Security Clearance Interview Bloopers and Blunders

When a candidate fills out an SF-86 they don’t just have to worry about their own conduct, but about that of those they list as references. From candidates to references to investigators, bloopers, blunders and funny or embarrassing moments abound.

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The longest part of the security clearance process for investigators and perhaps the most stressful for applicants are the interviews. If you filled out an SF-86 there is a good chance a few of your references will be speaking with a security clearance investigator, and answering questions about you. To obtain a top secret or access to Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) you will need a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) which is more likely to result in personal interviews with friends, neighbors or family members.

The stress, the awkwardness and just the craziness of life can make for some interesting scenarios. We recently asked security-clearance investigators and cleared professionals to share some of their funniest interview stories. Here are the top ones – be sure to take a moment to share yours in the comments.

1. Make Love, Not World of Warcraft.

Being interviewed about his college roommate who had applied for a security clearance, one young man attempted to be discrete in describing that the activity his roommate partook in most was “hanging out alone in his room with his girlfriend.” After being pressed repeatedly about what they were doing in there (subtlety doesn’t read well in an interview process, especially one that may be reviewed by someone else), he admitted that his roommate’s hobby happened to be making love with his girlfriend…although it could have been video games they were playing, really.

2. He inhaled…a lot.

The interviewer was asking a candidate about his use of illegal drugs.

Interviewer: Have you ever done any illegal drugs?

Candidate: Yes.

Interviewer: When did you partake in these illegal drugs?

Candidate: While I was in college.

Interviewer: How many times did you partake in these illegal drugs?

Candidate: Do you have a calculator?

And to give hope to the hopeless (or stoned) – the candidate still got the clearance.

3. A drug dealer by another name still doesn’t get a security clearance.

One young man argued that honestly, he didn’t deal drugs – he just held them for friends, and sometimes he took money from other friends for those drugs. You can venture a guess as to whether he got a clearance.

4. Questionable associates.

A Very Special Investigator retells this all too common questioning scenario:

Investigator: Is he able to handle stress?

Every Source Ever: OH YEAH, he works here.

Investigator: Does he have any questionable associates?

Every Source Ever: You mean besides me?

Stop it, you’re killing us!

5. A little too security conscious.

A security clearance investigator relays that one military officer was so paranoid about personal queries that he refused to schedule the interview because he couldn’t verify the investigator’s identity over the phone. He accused the investigator of trying to access the military base through him. A simple tip – investigators won’t be impressed by your security consciousness in cases like this. It’s best to channel your paranoia through your facility security officer, rather than refuse an interview.

So, come on – we know you can top these. Share your own experiences in the comments.

Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves cybersecurity, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email editor@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.