Sunday, May 15, 2016

Top 3 Myths to the Federal Government’s Security Clearance Process

Myth #1: As a Federal Government Job Seeker, I Need to Already Have a Security Clearance to Land a Federal Job.  One of the top Federal Government employment myths is that you are required to hold a security clearance prior to applying for a Federal Job. The truth is that most Federal vacancy announcements will state that you “Must have the ability to obtain a security clearance.” You do not need a clearance prior to applying because the Federal Government will sponsor you through this process.  Alternatively, in the Federal contractor world (corporate/private sector), if you possess a security clearance, you may be highly desired and sought-after, because they can get you started working on a Federal contract immediately, which means they can bill the Government for your time  
Myth #2: The Federal Government is looking for the perfect citizen, and that’s not me!  The purpose of the security clearance process is not to find perfection; it is to establish that you are not a threat to the Federal Government. Red flags include foreign contacts, travel, and accounts; poor credit and/or high debt; bankruptcies, foreclosures and/or short sales; employment and/or personal indiscretions; criminal activities; inconsistencies in your background; and drug or alcohol abuse. You will be asked a series of questions surrounding these topics to decide whether or not you may be susceptible to blackmail or coercion and therefore vulnerable as a national security risk. Issues like financial challenges can be defended by providing a stellar history of past financial responsibility and establishing a pattern of payments with debt collectors, prior to going through the security clearance process. If you have experienced recent financial distress, avoid applying for positions requiring fiduciary responsibilities assince those roles will place a higher emphasis on financial fidelity.
Myth #3It’s OK to stretch the truth Your future Federal Government position may or may not require a polygraph (lie detector) test, but understand that it is illegal to be dishonest during any part of the process. Investigators will have already collected every college transcript, performance review, credit report, law enforcement and military record associated with your name and fingerprints within the clearance timeline. They will have also interviewed friends, neighbors, and colleagues and others, so be honest.  The adjudicators know that there are multiple sides to every story, so tell yours from the beginning.  They will provide you with the opportunity to explain yourself in more depth at multiple times during the process.  Dishonesty during the process will result in no security clearance and no Federal job offer.
How to Speed Up the Process:  This one might be a no-brainer, but the best ways to shave off days, weeks and months from the length of your security clearance process is to 1) Follow the instructions and 2) Never leave blanks on your paperwork.
Follow the instructions.  Read the fine print. Some questions (specifically drug-related, alcohol-related and legal) will have an “expiration date” of sorts, that require you to list issues and infractions one, five or 10 years prior to the current date. Additionally, they may ask, “have you EVER”, meaning have you ever in your life time. Read carefully and answer accordingly.
Never leave blanks on your paperwork. Take the time to fill out complete contact information for all contacts (supervisor, colleagues, neighbors, friends, family, etc.).  Connect with all  contacts you submit on your paperwork to ensure you have the most up-to-date information for them, and to inform them that a Federal Investigator may be contacting them. Outdated or non-existent contact information will lengthen considerably the process.

For more information on developing your federal job search strategy to attract the attention of the HR hiring team, visit us on the web at

Sunday, May 8, 2016

How Do I Know What GS Level to Target?

Unless you’ve been a federal government employee before, you probably don’t know exactly what GS-level (salary) you will qualify for.  The federal hiring team will use your federal resume to determine if you are qualified.  The more information you have in your resume in terms of details about what you did, how you did it and for whom, the better you will fare in the process.  This is why a federal resume is generally an average of five pages long. The federal hiring team will also look at salary.  They want to make sure you are in the ballpark.  They fully understand that some jobs, some professions, some sectors pay more, pay less, etc. but they are looking to see if you are within an acceptable range.  If you are transitioning from a military position, they will take your rank into account as well, but the main consideration will be your federal resume. 

If you truly don't have an idea about salary level, look at a federal pay chart and find where your last salary appears on the federal pay chart.  On a broad level, if you are at a managerial level, you could look at GS-13, 14 and 15.  If you are a subject matter expert in your field, generally GS-12 and below will be best for you.

For more information on developing your federal job search strategy to attract the attention of the HR hiring team, visit us on the web at