Having active security clearance always opened a lot of job opportunities, especially for the military personnel looking for new job options. If you had a security clearance, it was easy enough for you to get any job, from an intelligence analyst to a senior software tester. But in 2016, the situation changed.
NSA Stiffens the Recruitment Process
Back then, the National Security Agency was the target of the media after the arrest of Harold Thomas Martin III, the NSA employee, for stealing top-secret hacking codes from his place of employment.
This was the second time an employee with a security clearance leaked NSA’s top-secret information, the first time being the infamous case of Edward Snowden.
Such an inside threat and malfeasance involving an employee with a security clearance forced NSA and other government institutions to impose stricter rules on the process of hiring new candidates.
If you’re looking for a position with a security clearance, you should be prepared for a tough interview process. There is a high chance that you will have to go through several interviews to get that clearance job you’re looking for.
How can you get ready for the long and stressful recruitment process?
We’ve collected some clearance job interview hacks to help you prepare.
1. It Starts with Research
No one will tell you that right away, but during the interview, it is common for the recruiters to evaluate your knowledge of the company, its management, product, values, etc. So, to make sure that the interview goes well, we highly recommend doing in-depth research to prepare for the questions related to the company and its activities.
What are the things that you should research beforehand?
It’s not necessary to go deep into investigating the company’s top managers, department directors, etc. However, for a job interview, you should at least learn about the CEO of the company, and the head of the department you will potentially be working for.
The latest events and news.
This could be a great ice breaker during the interview. You can visit the organization’s website to learn more about the latest initiatives, as well as events and conferences its employees participated in.
Regular clients as well as products and services.
It goes without saying that you should be familiar with the product the organization sells or the services it provides, as it will definitely come up during the interview. It is also nice to show the knowledge of the key clients that the organization works with.
Corporate culture and values.
While you will find out about the organization’s corporate culture later as its employee, it is good to know a few things about it beforehand. An interviewer can ask you, in which ways your own values resonate with the values of the organization, so be ready for that.
Don’t forget that social media can be of great help during the research process. There, you can get information about corporate culture and values, get familiar with the latest events and news, and learn about the organization’s top management.
For instance, on LinkedIn, you can research the entire company, its open job positions, people who used to work or are currently working there, and company activities to use as a conversation starter during the interview.
Example: Northrop Grumman LinkedIn Profile
Example: Northrop Grumman LinkedIn Profile
For deeper research, you can also visit websites with reviews. “On Glassdoor, for instance, you can find reviews from previous and current employees, as well as their feedback about the recruitment process,” says Claire Atkins, an HR strategist at GetGoodGrade.
Your knowledge about the organization should be as complete as possible, as it will help you answer the majority of interview questions with confidence.
2. Prepare Questions That Interest You
While a job interview is a way for the organization to find more about you as a potential job candidate, it is also a chance for you to ask questions to get the information, which wasn’t listed in the job posting or wasn’t provided by the recruiter.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, recruiters conclude the interview with a “Do you have any questions” request for you to ask anything you are interested in. This is an invitation for you to step in with your own interview questions, and, in general, it makes you look better in the eyes of the recruiter.
Which questions can you ask the interviewer?
Regarding the position and requirements for it – This is a good strategy if the job posting provides only general details about the position. You can ask questions about the specifics of the position or dive into each skill and how it will be applied. Career growth questions also apply.
Here are a few examples:
–How would you describe a typical day of an employee working in this position?
– How does the typical work week look like?
– What types of skills the team is looking for that the organization created this job position?
– What are the challenges that I could face in this position skill-wise?
– Will my responsibilities change in the upcoming 6 months?
Concerning corporate culture. You want to make sure that your own values resonate with the values of the organization. So, if the interviewer hasn’t provided you with the information on corporate culture and you haven’t been able to collect information about it online, you can ask about it after the interview.
Here are a few examples to consider:
– What are the organization’s plans for the nearest future?
– Do your employees get frequent opportunities to improve their qualifications and get corporate education?
– How does the organization evaluate the success of its employees?
– How would you describe the work-life balance of your employees?
– What philanthropy or volunteering project is your organization involved in?
Regarding the office environment. Lastly, you want to make sure that you feel comfortable in the organization. You should have enough space and the necessary tools to do your job properly. That’s why it is important to get familiar with the office environment before you make your final decision about working for the organization.
Here are a few questions you can ask:
– How many people work in the department that hires me?
– Who does this job position report to?
– Which tools do you provide to an employee in this position?
– Do you have the option of flexible working hours?
There is no shame in asking as many questions as possible. Many HR managers won’t tell you this, but asking questions improves your image as a job candidate and lets them know that you are, in fact, interested in this job position.
3. Prioritize Positive Attitude During the Interview
Lastly, the main thing you should focus on during the interview is likeability. You don’t have to persistently press the interviewer with your qualifications and your experience, they can read it on your resume.
Instead, focus on demonstrating your best qualities, which should include openness, attention to detail, and, of course, likeability.
Moreover, make sure that you dress up for the interview. HR managers have revealed that the best way to dress for an interview is business casual. Job candidates don’t always know if there is a dress code in the organization that interviews them, and business casual is a safe way to both fit in and make a good first impression.
Possible Interview Questions to Consider
In conclusion, to help you ace your clearance job interview, here are a few examples of possible questions with our recommendations on how to answer them correctly.
‘Why do you want to work for this organization/agency/institution?’
Our recommendations: instead of giving a short answer or claiming this job position is your true calling, give a specific example of how the work of this organization, agency, or institution, inspired you to apply.
‘What could you tell about yourself?’
Our recommendations: don’t give a detailed overview of your education and employment records. Instead, focus on how your professional experience is connected to the job description of a position you’re applying to.
‘What prompted you to leave your previous job?’
Our recommendations: do not reference any negative experiences that prompted you to switch jobs. Instead, focus on opportunities the new position can give you that the previous one could not.
‘Are you ready to take on the new responsibilities, different from your previous job?’
Our recommendations: when answering this question, it is important to let the interviewer know that you are adaptable. If you are a veteran, you can allude to examples from your military career when you were forced into situations, which needed quick adaptation.
‘What are you expecting to get from this position in the next five years?
Our recommendations: don’t give an indefinite answer, even if you don’t know how to respond. In case this question catches you out, focus on the reason why you are applying for this job – the mission of the organization, its values, etc.
Getting a clearance job definitely requires more thorough preparation due to the nature of such positions. Hopefully, our quick guide will help you prepare for the clearance job interview effectively and have your candidacy noticed.