Not every company requires you to have a clearance before you walk in the door. In fact, many are willing to sponsor you. But it is still a little daunting when you know that your employment rests on your ability to grab your golden security clearance ticket. 

What is an Interim Security Clearance?

If you’re new to the national security world, you might be asking – What is an interim security clearance? Essentially, the government can grant an interim clearance – or a temporary eligibility – based on the information in your SF-86. From the time your information hits the system, your interim Secret or Top Secret clearance could be granted in as little as 5-10 days. However, that’s not the story for everyone. But just because you get an interim clearance quickly, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be withdrawn OR that your clearance is a guarantee. 

The interim clearance allows you to handle classified information based on the fact that your initial review didn’t highlight any major risks or concerns. 

NO Interim Does NOt Mean NO Clearance

While we all want to hit the ground when we’re first hired, if you do not receive an interim clearance, know that it does NOT mean that you won’t be granted a clearance in the end. It just means that the background investigators have more information to follow up on before allowing your investigation to run the full course through the adjudication process. So, if your interim clearance does not come through, do not worry. It just means more time was needed to investigate. 

The biggest thing you can do to increase the likelihood of an interim clearance is to pay careful attention while filling out your SF-86. Answer every question honestly, but make sure you are answering correctly. Know that different wording requires different levels of information – especially in the mental health section. Also, don’t be careless with your dates, addresses, and references. It can be hard to track all of this information down, but any inconsistencies – even when made by mistake can slow your approval process down. 

Be Indispensable

And in the meantime, while you wait at your new job, make yourself indispensable to the team. Do not waste away your time or seem disinterested at alternate work. Ask if you can complete any trainings or if you can support an unclassified program. Provide help wherever you see an opening, and you will be quickly seen as a key team player. You never want to seem like dead weight when you’re waiting on your security clearance. 


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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.