Personnel Planning and Recruitment


The MITRE Corporation, founded in 1958, is one of eleven nonprofit U.S. corporations that manage Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) for the government. Of our workforce of nearly 6,000 employees, most are in our two principal locations in Bedford, Massachusetts, and McLean, Virginia, and the rest at remote sites in the United States and around the world. MITRE’s mission is to assist the federal government with scientific research and analysis, development and acquisition, and systems engineering and integration.

MITRE’s excellent reputation in operating its FFRDCs is very attractive to many mid- and late-career people who view our employees as respected subject matter experts. Older engineers and scientists appreciate the kind and quality of work done at MITRE and how it affects at an early stage the high-level decisions made at the government agencies we support. Of the more than 500 new hires that join MITRE annually, nearly half (48 percent) are 40 years of age or older. Drawn heavily from industry, they are seasoned experts with knowledge of the latest technical developments, which enables MITRE to blend long-term domain knowledge and maturity with continuously updated expertise to benefit our sponsors.

In the past, MITRE depended heavily on advertising and employment agencies for the majority of our hires. As those methods became increasingly expensive, MITRE asked employees to become more actively involved in the identification and attraction of appropriately qualified new workers. MITRE employees are motivated to refer high-quality people like themselves because of their desire to fulfill our sponsors’ mission expectations and to work in collaboration with other equally talented individuals. In this case it is true that “birds of a feather flock together.” To further motivate such referrals, we implemented a referral program that pays employees a bonus of $2,000 for technical staff hires, $1,000 for nontechnical staff hires, and $500 for nonexempt hires. Employee referrals now provide more than half our new hires and assure us of high-quality candidates who are likely to be a good fit with MITRE’s culture.

Additionally, our data show that employee referrals significantly lower recruiting costs. In 2001, when 34 percent of new hires were through employee referrals, the average cost for all hires was about $14,200, which included agency and advertising fees, labor costs, relocation and interview expenses, and employee referral bonuses. In 2004, employee referrals accounted for 52 percent for our hires, and our cost per hire had decreased by nearly 40 percent to $8,700.

We use other methods as well to encourage employees to refer suitable candidates:

· We actively and frequently communicate our most urgent recruiting needs to employees by distributing “Hot Jobs” fliers throughout the corporation and posting hiring notices on the company’s intranet.

· Staff members attending conferences are encouraged to collect business cards of people who they think would be good team members.

· Potential candidates are also attracted to MITRE when they attend technical symposia or technology transfer meetings on MITRE property. They talk with an engaged cadre of MITRE attendees who are more than happy to respond to questions and inquiries.

· Employees can hand out networking, or “handshake,” cards to people who express an interest in MITRE so that they can nominate themselves in the future for a position with us.

· We bring our HR business partners into organizational meetings to alert our technical staff members about the importance of constantly being on the lookout for other subject matter experts.

We attribute the cost effectiveness of our process to several factors, including the following:

· More than two-thirds (roughly 70 percent) of our hires come from referrals, website postings, and rehires, which helps maintain our high standards. Thus, we rely very little on print advertising, employment agencies, or other broad-based recruiting channels that are costly and tend to generate less suitable candidates.

· We focus on certain niches for skilled and experienced workers, targeting organizations that employ people with relevant skills and experiences and certifications that represent a required level of expertise.

· Our recruiting teams are attuned to older workers, those who have demonstrated high levels of competency through past performance. Recruiters are coached so they can focus on relevant skill sets and criteria. Candidates who are subject matter experts (SME) are interviewed and evaluated by employees in the same area, a process we call SME-to-SME—again, birds of a feather.


1. What overall HR strategy do you think MITRE is pursuing? Is its recruiting focus broad or targeted? Does it primarily use internal or external sources?

2. What characteristics of MITRE make it particularly attractive to older workers?

3. Why is the referral program at MITRE so successful? What are some elements of success that could be copied by other organizations? What success factors do you think would be hard to duplicate elsewhere?



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