Have you ever been granted government security clearance? A security clearance is similar to a background check. It’s something you need if you want to work for the US government or any group that deals with secret national information. The process of getting a security clearance checks if you can handle and keep safe important secret stuff.
While security clearances are important in many places around the world, we’ll mainly talk about the ones in the United States here. This post will look at how to get a security clearance, the various kinds available. Even we will talk about the jobs where you might need one.
Security Clearance, What is It?
Before understanding the meaning of a question like, “Have you ever been granted government security clearance”, let’s talk about what actually “Security clearance” is. Security clearance is a special status that you get, usually if you work for the federal government, a federal agency, or as a private contractor with the government.
To get this status, you go through a detailed process that checks your background. Those things include your criminal record, credit history, and personal behavior, to make sure you are trustworthy, have good character, and are loyal to the United States. You must have this clearance before you can start your job.
Certain organizations, like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), require even higher levels of clearance. In the United States, more than four million people have national security clearances, and the majority of them work with the Department of Defense (DoD).
The History of US Security Clearance
The history of US security clearance can be traced through a series of Executive Orders (EOs), particularly EO 13526. You can find the roots of security clearance in the Pendleton (Civil Service) Act of 1883, which mandated that individuals applying for federal jobs needed to possess qualities like good character, a solid reputation, and trustworthiness. The goal was at preventing favoritism in hiring.
In 1941, EO 8781 made it necessary for federal employees to undergo fingerprinting and investigation by the FBI. Then, in 1948, EO 9835 extended these requirements to military personnel. In 1953, the scope of these regulations was broadened to encompass most federal employees. This marks a significant expansion in the history of security clearance in the United States.
Security Clearance Levels
Security clearances in the United States are available into a hierarchy with varying levels. Each indicates the highest classification of information you can access:
1. Confidential Clearance
This is the least restrictive level of security clearance. It allows access to information that, if disclosed without authorization, could harm national security. To maintain this clearance, reinvestigation for eligibility is a must for every 15 years. The process includes a National Agency Check, Local Agency Check, and Credit Check (NACLC).
2. Secret Clearance
Secret clearance permits access to information that, if improperly disclosed, could cause serious damage to national security. To keep this clearance, individuals must undergo reinvestigation every 10 years and undergo both NACLC and a Credit investigation.
3. Top Secret Clearance
This is the highest level of security clearance and allows access to information that, if revealed without authorization, could pose grave harm to national security. The re-investigtion of Individuals with top secret clearance occurs every five years. Typically, this clearance is granted after a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI), primarily for sensitive data related to counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and other highly classified information.
Additionally, even with a security clearance, access to classified information follows a “need-to-know” basis, determined by officials in the department handling the requested data. There are two types of classified information that require even higher levels of clearance:
4. Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI)
This category involves intelligence-related methods and sources. To obtain SCI clearance, individuals must undergo a rigorous SSBI and adjudication process. Access to SCI is compartmentalized, with each compartment having its specific requirements and clearances.
5. Special Access Programs (SAP)
SAP clearance is for highly sensitive projects, typically established by the Department of Defense (DoD), such as advanced military technology programs. Very few individuals are granted this level of clearance, and access to SAP information is tightly controlled.
The duration of a security clearance can vary depending on the level. Typically, it ranges from 5 to 15 years after it’s granted. Generally, the higher the clearance level, the shorter its duration.
The Importance of Security Clearance
A security clearance is like a special badge. It opens doors to certain job opportunities you can’t get without it. These jobs could be in the government or with companies that work for the government.
When you have a security clearance, it tells the organization that you’ve been checked out and are reliable. They feel more comfortable letting you access important information because they trust you. Not everyone has a security clearance, so having one makes you a better candidate.
Also, a security clearance sends a message. It tells employers that you’re trustworthy. When you put it on your resume, it makes a good first impression. This can be a big advantage when many people are applying for the same job.
The Need for Professionals with a Security Clearance
Many employers are looking for professionals who already have a security clearance. Not too long ago, there were changes in the rules for who could get a security clearance. This meant that fewer people could get one. In other words, there aren’t as many people with this credential.
When a job requires a security clearance, having a candidate with one already is a big advantage. It makes the hiring process much faster and simpler. Employers don’t have to worry about whether the candidate will pass the necessary checks because they’ve already been checked.
Plus, getting a security clearance costs a lot of money. Many organizations prefer to hire people who already have a clearance because it saves them a lot of money. It’s a more attractive option for them.
