There comes a time in the career of most technology professionals when a job opportunity requires you to have a security clearance. This happens on a fairly regular basis when working in the defense industry or government IT. Unfortunately, if you aren’t careful, it can be all too easy to cause security clearance delays—or, in some cases, even get your security clearance denied.
We’ve compiled a list of the top 3 ways to avoid security clearance delays and 5 causes of security clearance denials. Learn how to avoid these common mistakes today and get your security clearance approved.
Why You Need a Security Clearance
Acquiring a security clearance is a necessity for any IT pro looking for the widest array of job opportunities. A few of the top reasons to pursue a security clearance include:
- The demand for cleared IT professionals remains high. Due to the shrinking talent pool and delays in the security clearance process, opportunities abound for tech pros with a current and active security clearance. In fact, it makes perfect sense to go ahead and earn one, even if you aren’t currently looking for an IT job where it’s a requirement. You never know when your situation might change, and it’s better to get a clearance now if you anticipate working in government or defense IT in the future.
- You can earn a higher salary with a security clearance. According to a recent study, IT pros with a secret clearance earn a nearly 6% higher salary compared to those without one. That number increases to almost 13% for those with a top secret security clearance.
- You can expect a more robust benefits package. In addition to a higher salary, IT professionals working for companies serving the defense and government IT sector also enjoy better job benefits. Relocation assistance and on-site daycare help workers with families. Tuition reimbursement provides a career ladder for technology pros looking to further their education. The availability of a transit subsidy also helps those tech pros commuting in the nation’s capital.
- Having a critical mission can improve job satisfaction. A recent survey of security-cleared tech professionals revealed the importance of meaningful work. The relevance of the mission-critical work being performed by those in government IT cannot be overstated. Earning a security clearance helps you truly make a difference when your country needs it. Ultimately, becoming a security-cleared tech professional is your ticket for career-long success and fulfillment.
What Can Delay a Security Clearance?
No matter your reasons for trying to get one, it’s important to ask, “What can delay a security clearance?” Obtaining a security clearance is a months-long process that involves many moving parts. From completing an SF-86 to sitting down with an investigator, it can be an overwhelming venture. So, what can an applicant do to prevent security clearance delays?
1. Don’t Lie or Try to Rewrite History
Clearance investigations take a very detailed look into the life of an applicant. No matter how honest or upstanding an applicant is, no one is perfect. We have all done things we regret in life, especially youthful indiscretions. Since a clearance investigation covers a good portion of an applicant’s adult life, it is important to realize that past problems, issues, and concerns may come up in the process. An applicant should be prepared to answer questions regarding old run-ins with the law (disorderly charges or theft) or academic behavior (cheating on tests in college or being accused of plagiarism).
If an applicant has had issues in their past, they should address them head on and with complete honesty to prevent security clearance delays. In the case of clearance investigations, honesty is the only policy – especially if an applicant wants their clearance to go through quickly and smoothly.
2. Provide Accurate Information, Especially on the SF-86
The SF-86 is the holy grail of the security clearance process. This one form will drive the course of an applicant’s investigation. Ultimately, if it is less-than-accurate or full of errors, it will mean the investigation will be problematic. Thus, applicants should ensure all information provided is current, correct, and complete to avoid snags in the investigation process.
Moreover, when providing the contact information for references, make sure to provide up-to-date contact numbers and addresses to prevent security clearance delays. Providing an investigator with old contact information only causes the investigator to waste their time and slow the investigation down. An applicant should reach out to their references and get the most accurate contact information, and also let the reference know someone will be reaching out to them.
3. Know Your Financial Situation
Part of a security clearance investigation focuses on an applicant’s financial background. Knowing if an applicant would be open to exchanging information for money due to financial distress is a key element of the security clearance review process. Thus, before an applicant applies for a clearance, it is wise to pull a current credit report to make sure it is accurate. Pulling a credit report beforehand allows an applicant to contact credit bureaus to correct any invalid information before it causes problems during an investigation. Also, an applicant should make a list of all bank accounts, assets, and liabilities to get a full grasp on their financial profile.
Reasons Your Security Clearance Could Be Denied
You need to ensure your background is clean before even applying with government or defense companies, as they will likely do a background screening before hiring you and before the security clearance process is even started. Here is a list of some factors that typically lead to a denial of security clearance.
1. Significant Financial Problems
If you currently hold a lot of debt, or worse yet, have recently filed for bankruptcy, your chances of a security clearance being denied are high. Other related issues causing harm include tax liens, collections, foreclosures, and a history of gambling. Keeping a spotless credit and financial record is a must.
2. Certain Mental Health or Personal Issues
A history of depression and/or mental illness won’t harm your chances of a clearance, provided you are on medication or have sought counseling or other forms of help to navigate and deal with the diagnosis. Larger issues, however, just might. These circumstances include incidents of violent behavior or exhibiting signs of paranoia. When it comes to personal issues, maintaining a relationship with a known criminal is another popular reason for denial.
3. Criminal Activity
It’s not surprising that criminal activity is a leading reason for the denial of security clearance. A singular misdemeanor might not cause an issue, but a history or pattern of misdemeanors or a felony will likely ruin your chances. A dishonorable discharge from the military also applies, depending on the reasons behind the incident.
4. Drug or Alcohol Abuse
A history of drug or alcohol abuse is another popular reason professionals are unable to get a security clearance. This includes DUIs or other related incidents on a candidate’s record. An exception is sometimes made if the problem happened years ago, and the person in question now maintains a life of sobriety.
5. Falsifying Information When Applying for a Clearance
Honesty is extremely important when applying for a security clearance. Expect all the information in your application to be extensively researched, and any discrepancies or falsifications will put your clearance at risk. Include all information on your application, along with negative items. An omission is another form of falsification, after all.
Get Help with Your Job Search
If you need advice on becoming security cleared for government and defense technology work, the experts at Entrust Solutions can help. The process to obtain a security clearance is a complicated one, with many moving parts that can be difficult to navigate on your own and without past experience. At Entrust Solutions, we are proven leaders in the recruitment of professionals in IT for the defense contracting industry.
Contact us today to learn more!