Applying for a security clearance is very similar to obtaining any other job – doing your research is often the best step you can take to obtain a clearance. Just as you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) apply for a job without researching your potential employer, you shouldn’t apply for a position in national security without discovering what the security clearance process is like. Individuals often wonder what they can do to demonstrate their ‘clearability’ to a future employer – there are several steps individuals can take as they consider or pursue a national security career.

The best first step to take is simply to check out the eligibility form, or SF-86. Reviewing – or even completing – a mock version of the SF-86 before you apply can help identify any potential red flags and show you steps to mitigate issues in advance.

“That’s something a lot of people find valuable especially if they haven’t been through that process – to get that feedback, realistically what are my odds of getting this clearance – is it worth my time or energy going though this process or am I better off getting my house in order?”

“Sometimes people are really worked up over something that isn’t even covered during the background investigations process, so that’s great peace of mind to know that. Or sometimes people aren’t really appreciating something in their background that could come up,” said Bigley.

In addition to applicants, employers can also work with employees in the process – or even on board a security clearance attorney or consultant to help walk applicants through the process. In a time where the government is trying to attract new talent into the door, this can be a great way for companies to move talent from the commercial sector into a cleared position. It also helps ensure the investment of time and money is made on applicants who will be able to obtain clearance eligibility.

The question often comes up for folks who haven’t been through the process before and are looking to get sponsored – what are the real potential hurdles and how do I get an employer to sponsor me?

“Probably the number one biggest issue statistically is financial issues – back taxes, late filed taxes, debt, etc,” said Bigley. The issue isn’t just a matter of debt -but the steps taken to address it. If you can create a plan to address your debt before you apply for your clearance, it can be a major factor.

“I can’t count the number of instances where people have been up to their eyeballs in debt,” said Bigley – and the issue wasn’t an inability to pay, but failure to do so simply because they failed to keep their finances in order.

Tax time is coming, and many individuals incorrectly assume they don’t have to file taxes every year if they don’t owe anything – but that’s a misinterpretation of the law, and it catches security clearance holders or applicants who fail to file, noted Bigley.

“Proactivity really is the name of the game,” said Bigley. “If you’re trying to get that clearance and you can show that…that is going to go a long way.”




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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