In today’s job market, having a security clearance is a smart move. It opens up more job opportunities, and it makes you a better candidate overall. If you have one, make sure to mention it on your resume and look for jobs that require it. This way, even in tough times, you can keep your career moving forward.
If you want to learn more about how to stand out from the competition, The Squires Group team can help. Get in touch with us today to see how our expertise can benefit you.
List of Jobs with Security Clearance
As for the jobs that require security clearance, they encompass a wide range of positions within both the federal government and private organizations working with the government. These jobs include positions from high-level executives to non-sensitive roles, such as custodial staff, librarians, and IT system administrators. The level of clearance you need depends on the level of classified information you will handle. Also, it’s tailored to your specific role, responsibilities, and the systems you’ll interact with.
In addition to federal agencies, individuals working for private organizations that have contracts with the government may also require security clearance. This extends to employees of companies, non-profit organizations, think tanks, and research institutions with federal contracts or grants, as they may need to undergo a background investigation.
Certain agencies within the intelligence community, federal law enforcement, diplomacy, and the military often require higher levels of clearance. In addition to the CIA and FBI, these agencies include the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Defense Intelligence Agency, Office of National Security Intelligence, Homeland Security, and more.
How to Get Security Clearance
Obtaining a security clearance involves several key steps for individuals applying for government-related jobs that require access to classified information:
You’ll receive an invitation from the US Offices of Personnel Management (OPM). The invitation is to complete an application through the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP). The application includes providing personal information and supporting documents.
There are five tiers of investigation standards for security clearance. Also, the specific tier you need depends on the level of classified information associated with your job. Each tier corresponds to specific OPM e-QIP forms that you must complete.
You will undergo a thorough background investigation to assess your eligibility for access to classified information. The investigation may include a review of your financial, criminal, and medical records. The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) might contact your family, friends, neighbors, and past employers as part of the investigation.
The level of security clearance determines the depth of the investigation for your position. The investigation process can be lengthy, ranging from a few months to a year. In some cases, interim security clearance may be granted to allow you to start your job while awaiting a final clearance decision.
There are 13 adjudicative guidelines to review and evaluate the results of your investigation, which include factors like allegiance to the United States, drug and alcohol misuse, criminal conduct, mental health, sexual behavior, and financial considerations. After the adjudication process, a determination will be made to either grant or deny security clearance.
A significant advantage of obtaining security clearance is that it makes you eligible to apply for other jobs that also require security clearance. This can broaden your career opportunities within the government or with government contractors.
Automatic Disqualifiers for Security Clearances
You’ve provided a good list of automatic disqualifiers for security clearances. Here’s a recap:
1. Non-U.S. Citizenship – If you are not a United States citizen, you may not be eligible for a security clearance.
2. Dishonorable Discharge – Individuals who have received a dishonorable discharge from military service may be disqualified from obtaining a security clearance.
3. Illegal Drug Use – Current involvement in the use of illegal drugs can be a disqualifying factor for security clearance.
4. Prior Security Clearance Revocation – If your security clearance has been revoked in the past due to security concerns, it can affect your eligibility for a new clearance.
5. Mental Incapacitation – Being judged as mentally incapacitated by a qualified mental health professional can also disqualify you from obtaining a security clearance.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that criminal charges and negative financial history, such as unpaid bills and significant debt, can be factors that may disqualify you from receiving a security clearance. The determination often depends on the specific circumstances and the level of security clearance being sought.
Listing Your Security Clearance on Your Resume in 5 Easy Steps
A security clearance is important for certain jobs that deal with secret information. Even though it’s about private stuff, it’s good to talk about it in your job application papers. If you’ve had a security clearance for your previous job and want to use it to find a new job, you should know where and how to put it on your resume.
In this section, we explain what security clearances are, and we’ll show you when and how to include them on your resume. We’ll also give you an example of the right way to do it.
Know the Rules
It’s a good idea to put your security clearance on your resume, but you need to understand the rules to avoid any issues. The U.S. Department of Defense and the National Security Agency have suggested guidelines for including security clearances on your resume. Furthermore, you can mention your clearance level, that you underwent polygraph tests and background checks, along with dates of polygraphs and descriptions of your job. However, don’t include the following:
- The specific details of your work, especially anything secret
- Names of your current projects or missions
- Details of classified apps or tools you used
- The names of places connected to your clearance
- The names of your bosses
Put It Upfront
If you currently have a security clearance or have had one before, it’s best to highlight it right away. A good place to do this is in the header section along with your contact information. At the very top of your resume, write your name in a big font. Right below that, in a smaller size, add “Security clearance” as if it’s a title.
