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How to Prepare for Clearance Interviews

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Once you have been selected for a position requiring a security clearance, you will need a Personal Subject Interview or PRSI as part of your background investigation. The PRSI covers items listed in your security questionnaire package to verify truthfulness and consistency. This interview also gives you an additional opportunity to discuss with the investigating agents any legal or security issues noted in your application. Preparation is crucial at this stage as the outcome can affect your eligibility for the security clearance.

Review Application

Review a copy of your application for the position as well as your SF-86 Questionnaire for National Security Positions. Review any items that might need to be discussed during your PRSI. Subjects such as past credit problems, traffic violations, arrests or drug and alcohol abuse often require valid and in-depth explanations. Prepare your explanations in a way that demonstrates you have resolved the issues and have taken the appropriate steps to rectify them. This will help your case during the adjudication process during which investigators consider the risk factors in granting you a clearance.

Contact the Interviewer

Call the interviewing agent using the contact information given to you when your interview was scheduled. Clarify and confirm what you need to bring or certain subjects you need to discuss during the interview. Write down any details or directives the interviewing agent gives you, including verification of the interview time, venue and directions.

Gather Documents

Gather together any documents the interviewer requests as well as those for your own personal reference. Documents necessary to bring to your PRSI include your resume, proof of citizenship, licenses, transcripts, court orders, veteran's documentation and a copy of your SF-86 questionnaire. Also, bring a list of references, including contact information, if not already indicated on the SF-86 form. Bring a valid government-issued photo ID, such as your driver's license or passport, to present to security personnel at your interview venue.

Dress Appropriately

Dress for your PRSI as you would for any other job interview. Unless you are in the military, in which you need only to appear in uniform, wear professional attire. For most federal government security clearance interviews, a dark suit with a white or blue shirt or blouse is often recommended. Women should wear minimal makeup and conservative jewelry.

Arrive Prepared

Arrive at your PRSI venue at least 15 minutes before your scheduled interview. While awaiting your security interview, review your materials to be sure they are in the right order and easily accessible upon request. Greet the interviewing agents confidently and answer all questions with candor and detail, supplying the necessary documentation. This is especially crucial for items requiring special attention, such as credit issues, arrests and tickets. The interview typically lasts one to two hours, but could be longer depending on certain items in your clearance package.


Chiara Sakuwa has been a writer since 2005. Her work has appeared in publications such as the "Liberty Champion" newspaper and "The New World Encyclopedia" project. She is also the author of the novel "The Lady Leathernecks." She holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences from Campbell University and a Master of Criminal Justice from Boston University.

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