Confidential: Your Guide to Obtaining a Security Clearance


For many job seekers in the defense and government contracting community, the words “security clearance required” on job postings are a common occurrence. For those who are either starting their careers in this world or are established professionals who have previously held government or contracting positions that didn’t require a clearance, those words can be daunting. So, how do job seekers prepare themselves for obtaining a security clearance?

Security Clearance Basics: Decoding the Levels of Classification

There are more than three million government employees that hold some type of security clearance, most in the Department of Defense. There are another 1.2 million government contractors that also hold security clearances.

Clearances are broken into three main types: confidential, secret and top secret. A clearance applicant’s level of clearance depends on their role and the type of information they will need to access to do their jobs.

Confidential: “Pertains to information which, if improperly disclosed, could be reasonably expected to cause some measurable damage to national security. This clearance is reinvestigated every 15 years.”

Secret: “This covers information that if disclosed without authorization, could cause grave damage to national security. This clearance is reinvestigated every 10 years.”

Top Secret: “TS information is material that if disclosed without authorization, could cause exceptionally grave damage to national security. This clearance is reinvestigated every five years.”

Tips on Obtaining a Security Clearance

Do a Quick Intake of Your Personal Situation

If you are about to start the process of getting clearance, do a quick internal evaluation of your candidacy to be a clearance holder. Do you have issues with your finances or credit? Have you declared bankruptcy? Do you have arrests (DUI/DWI) or court judgments (restraining orders) against you? Have you had issues with substance abuse? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, be warned the clearance process may be complicated for you.

From the Start, Be Honest

Every applicant for clearance will have an investigator assigned to them. Your assigned investigator will meet with you at the beginning of the process. It is their job to produce a report that will be reviewed to determine if you are worthy of holding a clearance. When meeting your investigator for the first time, be open and honest; don’t try to hide things from them. Not only will your lack of transparency eventually be found out, it will also cause your investigation to be delayed.

Be Careful When Completing Your SF-86

As part of the clearance process, you will be required to fill out a form called an SF-86. This form is what drives your investigation. It is a complete record of your life. On this form, you will provide dates, locations and other details regarding your personal life, education, work experience, family connections and other relationships. When completing this form, be sure to provide all the necessary information and make sure the information you provide is correct.

Make Sure the Contact Information You Provide Is Accurate

During your investigation, you will be asked to provide the names and contact information of people who will serve as your references. Your investigator will call these references and set up interviews with them. It is crucial you provide your investigator with current contact information. This way they won’t waste their time calling disconnected numbers or trying to visit former addresses.

Planning Ahead

There are many benefits to having a security clearance. These benefits can include higher pay and the ability to apply for jobs that will challenge you and enhance your resume. If a job seeker has questions about applying for jobs with security clearance requirements, it’s best to turn to an expert in the recruiting of defense and government contracting talent.

At Sentient Digital, Inc., our connection with the defense and government contracting communities is based on a long-term established relationship. We have been placing professionals in the defense and government contracting worlds for many years and have the industry knowledge to help our candidates succeed. Find your next defense and government contracting position today!