How To Gain A Security Clearance For Employment

How To Get a Security Clearance

You can’t just apply for a security clearance. Applying for a clearance requires that you’re working for a government approved contractor, holding political office, or working with some kind of government approved entity. To even apply requires that organization to sponsor you. There are no individual applications for a security clearance.

  • Only U.S. citizens are eligible for a security clearance, unless there are special circumstances.

Investigation Process

All applicants go under a thorough evaluation to determine if they’re loyal to the U.S. government and free from foreign influence, are honest, trustworthy, morally upright, and mentally and psychologically sound, and have no criminal history.

The process starts with the Personnel Security Questionnaire through the e-QIP website. Next is an investigation by  the government’s Office of Personnel Management, the Defense Department, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence or another investigation service provider (ISP), depending on the position.

Agent investigating your application will interview your contacts, including current and past employers, neighbors, business associates, former classmates, college club members, and others that you have known.  You will be interviewed and re-interviewed as the information is gathered to clarify any potential issues that could affect it.  Any discrepancies uncovered in the investigation may be grounds for disqualification. The average length of the entire investigation can vary based on the position and clearance requested, but is approximately 120 days.

Statuses in the Review Process

Received: The Investigative service provider has acknowledged receipt of the investigation and will be reviewing it

Unacceptable- The ISP decided that the investigation request is deficient. You will receive a message with the reason why your clearance was rejected. If you still need one, a new investigation will have to be submitted.

Scheduled: The ISP has determined that your investigation request to be acceptable and the investigation is ongoing.

Closed: The ISP has completed the investigation and it has been sent for adjudication.

Kinds of Clearance

Top Secret is applied to information that if it was disclosed to unauthorized sources, could cause exceptionally grave damage to national security. This level is re-investigated every five years.

Secret clearance is applied to any information that could cause serious damage to national security if disclosed to the unauthorized sources. This level is investigated every 10 years.

Confidential is the least damaging, with just “could cause damage to national security” and is investigated every 15 years.

Clearance re-investigations are more important than the original investigation because those people who  have had those clearances longer are more likely to be working with increasingly critical information.

For military security clearance, it’s depends on your job and your assignment. In some cases, the job itself might not require a security clearance, but the location or the unit does.

The DoD (Department of Defense) operates it’s security program separate from other government agencies, with it’s own procedures. This means that security clearances from other government agencies would not necessarily transfer to the DoD.

Are you looking for your next job?

For more advice on how to get clearances and skills you need to succeed as a contractor, connect with the team at USPRO and explore the available opportunities.

Resume Tips for Engineers

Be Concise

While your line of work may imply that giving all the details is a good idea, keep in mind that resumes – including yours – will be rejected or accepted into a working pile within 30 seconds. Giving the manager an information overload is a great way to get rid of them.  Keep it crisp and to the point.

Be Precise

Failing to spellcheck, proofread, and correct errors will sink any candidate. It’s essential that your resume is professional without any errors whatsoever, as it will be a reflection on your future work – or lack thereof.

Tailor the Resume to the Job Opening

If your resume isn’t tailored with the keywords used in the job posting, it can look like you have been mass posting your resume everywhere and will most likely be thrown out. Customize it as much as possible without giving too much information.

Bullet Points

Instead of writing entire paragraphs for each of your past positions, it’s best to keep it short and sweet with bullet points. You will be able to tell the key points and quantify the results so employers understand the significance of your work.

Objective Not Necessary

Unless the job posting specifically asks for an objective, it’s not necessary. Keep it to a brief summary instead, explaining how your skills and experience meet the requirements of the open position.


Put the important information first, with your most recent job at the top and the essential skills you used at that position. Keep in mind that the reader will only skim your resume.

Highlight Accomplishments Over Responsibilities

Selling yourself based on what you were able to accomplish previously will show the amount of growth you’re capable of and the amount of potential you could bring going forward.

6 Steps to Translating Military Experience to a Civilian Resume

Assume the Employer Doesn’t Understand Anything About Your Military Resume

Write your resume and cover letter with this in mind, no matter what. Avoid military jargon and make things clear for them. While staffing agencies are full of people experienced in this, most future civilian employers probably won’t know their meaning. When you explain skills, experiences, and what your military job entailed, future employers will understand how you’d help out, even if they don’t understand the title.

Provide a Complete Picture

Explain your technical skills, such as understanding communications gear. Try to use examples where your interpersonal skills would be useful. Explain about being under stressful situations or taking direction from leadership or leading a team through a project. When going into an interview, you’re often up against a college graduate whose idea of teamwork is limited to a group project online or a presentation. This area is where military soft skills give you the strongest advantage. “Teamwork skills” means something different when you have to collaborate with someone else for every assigned task for several years, and “works well under pressure” means something completely different.

