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Getting a Security Clearance

October 12, 2010

Students and recent grads obtaining federal employment often view security clearance background investigations with great apprehension.  Here is advice from people who run such background checks about the major problems people encounter:

1. No. 1 reason why security clearances are deniedbad credit history.  Investigators say that students and recent alums facing a security clearance check should get their own credit report to make sure there’s nothing negative in it, and if so, to deal with it candidly when speaking with investigators.

2. No. 1 background problem that people intentionally omit from disclosure form:  past drug use.  Candor is the best policy.

3. No. 1 reason why background checks drag on and on:  people spend a semester or year living in a country that is not considered to be a U.S. ally, and fail to keep track of (i) who they met (and their contact information); (ii) where they went in-country.  Investigators advise keeping close track of this information — if possible in an online calendar, otherwise on paper.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer Carignan permalink
    October 14, 2010 5:50 pm

    This is great information, Rob. We can’t emphasize enough how critical candor is throughout the process!

    In addition to the honesty issue, your third point regarding record keeping is critical. As you mentioned, applicants can make use of calendars (online or paper) to keep track of contacts and previously-visited locations. One additional tool is OPM’s Standard Form 86, otherwise known as the Questionnaire for National Security Positions. Applicants who may have to undergo a security clearance can start filling this out immediately and could shave weeks (or longer) off of their wait time by doing so. The form lists all of the information that will be required during the security clearance process — no guessing necessary.

    The Partnership for Public Service offers some additional summary tips at its Making the Difference website ( AU students and alumni should also feel free to visit the Career Center for more tips on how to prepare for the security clearance process.

  2. October 18, 2010 5:01 pm

    There are three pretty good web sites that can help, too. The first is from the FBI, the second is about working on a military base, and the third is an overview from TAOOnline.


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