As a government contractor, the majority of our positions require an active government clearance in order to be considered a viable candidate for an opening. The million dollar question our recruiters get asked daily is, “can your company sponsor me for a clearance?”

The honest response is that each contract dictates whether this action is allowable or not. These details are found within the individual statement of work for each contract. Every contract specifically outlines the clearance requirements for each labor billet within the contract.

Clearance Sponsorship 101

Some of the more common clearance requirements are outlined below:

Public Trust Required To Start

A public trust clearance is held and processed by the client. Since Public Trusts are not held within Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS), private sector companies do not have visibility to process and/or check on this type of clearance This type of clearance can be easily processed in a timely fashion, and nearly every job posted with this need has the option to hire candidates without this clearance and pursue it upon hire.

Interim Secret Required To Start

This option will allow a company to bring on personnel while pursuing their final adjudicated clearance. This means that the fully executed offer letter must be received back by the hiring company with the candidate’s signature and date prior to the clearance process being initiated. This signed letter will initiate the hiring company’s ability to process the new hire for his or her interim clearance. The candidate’s clearance request must be tied directly to an open billet to allow the clearance to be pursued. As recently as 2012, the secret interim clearance could come back approved as soon as 72 hours. Currently in 2016, this process can take up to 6 months to be granted an interim secret clearance.

Active Current Clearance

This option means that the candidate must have a current active clearance and meet the client requirements from day 1 of employment. There no room to pursue any clearance or clearance upgrade, for example, upgrading a Secret clearance to a Top Secret clearance.

Minimal Secret Clearance: This option will allow a company to bring on personnel with a current active Secret clearance while pursuing a potential upgrade. This means the personnel can work on-site while his or her clearance is being processed in the background.

Candidate Matchmaking

All of these options are solely based on the government client and how the work is outlined within the contract. Companies can implement their own hiring rules. For example, the contract may state an interim secret is acceptable for starting a candidate. However, a company can still stipulate that their hiring requirement for this contract is a current active secret clearance. This does narrow down the candidate pool, but it minimizes the risk of hiring a candidate that ultimately cannot obtain his or her clearance. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that an interim secret will be granted. It is possible that the candidate will be granted his or her interim secret clearance and then fail to obtain his or her final secret clearance. The worst case scenario would be to bring on an employee and ultimately their clearance gets denied. This leaves the candidate without work, the contract with a vacant position, and the company without their new employee.

The level of risk assumed by both the employers and the candidates in regards to persuading a new clearance are relatively equal for both parties. Some of the largest determining factors on whether or not an individual will receive their clearance can fall outside of both parties control. Additionally, the length of time required to receive a person’s clearance has exponentially elongated over the last 5 years.

Time is of the essence when it comes to filling a vacant spot for the government client. A common recruiting goal is to fill a vacant spot in with the best qualified, available candidate in the shortest amount of time. The recruiter has to get the best candidate to fill the open position for the company, but that person also has to be a good match for the government customer. Due to the uncertainly of the length of time to pursue a clearance and final outcome, many companies are straying away from pursuing clearances and only seeking out viable candidates that are already cleared.

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Maria Whitney is a Senior Recruiter at Smartronix. She's been in the HR industry for 13 years; focused on recruiting for over 11 years. Her experience ranges from private sector Engineering, Banking and Cleared Intelligence, to Cleared IT. Visit her on the Cleared Network.