Then, complete the header with your city, email address, and phone number. If you’ve had multiple clearances, include the higher-level one on your resume.
Add a Professional Summary
A professional summary is a part of your resume located right below your contact info. So, it’s where you introduce yourself as a job candidate and give a brief overview of your qualifications and skills. This is also a great spot to include more information about your security clearance. For instance, along with your skills and professional traits, you can mention if you currently have a clearance or had one in the past. Moreover, you can specify the level of clearance you’ve held.
Highlight Clearances in Your Work History
In your employment history section, you have another opportunity to mention your security clearance. For each relevant job you’ve held, include a list of accomplishments as bullet points. In these accomplishments, make sure to mention the clearance you had during that role, specify the clearance level, and provide any relevant details without revealing sensitive information.
It’s also a good idea to state that you underwent a background check or polygraph test for that position. If you’ve held security clearances that have since expired, you can include them in this section as well.
Create a Dedicated Clearances Section
Towards the end of your resume, you should have a section solely dedicated to summarizing all the security clearances you’ve held throughout your career. In this case, your clearances will have been mentioned multiple times on your resume. However, repeating them in this section can help catch the attention of applicant-tracking systems that scan resumes.
List each of your clearances as individual bullet points, and provide the level of clearance alongside the dates it was valid. Besides, it’s crucial to specify the type or level of security clearance you’ve had, as certain jobs may require a specific level of clearance or a higher one.
This dedicated section makes it easy for employers to see your security clearance history at a glance. Thus, increasing the chances that the right people will notice your resume.
What Does “Have you ever been granted government security clearance” Means?
When an employer asks “have you ever been granted government security clearance?”, they are typically inquiring about government-issued security clearances. These government clearances come in different levels. Also, the employer wants to know the specifics of your clearance to see if it aligns with their requirements. It’s important to clarify that this question is not about badges or access to private areas within a company or university, such as parking lots or employee-only sections. Instead, it pertains to your history with government security clearances, which involve access to classified or sensitive information.
1. Some Jobs are Sensitive
Certain government jobs, particularly those dealing with sensitive or classified information, inquire about your security clearance status because having the required clearance is essential for the specific position. If you already possess a current security clearance, it simplifies the process of updating, upgrading, or renewing it as needed. In most cases, as long as your clearance hasn’t been revoked or faced integrity-related issues, obtaining an updated or renewed clearance primarily involves paperwork.
Your potential employer may also conduct reference checks and security-related interviews as part of the process. However, if you get a question “have you ever been granted government security clearance?” and the answer is NO, then say a straightforward “no” is the appropriate response to the question.
2. To Verify your Reliability
The Bureau of Human Resources determine the need for security clearance in government jobs. Government positions that involve handling, accessing, or managing classified information typically require security clearance. Job candidates cannot begin the process of obtaining clearance until they receive a conditional offer of employment, as outlined by the U.S. Department of State. The purpose of government-issued security clearance is to verify that employees are trustworthy, loyal, and reliable. Also, to make sure that they will safeguard classified national security information diligently and without compromise. This is crucial for ensuring the protection of sensitive data.
3. Meet Security Requirements
Government agencies commonly use three levels of security clearance: confidential, secret, and top secret. The federal security clearances are possible to transfer from one agency or department to another, the question “Have you ever held a security clearance?” serves as the initial point. It works to establish the necessary steps for initiating, updating, or renewing your clearance.
According to the guidelines set by the State Department, if a job applicant’s most recent security investigation occurred within the past five years for a top-secret clearance or within the past 10 years for a secret clearance, and there has been no break in service lasting more than two years, the security clearance is likely to transfer smoothly to the new position. This means that the individual’s existing clearance remains valid and applicable. Thus, making it easier to transition between roles and agencies without compromising security.
4. To Ascertain Your Employment Status
The Office of Personnel Security and Suitability within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security is responsible for conducting security clearance reviews for job applicants who have received conditional offers of employment. This involves checks on criminal backgrounds, law enforcement records, and credit history.
When a non-government employer asks if you’ve ever held a security clearance, they are typically trying to ascertain your past or current employment status with the government. By disclosing your prior or current security clearance, you essentially reassure the employer that previous background checks did not uncover any significant issues. It’s important to note that non-government employers do not have legal access to your government security checks or personal records.
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