We all want our background investigations to be completed as quickly as possible in order to start that dream job and begin collecting that cleared salary. As someone who has worked as both a background investigator and security clearance adjudicator, I am going to give you some tips for how to speed up your investigation by being prepared for the subject interview. Not every security clearance applicant will need a subject interview. But if you do, it’s a critically important time to provide relevant information to save your investigator time, which will in turn get you on the job faster.

Here are a few tips to help ensure your subject interview helps speed up the process:

  1. Review your SF-86 prior to the meeting
  2. If you’re a renter, bring your landlord’s contact information and specific instructions for how to obtain a copy of your rental agreement.
  3. Verify EVERY reference and location listed to ensure all addresses are correct.

The SF-86 Acts as the Guide to the Subject Interview

During the subject interview, your investigator will spend an hour or longer with you going over each and every line of your security form to confirm the information is current and correct. You can help the investigator by reviewing your paperwork before this meeting to confirm that the information is accurate and up-to-date. If you have moved, changed jobs, gotten married/divorced, been arrested, or had any other life changes since you submitted your paperwork (a likely reality particularly for periodic reinvestigations, which are now taking upwards of 600 days to complete for Department of Defense applicants), it will speed up the process when you are prepared with all the necessary information. This new information is referred to as “developed information” because your investigator is not aware of it coming into this meeting. Tt is very helpful for you to be prepared to provide the requisite information to the investigator during your subject interview. You should have an idea of what you plan to say prior to the meeting. Volunteer information that is helpful to the specific question or issue. Don’t waste the investigator’s time and make more problems for yourself by volunteering unrelated or unnecessary information. You can look to the appropriate fields on the security form for a guide as to what the investigator will need.

Why Rental Agreements and Residences Matter

The investigator will be required to ask you about your residences. If you rent your current residence or have rented a residence within the last three years, it helps the investigator when you are prepared to supply your landlord’s name and contact information during this meeting, because the investigator will be required to review the rental record to verify the residence. It is even more helpful to the investigator if you to inform the landlord that you are undergoing a routine U.S. government background investigation for employment purposes and inquire about the location and process for obtaining the rental record. Many times, rental records are not retained on site at the leasing company. For example, if you are renting in Virginia, you may find out that your rental records are  housed in Texas. You can shave off days of investigation time by pointing your investigator in the right direction during the subject interview.

Want to save time? Save your investigator leg work.

This tip also applies to education and employment activities. It is of the utmost importance that these details be presented clearly and factually on your security form because investigators are required to spend time physically going to the locations of listed residence, education, and employment to verify those activities with records and personal sources. When preparing for your subject interview, make sure the addresses listed are in fact the locations where you attended school or worked. If not, it will speed up the investigation time if you gather the correct information and relay that to your investigator during the subject interview. The same tip for residence records applies to academic/employment records. Before the subject interview, it is helpful if you contact current and former schools/employers to obtain their procedures for obtaining records of these activities. When I was an investigator, many schools and employers used centralized online repositories as sources of official records. By providing this information to your investigator during the subject interview, you can save him or her hours of time driving, parking, and getting into those offices to request that information only to find out that they are in the wrong place.

Another way to speed up the investigation process is to be prepared with supporting documents to show or give to the investigator during the subject interview. While an investigator cannot normally accept your documents as official records, he or she will appreciate you providing them as lead information. If you have begun living with a boyfriend or girlfriend or gotten married since you completed your paperwork, bring an official form of this person’s proof of citizenship to the subject interview for the investigator to sight verify. For U.S. citizenship, it can be an original raised-seal birth certificate or a U.S. passport that is current or expired. Examples of other documents that will be helpful to your investigator are lease agreements, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, financial statements, arrest records, and anything else that you feel would help make the investigator’s job of verifying the information easier.

The bottom line is, the more time you spend preparing on the front end for your subject interview, the less time investigators will have to spend on the back end trying to verify your background information.

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I worked for USIS from 2000-2009 as investigator, field trainer, case reviewer, PERSEC policy analyst/writer. I have worked for DoD/IC from 2009-present as security program manager, adjudicator, information security specialist, counterintelligence officer, and program analyst. I have DoD CI Agent, DoD Adjudicator (APC) and Due Process Adjudicator (DPAPC) as well as a Security Fundamentals Professional Certifications (SFPC). I have a BA in Sociology and an MA in Intelligence Operations. I am married, I have 5 kid, and enjoy running in my free time.