Interview with the Investigator
Helping Applicants Handle Interviews With Federal Investigators
After you submit an application, you may be scheduled for an in-person interview with an investigator. Due to the large back-up of clearance cases, it can take more than a year before a case is even assigned to an investigator. However, if the level of clearance requested is Confidential or Secret, and the application contains no issues that require resolution, an investigation may not be required.
The purpose of the interview is for the investigator to assess whether you will be able to handle having access to sensitive classified information. The questions can be in-depth and deeply probing.
If you are seeking Top Secret clearance, you are likely to be interviewed. Think of it as your chance to clarify any questionable events from your past, and make sure to be honest and thorough in your response.
The investigator can obtain credit reports and medical records and run national agency checks that determine whether you have a criminal record or financial issues. The rest of the information is gained through interviews with the applicant, names the applicant has listed anywhere on her form, visiting previous employers, interviewing neighbors, and questioning personnel officials and those in the individual’s former chain of command.
During the interview with the applicant, the investigator typically will go over all of the questions and answers on the Personnel Security Questionnaire, and can expand the scope of questions. For example, even though a question on the application may instruct the applicant to limit the answer to the last 10 years, the investigator can ask about the person’s entire lifetime. The applicant cannot refuse to respond on the grounds that the questionnaire only asked for information about the last 10 years.
Of course, an applicant can refuse to answer questions, but that will lead to denial of the clearance. The security officials take the position that being granted a clearance is a privilege, not a right, and that you must cooperate with the investigative process. In this regard, the applicant has the right to rely, for example, on her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself, but that will generally result in the denial of a clearance.
Contact Security Clearance Investigation Attorney
If you have questions about the security clearance investigation and interview, or any other aspect of security clearance approvals and denials, we welcome the opportunity to speak with you. Call us at (202) 331-9260 or visit our Contact page.
Visit our Security Clearance Resources page for more information.