security clearance interview questions

When it comes to being granted a security clearance, the government takes a close look at the individual applying. This process is both rigorous and thorough, and consists of a series of interviews to determine whether the individual is trustworthy enough to be granted access to sensitive information. As part of this process, it is important to be prepared to answer a range of questions that the interviewer may ask. In this blog post, we provide you with a comprehensive overview of the types of questions that may be asked in a security clearance interview. We also provide tips on how to answer these questions in a professional and forthright manner. By taking the time to understand what types of questions you may be asked, you are more likely to have a successful security clearance interview and be granted access to the confidential information you require.

General interview questions
  • How did you learn about this position?
  • What makes you qualified for this position?
  • What are some of your most important personal values?
  • Are you a punctual person?
  • Do you consider yourself responsible?
  • Do you take pride in your work?
  • What do you think your greatest strengths are?

How to Prepare for Security Clearance Interview | Federal Background Check | Get a Federal Job

11 General Security Clearance Interview Questions

Employers use general security clearance interview questions to ascertain whether your abilities, outlook, and values align with the demands of the position and the company’s mission. Following are some typical inquiries a hiring manager might make during a security clearance interview:

Security Clearance Interview Questions With Sample Answers

Getting ready for a security clearance interview can aid in employment. Reviewing practice questions and answers is a useful way to get ready. Consider the following examples of potential questions and sample responses:

How would you respond if you discovered a colleague is leaking private internal corporate information?

By asking you this, the interviewer is attempting to gauge your interpersonal abilities and viewpoint on coworkers sharing private information. The best course of action is frequently to demonstrate that you would try to convince your coworker that their actions might have both personal and professional repercussions. You would immediately notify a supervisor of the incident if they continued to exhibit no signs of realizing their mistake.

To ensure they are aware of the mistake they made and how it may affect their careers and personal lives, I would first try to meet with them personally. If they admit their error, I will consider the situation to be resolved; however, if they make an effort to justify or refute their actions, I will immediately contact management. “.

What is a security clearance interview?

If you are applying for any job, you must go through a security clearance interview. During this interview, the investigator primarily verifies that all of your legal documents are in order and that your criminal history is transparent.

The interviewer will go over and double-check all the information the applicant provided before the interview. During the interview, the investigator or interviewer may question you about your documents. Security clearance check is quite a long process. But if you want to get the job, you must pass this crucial step.

Read our most recent blog post on 11 Jobs for Disabled People at Home [2022] as well.

Helping Applicants Handle Interviews With Federal Investigators

You might be scheduled for an in-person interview with an investigator after submitting an application. It can take more than a year before a case is even assigned to an investigator due to the significant backlog of clearance cases. The application may not need to be investigated, though, if the level of clearance requested is Confidential or Secret and there are no issues that need to be resolved.

The interview’s goal is for the investigator to determine whether you can handle having access to sensitive, secret information. The questions can be in-depth and deeply probing.

You will probably be interviewed if you’re looking to get top secret clearance. Consider this an opportunity to explain any ambiguous past experiences, and be truthful and thorough in your response.

In order to find out if you have a criminal record or financial problems, the investigator can obtain credit reports, medical records, and results of national agency checks. The remaining details are gathered through interviews with the applicant, names listed anywhere on the application, visits to prior employers, interviews with neighbors, and inquiries to personnel representatives and people in the applicant’s previous chain of command.

The investigator will typically go over all of the questions and answers on the Personnel Security Questionnaire during the interview with the applicant and may broaden the scope of questions. For instance, the investigator may inquire about a person’s entire life, despite a question on the application instructing the applicant to limit their response to the previous ten years. Since only the last 10 years of the questionnaire were requested, the applicant cannot refuse to respond.

Of course, a candidate can choose not to respond to questions, but that will result in the clearance being denied. According to security personnel, receiving a clearance is a privilege rather than a right, and you are required to cooperate with the investigation. The applicant has the right to rely on her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination in this regard, but doing so will typically result in the denial of a clearance.

The investigator will essentially cover every question on your SF86 to confirm the accuracy and completeness of the information you provided, plus some questions that are not on the form. Questions on the SF86 cover most of the security issues listed in the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information. But a few of the 13 guidelines are either not addressed or only partially addressed in the SF86. In one manner or another, questions covering all 13 guidelines will be asked during the interview.

The interview should be finished in one sitting if both you and the investigator are well-prepared for your PRSI. There may occasionally be a need for a follow-up contact with the investigator after the PRSI. This typically happens when you were unable to provide certain information at the time, a written release is required later, a minor issue needs to be clarified further, or you remember some important information later. To address a significant discrepancy or security concern that is discovered through one of the other security investigation’s components, a separate “Special Interview” is typically required.

William H. Henderson is a retired security investigator, author of Security Clearance Manual, and regular contributor to and

These elements, referred to as the “general criteria,” are taken from the Adjudicative Guidelines. However, each of the 13 guidelines has a unique set of mitigating circumstances, many of which are not expressly addressed by the general criteria. Unfortunately, OPM investigators are not well-versed in the particular mitigating circumstances that are listed for each of the 13 guidelines. As a result, you should be ready to provide any relevant information that could mitigate the situation that the investigator does not ask about.

For information on financial matters, mental health counseling, and/or substance abuse counseling, you might be asked to sign a specific release. Even if you are aware that the information sought doesn’t exist, refusing to sign a release could result in your clearance being rejected.


How do I prepare for a security clearance interview?

Make sure you have the following documents with you during the interview process:
  1. A copy of your SF-86.
  2. A government–issued photo ID.
  3. A personal address book or a list of your contacts.
  4. Any relevant documents that may resolve any pending security issues.

What disqualifies you from a security clearance?

You were dishonorably discharged from the military. You are currently involved in illegal drug use. A mental health professional has determined that you are either mentally incompetent or mentally incapacitated. You have had a clearance revoked for security reasons.

Do they interview you for secret clearance?

Agents are required to interview people who have lived or worked with the applicant at some point in the previous seven years, or sometimes even further back, as part of the investigation for a secret clearance in a national security position.

How long is security clearance interview?

A CONFIDENTIAL or SECRET clearance should typically take between one and three months. A TOP SECRET will most likely take four to eight months. However, some people have been waiting longer than a year for the findings of their TOP SECRET investigation.

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