About two hours into the Homeland Security Department’s first-ever tech and cyber career fair, the exhibition floor at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington is packed with prospective candidates.
Applicants are milling around booths and watching informational videos for the U.S. Coast Guard, Transportation Security Agency and Customs and Border Protection, among others. It’s so crowded that few people can hear Deputy DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas welcome the room full of candidates.
“We are seeking to recruit the best and the brightest across the nation to serve our country and serve the Department of Homeland Security,” he said. “This is what today is all about.”
DHS hiring managers conducted about 727 interviews over the two days and made more than 150 job offers on the spot, a department spokesperson told Federal News Radio.
It was the first time applicants had the opportunity to interview for a job, receive a tentative offer and begin the initial security clearance process in the same day. Every component agency within DHS participated in the fair.
“We are hiring,” Deputy Undersecretary for Management Chip Fulghum said from the exhibition floor. “We’re looking for world-class talent, and we know it’s in this room. We’re excited to have you here today to see that you can touch and feel the mission.”
By 8 a.m. on July 27, the department had received at least 600 walk-in resumes on the first day. DHS hiring managers made their first job offer about 15 minutes later, said Angela Bailey, the department’s chief human capital officer.
The job fair is part of a department-wide effort to recruit hundreds of new cybersecurity professionals after DHS received a recent authority to fill 1,000 positions.
“Coming into this hotel this morning, I actually didn’t know what to expect, and I am blown away,” Mayorkas told reporters July 27. “Not only are there so many people who have turned out to take advantage of this opportunity, but the level of energy and excitement is quite frankly breathtaking.”
The department had roughly 300 positions open at the start of the career fair, the DHS spokesperson said.
The fair drew more candidates than DHS had open positions for, but the goal is that interested applicants will learn more about the department and its 27 components and will use that knowledge when applying for a job in the future, Bailey said.
The event was also part of the current administration’s final push to expand the cyber workforce — both in hiring new professionals and improving developmental opportunities for existing employees under the Cybersecurity National Action Plan.
“This is, to me, exhibit A of what success should look like, in terms of making this cyber recruiting prioritization a reality,” Mayorkas said. “This is a phenomenal day, not just for the Department of Homeland Security but I think for the realization of the President’s vision for recruiting the best and the brightest to public service.”
Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel recently called the new cyber workforce initiative one of the administration’s biggest priorities and challenges before the upcoming presidential transition.
Agencies filled about 3,000 cyber positions so far this year, the Office of Management and Budget has said. It plans to hire 3,500 more before the end of 2016.
DHS is one of three agencies charged to lead governmentwide planning on how agencies can best take advantage of certifications and training and make sure they’re up to date.
The department is also partnering with DoD and the Office of Personnel Management to look at non-traditional ways it can implement agency-specific hiring authorities for new cybersecurity professionals.