Debunking the Top 3 Myths to the Federal Government’s Security Clearance Process

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Myth #1: As a Federal Government Job Seeker, I Need to Already Have a Security Clearance to Land a Federal Job.  

One of the top Federal Government employment myths is that you are required to hold a security clearance prior to applying for a Federal Job. The truth is that most Federal vacancy announcements will state that you “Must have the ability to obtain a security clearance.” You do not need a clearance prior to applying because the Federal Government will sponsor you through this process.  Alternatively, in the Federal contractor world (corporate/private sector), if you possess a security clearance, you may be highly desired and sought-after, because they can get you started working on a Federal contract immediately, which means they can bill the Government for your time.    

Myth #2: The Federal Government is looking for the perfect citizen, and that’s not me!  

The purpose of the security clearance process is not to find perfection; it is to establish that you are not a threat to the Federal Government. Red flags include foreign contacts, travel, and accounts; poor credit and/or high debt; bankruptcies, foreclosures and/or short sales; employment and/or personal indiscretions; criminal activities; inconsistencies in your background; and drug or alcohol abuse. You will be asked a series of questions surrounding these topics to decide whether or not you may be susceptible to blackmail or coercion and, therefore, vulnerable to a national security risk. Issues like financial challenges can be defended by providing a stellar history of past financial responsibility and establishing a pattern of payments with debt collectors, prior to going through the security clearance process. If you have experienced recent financial distress, avoid applying for positions requiring fiduciary responsibilities since those roles will place a higher emphasis on financial fidelity. 

Myth #3: It’s OK to stretch the truth.

Your future Federal Government position may or may not require a polygraph (polygraph) test, but understand that it is illegal to be dishonest during any part of the process. Investigators will have already collected every college transcript, performance review, credit report, law enforcement and military record associated with your name and fingerprints within the clearance timeline. They will have also interviewed friends, neighbors, colleagues, and others, so be honest.  The adjudicators know that there are multiple sides to every story, so tell yours from the beginning.  They will provide you with the opportunity to explain yourself in more depth at multiple times during the process.  Dishonesty during the process will result in no security clearance and no Federal job offer.

How to Speed Up the Process:  This one might be a no-brainer, but the best ways to shave off days, weeks and months from the length of your security clearance process is to: 

1) Follow the instructions 

2) Never leave blanks on your paperwork.

Follow the instructions.  Read the fine print. Some questions (specifically drug-related, alcohol-related and legal) will have an “expiration date” of sorts, that require you to list issues and infractions one, five or 10 years prior to the current date. Additionally, they may ask, “have you EVER,” meaning have you ever in your lifetime. Read carefully and answer accordingly.

Never leave blanks on your paperwork. Take the time to fill out complete contact information for all contacts (supervisor, colleagues, neighbors, friends, family, etc.).  Connect with all contacts you submit to ensure you have the most up-to-date information about them and to inform them that a Federal Investigator may contact them.  Outdated or non-existent contact information will considerably lengthen the process.

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