security clearance interview questions

Questions about experience and background

Can you tell me about your law enforcement experience? Have you ever held a security clearance before? Have you ever had access to classified or top-secret information before? What do you consider your most important technical skills?

Answers to frequently asked questions about U.S. Government security clearances, the National Industrial Security Program (NISP), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Department of Defense Personnel Security and Facility Security Programs. Learn more about security clearance processing timelines, how to fill out the SF86, the criteria for obtaining a security clearance and polygraph procedures in the most comprehensive guide to the security clearance process published on the Internet.

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

What is a security clearance interview?

A security clearance interview is an interview you have to go through if you are applying for any job, .in this interview investigator mainly checks whether your criminal background is transparent and all the legal documents are valid.

All the details which the candidate has provided before the interview will be reviewed and cross-checked by the interviewer. The investigator or the interviewer may ask you questions regarding your documents in the interview. Security clearance check is quite a long process. But it is a critical step which you must clear if you want to get the job.

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How security clearance interview works

When applying for a job in a company, the company may have a security clearance interview that you have to pass to get the job. The company will schedule the interview and document verification.

They might ask you to visit for more than one day. A security clearance is a lengthy process in total. In the document verification, they will check the originality of your legal papers and crime history. In the interview round, they will ask you questions accordingly to check you. So be prepared beforehand for the interview.

  • Try to get all the necessary pieces of information about the designation you are applying for. Be familiar with all the terms and conditions of the office or job place.
  • Go through the questions that can be asked in the interview and answer them nicely.
  • Show your passion for the job and impress the interviewer panel.
  • Be prepared, be confident, and be truthful to the interviewer. It will be easier to qualify for the round.
  • The investigators will ask for your original biodatas and check your criminal history record. These things are essential for the security clearance interview so prepare them as soon as possible before going for the interview.
  • Helping Applicants Handle Interviews With Federal Investigators

    After you submit an application, you may be scheduled for an in-person interview with an investigator. Due to the large back-up of clearance cases, it can take more than a year before a case is even assigned to an investigator. However, if the level of clearance requested is Confidential or Secret, and the application contains no issues that require resolution, an investigation may not be required.

    The purpose of the interview is for the investigator to assess whether you will be able to handle having access to sensitive classified information. The questions can be in-depth and deeply probing.

    If you are seeking Top Secret clearance, you are likely to be interviewed. Think of it as your chance to clarify any questionable events from your past, and make sure to be honest and thorough in your response.

    The investigator can obtain credit reports and medical records and run national agency checks that determine whether you have a criminal record or financial issues. The rest of the information is gained through interviews with the applicant, names the applicant has listed anywhere on her form, visiting previous employers, interviewing neighbors, and questioning personnel officials and those in the individual’s former chain of command.

    During the interview with the applicant, the investigator typically will go over all of the questions and answers on the Personnel Security Questionnaire, and can expand the scope of questions. For example, even though a question on the application may instruct the applicant to limit the answer to the last 10 years, the investigator can ask about the person’s entire lifetime. The applicant cannot refuse to respond on the grounds that the questionnaire only asked for information about the last 10 years.

    Of course, an applicant can refuse to answer questions, but that will lead to denial of the clearance. The security officials take the position that being granted a clearance is a privilege, not a right, and that you must cooperate with the investigative process. In this regard, the applicant has the right to rely, for example, on her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself, but that will generally result in the denial of a clearance.

    Like the SF86, interview questions are based on certain time periods. Some questions pertain to your entire life. Others pertain only to the last 7 or 10 years (or back to your 16th or 18th birthday depending on your age). For the purpose of the interview questions, the seven- or ten-year time frame is based on the date you completed the SF86. If you completed the SF86 on November 1, 2009, ten years includes everything between November 1, 1999 and the date of your interview. Under certain circumstances investigators are authorized to ask about relevant information regardless of how long ago it occurred.

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

    The PRSI should take about an hour for the average person who has completed the clearance application form (Standard Form 86—SF86) accurately and only has a few residences, jobs, and schools listed on the form. If you have had extensive foreign travel, foreign contacts, or problems involving such things as alcohol, drugs, finances, or criminal conduct, the interview could take much longer. Usually there is only one investigator, but occasionally a second investigator may be present. An applicant has the right to have a personal representative or attorney present during the interview, but this is rarely necessary or beneficial. You should:

    If the investigator fails to ask you about any unfavorable information listed on your SF86, mention the information yourself. If you don’t, it will have to be addressed during a follow-up interview and will delay your clearance. If you have been involved in serious misconduct, had significant financial problems, or have extensive foreign connections, it would be wise to make a written explanation of the situation(s), including all applicable mitigating conditions. Give a copy of the written explanation to the investigator.

    If you and the investigator prepare properly for your PRSI, the interview should be completed in one session. Occasionally at some point after the PRSI, there may be a need for a follow-up contact with the investigator. This usually occurs when you were unable to provide some information at the time, the need for a written release arises later, some minor matter requires further clarification, or you later remember some pertinent information. If a major discrepancy or security issue surfaces through one of the other components of the security investigation, it usually necessitates a separate “Special Interview” to resolve the matter.


    Who gets interviewed for security clearance?

    For a secret clearance in a national security position, the investigation requires agents to interview people who have lived or worked with the applicant at some point in the past seven years, or sometimes farther back.

    How long is security clearance interview?

    In general, expect a CONFIDENTIAL or SECRET clearance to take between 1 and 3 months. A TOP SECRET will probably take between 4 and 8 months. However, some individuals have been waiting for the results of their TOP SECRET investigation for more than one year.

    What will prevent me from getting a security clearance?

    Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying include:
    • Driving while under the influence, fighting, child or spouse abuse, or other criminal incidents related to alcohol use;
    • Reporting for work or duty in an intoxicated or impaired condition, or drinking on the job;

    What are the 5 levels of security clearance?

    • Controlled Unclassified.
    • Public Trust Position.
    • Confidential.
    • Secret.
    • Top Secret.
    • Compartmented.

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