By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com
You have completed your e-QIP / SF-86 and you are waiting to be interviewed in the next step of the investigative process in order to obtain your Top Secret security clearance. This is often referred to as the Personal Interview or Personal Subject Interview stage. Given that this next step in the process is very important to your ultimate security clearance review, it is important to go in as prepared as possible. The interview process will usually occur a short time following the submission and review of the completed security clearance materials by the investigator.
Security clearance investigators will review and confirm the information that the individual has supplied in the security clearance submission. For instance, the investigator will speak with former supervisors, neighbors, co-workers, in addition to references to get a full background of the individual seeking the clearance prior to the interview. The investigator assigned to the case will also check with law enforcement agencies in areas where an individual has lived and will have reviewed other important background information. When this review is complete, the investigator will then generally contact an individual for their personal interview.
Preparation for the Interview
It is important for an individual to prepare for their interview with the investigator. As mentioned above, the investigator will have reviewed the individual's submissions prior to the interview and will have identified any significant areas of concern prior to the meeting. In our experience, generally, the individual involved will have some idea about potential areas of concern that might be brought up in the interview and thus will generally have time to prepare.
Preparation for the personal interview, as to these areas of potential concern, is a must. For instance, if there is a recent arrest on your record, the individual should be prepared to fully explain the incident to the investigator and toprovide the relevant details. This is just one example. Another example is where the individual has had an alcohol related offense. In that type of situation, the individual should go into the interview fully prepared to discuss the incident and what steps the person has taken to avoid the issue from happening again.
If your case involves known security concerns then it is also important to gather any important and relevant documents, especially those that can be helpful in explaining or mitigating the potential security concerns at issue in advance. We advise going over these issues, in advance, with counsel so that the interview will go smoothly.
The Personal Interview
The interview stage itself tends to last usually 1-2 hours, although different cases can result in varying times for the interview process. Most times, there is just one investigator assigned for the personal interview, but there can be two investigators in some cases. If there are two investigators usually one of them will be assigned to ask the majority of questions, while the other may ask some follow up questions.
It is recommended that an individual bring a copy of his/her SF-86 / e-QIP application for the questions that will be discussed. An investigator will generally go over an individual's security materials thoroughly, but may also have other questions not covered on the security forms such as issues related to illegal downloading of materials, viewing of inappropriate materials and other types of misconduct which could raise security concerns.
As mentioned above, it is important to be prepared, in advance, to address the most likely areas of concern. It is also important to be as responsive as possible on the areas of concern raised by an investigator during the interview process. This is clearly not the time for an individual to be defensive or to refuse to answer an investigator's questions. Doing so may delay the individual's ability to obtain a security clearance (at best) and in some situations may result in the denial of a security clearance application.
When finished with the first interview, many times investigators may have follow up questions. They may conduct these follow up interview questions by telephone or in person. We advise clients to be responsive to such requests and to attempt to provide investigators enough information to conclude their investigation successfully. An individual does not want an investigator to give up on a clearance application and conclude that the security concerns are too significant to overcome.
When undergoing your background investigation for your security clearance, it is very important to be prepared for the interview stage of the process. It can make the difference between obtaining and being denied your security clearance. Our law firm represents federal employees and contractors in these types of security clearance matters and can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com.