the booths arranged in the open area of the facility, DHS also set up a quieter space in a side room with small, makeshift compartments for conducting on-the-spot interviews.

Image of Kristie Canegallo and Sharon Wong at DHS career expo.
DHS Acting Deputy Secretary Kristie Canegallo (left) and DHS Chief Employee Experience Officer Sharon Wong (center) staff the department career expo at the Dulles Expo Center. (Source: Mikaela McGee/DHS)

“[There is] everything from talking to recruiters, to beginning background checks and fingerprinting, to doing interviews,” Canegallo said. “It’s a great way for us to spread the word about the important work that DHS is doing and condense our hiring process time significantly.”

DHS’ time-to-hire can be quite lengthy, largely due to vetting procedures and other required clearance processes for department positions. It depends on what the job is, but that can sometimes include a polygraph test, fingerprinting or a medical exam.

In total, time-to-hire at DHS ranges broadly, stretching anywhere from several months, in some cases going up to a year or more, according to the Government Accountability Office. Some applicants may find it discouraging to have to wait so long before getting officially onboarded.

“One of the great things about today, though, is we are able to start the process on fingerprinting, and on those interviews,” Canegallo said. “We believe we’ll be able to shave six to eight weeks off of the average time to hire for a potential new team member. And we think with the ability to cut through some of that, with this one-stop shopping today, that will make each team member even more likely to look at DHS as a potential employer.”

Rather than candidates applying online, waiting to hear back from a recruiter and going through all the steps on their own, the in-person career expo fast-tracked some early steps of the process, getting them done on the spot in just a few hours.

Image of DHS career expo
DHS Acting Deputy Secretary Kristie Canegallo visits law enforcement booth at DHS career expo at the Dulles Expo Center. (Source: Mikaela McGee/DHS)

“They come in, they can actually talk to a recruiter. The recruiter can say, ‘Hey, I need you to go talk to the hiring manager.’ The hiring manager can interview them and say, ‘Hey, you fit our qualifications, let me send you to HR to get a tentative job offer,’” Wong said. “From there, they can go to start their clearance, they can they start drug testing, they can do their fingerprints — we have all that set up here.”

The work to organize the massive recruitment event takes months of preparation and hundreds of employees. But last week’s career expo wasn’t the first time the department has taken on such a major recruitment task — it’s something DHS actually organizes about once per year.

Getting a venue and dealing with on-site requirements are only the tip of the iceberg for preparations.

“It starts [with] looking at what vacancies, what opportunities we have,” Wong said. “So you start looking at that, you then start looking at all the agencies that are going to participate. And then the venue is a big part of that because [with] a lot of these big spaces, you have to plot months in advance.”

Image of DHS's Sharon Wong at career expo.
DHS Chief Employee Experience Officer Sharon Wong speaks to attendees of the DHS career expo at Dulles Expo Center. (Source: Mikaela McGee/DHS)

DHS’ last career expo took place in August 2023 in Arlington, Texas. That event had about 2,500 total registrants and resulted in roughly 500 tentative job offers made either on the day, or in the following months.

“Really, since Dallas, the preparations have been on making sure that we have the right space, we have the right people, we have the right processes to be able to get the word out and then move people through the process quickly,” Canegallo said.

DHS components are still organizing and collecting their recruitment data, but last week’s expo already appears to have similar numbers. DHS officials conducted more than 1,200 interviews and made over 440 tentative job offers during the two-day expo. The department expects to make even more job offers stemming from the expo in the coming days and weeks.

“DHS touches more Americans every single day,” Canegallo said. “Whether you want to help Americans in need following a disaster, or whether you want to take steps to improve safety and security in your community, there is a place for you at DHS.”

Interested in learning more about DHS recruitment and retention? Stay tuned for a Federal News Network special report next week where we’ll dive into more details of the department’s long-term workforce goals.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By: Derace Lauderdale

DHS is the second largest department after the US military, with 240,000 employees in all 50 states and an awful lot of places overseas.

Source: Quora

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