Ask About the Hiring Process

Depending on the company, hiring a new employee can be extremely quick or take several weeks or longer, depending on the position. Never assume that you know how that particular company works internally.

Stay In The Same Field

While you may be tired of your career, keep in mind that the civilian version will be a more comfortable version of the same work. It will be easier to translate those same skills, abilities, and experiences, and also help you make the transition to civilian life on a daily basis.

Be Patient

There’s no such thing as a perfect resume or perfect cover letter, so don’t take it personally if the phone doesn’t start ringing immediately. While your past assignments had clear-cut results, applying for work is much less defined. Make sure to apply to as many positions as you are even slightly interested in and then either email or call those places directly to make sure they received your application and resume.

Are you a veteran looking for work? Try our Veteran’s Talent Network

Need to leverage your resume further? Try 3 Ways You Can Leverage Your Resume Beyond The Interview

Been awhile since an interview? Brush up with How Do You Know If Your Interview Skills Are Good Or Bad?

Is Engineering the New Gig Industry?

Define “Gig”

Freelancing, contracting, moonlighting, side hustle, or the gig economy. Call it what you like, but it’s a gig if it’s a short-term project instead of or in addition to the traditional nine to five. These projects usually have a start and end point. Both parties know that the work might be temporary.

Why Would Projects be Popular With Engineers?

The new generations of engineers found a recession economy, where entering the workforce full time wasn’t a possibility. New employees often become nervous after watching full time employees be stripped of benefits, laid off, or forced into early retirement. It’s understandable that committing to one company for the next decade sounds impossible.

What’s the Benefit?

Contract work offers more control for choosing personal insurance, working on specific skills, and choosing interesting projects. Most millennials see all of these aspects as an advantage, no including further networking and negotiating salary.

It’s Mainstream.

Americans have an increasing preference to work where they want, when they want, on what they want, according to Freelancing in America 2018 latest study. Contract work has been on the rise for the last five years, despite the tightening labor market. At the moment, there’s 56.7 million American freelancers. That’s one out of every three Americans. There’s a gig waiting for you!

Tips For Getting Your Security Clearance

As a contractor, it can be very rewarding to pursue and obtain a security clearance. This helps differentiate you from your competition, and many non-government employers find it helpful in gauging whether you are a trustworthy and committed employee. Here are a few tips to help you ensure you have what you need to get cleared.

3 Tips To Get Your Security Clearance

1. Keep Track of Where You’ve Been …

Traveling outside of the U.S. is good for your broader employment experience and education, but it’s important to have all that information logged somewhere you can refer to as you go through the background searches required for security clearance. Extensive time abroad can, in fact, lengthen the clearance process.

All time spent outside of the US in the last ten years must be reported (unless you were on US government business). Record the day, month, and year when you begin and end a trip. Keeping up with where you live is just as important as travel, especially if you stayed in a place for 90 or more days. Document all your addresses and maintain the contact information of your landlord to use as a reference as well.

Keeping track as you go will help you accurately recount these details without having to chase them down when time is of the essence. Even if you spend time in a place without formal street addresses (such as Peace Corps service in a remote village), write down any indicators that will enable an investigator to confirm your information.

2.   …And Who You Know

The people you have relationships with, especially while abroad, can also impact your clearance process. Hiring agencies researching your clearance case need to know about all your interactions with non-US citizens. As you build relationships with people from outside the country, make a note of the day, month and year when you began contact, as well as your most recent contact with them. As much as possible, research their affiliations with foreign governments or employers. If you have a member of your immediate family serve as a consultant, intern or employee for a foreign agency, you will need to disclose those contacts and contracts.

While this can be especially difficult if you travel extensively, or if you have family or friends living abroad, focus on those with whom you have had the closest ties or most interaction with over the last seven years. That will give the researchers the information they need as they clearance process proceeds.

3. Maintain Relationships

An important part of background investigations are built on gathering information to determine whether you are a reliable, trustworthy individual, of good conduct and character, and loyal to the U.S. That means that your security clearance depends heavily on the relationships you have with friends, colleagues, roommates, or other associates whose combined association with you covers at least the last seven years. These individuals will be called on to speak knowledgeably about you, your character, and your activities. They cannot be family members, and ideally, they should currently live in the U.S.

When preparing for a security clearance background check, select people from different parts of your life and career. These individuals should speak to your conduct outside of the U.S. as well as here at home. If it’s needed, prepare your contacts by reminding them of when you first met, what activities you did together, and what you’ve been doing since you met. That little extra preparation can help make sure they are ready to answer the questions the background check will require them to answer accurately and fully.

Are you looking for your next job?

For more advice on how to get the clearances and skills you need to succeed as a contractor, connect with the team at US PRO today an explore these available opportunities.

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