As you fill out the 100 + pages of your background investigation, you may think you’re doing enough simply by finding references for all of those required fields. But if you’re truly interested in a timely background investigation, it’s in your best interests to also contact them in advance. One common background investigator complaint is the sloppiness of SF-86s which are submitted. When your security clearance application is filled with inaccurate information, including references who are impossible to reach or unwilling to provide information, it makes the job of your background investigator incredibly difficult.

Keep in mind, if you let your references know they’ll be contacted by a background investigator, it could be anywhere from a matter of a few days or weeks, to a year or more before they hear from someone. Today’s massive delays have created both lengthy investigation timelines, and vast inconsistency. References are less likely to be contacted for a Secret security clearance, but if there are issues, references may be contacted to verify issues. Likewise, if you’re less likely to need a personnel subject interview for a Secret clearance determination – unless there are issues an investigator needs to clarify.

Do you want the job, or not?

Many security clearance applicants falsely consider it the job of the background investigator to find the information they need to make a determination. But the background investigation is largely dependent upon information that’s volunteered in the SF-86. Remember you sign a statement attesting to the accuracy of all of the information included – that includes reference contact information, addresses, and other mundane details. If your verifiers largely consist of individuals who hardly know you, or who don’t exist at all at the contact numbers and addresses you provide – don’t be surprised when your background investigation lags on for months.

It’s a hassle, but taking the time to reach out and verify those references yourself will earn you a lot of appreciation from the background investigator reviewing your case. Unfortunately, you’ll have to let them know you have no idea when they’ll be contacted – or if they’ll be contacted at all. But it’s better to be safe than sorry, and better to make sure your investigator’s call is one they’ll answer – and not one they ignore.

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer