Security Clearance Denial

These Two Questions Cause the Most Trouble On Background Investigations

There are two topics during background investigation processing that cause the most problems for applicants: failure to disclose criminal history and how you left a previous employment. The Standard Form 85, 85-P or 86 (used for all investigation levels also require submission of the OF-306 (Declaration for Federal Employment). There are key differences in what is asked on these forms. The SF-85 does not ask about criminal history or how you left employment at all. The SF-85P asks about arrests, convictions, probation, parole, or imprisonment in the last 7 years, as well as employment terminations and discipline or counseling. The SF-86 asks the same for both but has EVER questions. The OF-306 asks only for convictions, probation, parole, or imprisonment and employment terminations in the last 5 years.

One of the most common mistakes background investigation applicants make is not carefully reading the criminal history questions and answering correctly. This causes the appearance of dishonesty and lack of candor. Too many applicants also play armchair lawyer and use semantics with the wording of arrests and court records instead of just disclosing the arrest, subsequent pleas and court dispositions. This gives adjudicators pause in order to decipher what really happened and the applicant’s intent.

The other question that causes extra scrutiny and a large amount of denials are the questions about how you left a previous employment. For some reason many applicants can’t face the fact they were terminated for whatever reason and instead, paint a rosy picture (better job or pay, career progression), instead of just being up front about attendance issues, conflicts, performances, etc. Ironically, most of the issues applicants fail to disclose are not that serious and would have been mitigated. My advice to all is to take ownership of your past behaviors, put them behind you, and disclose all so there no reason to doubt your honesty and integrity.

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