Lots of employers—especially those who deal with the military or national security—have a need for candidates with security clearances, which are obtained via a lengthy process. How many of those candidates end up rejected, and why?
According to 15 years’ worth of security-clearance adjudication data analyzed by security pro Kevin Tylers (the code is available on GitHub), only 40 percent of candidates are approved for clearance.
Investigators weigh many factors in a candidates’ backstory in order to judge their suitability for a security clearance. These include:
- Allegiance to the United States
- Foreign influence or preference (such as being from another country or having immediate family from there)
- The use of information technology systems (such as looking at pornography on a work computer)
- Personal conduct (a catch-all category)
- Financial considerations (such as debt)
- Alcohol and drug consumption
- Psychological conditions
- Handling protected information (such as putting classified information on your resume)
- Outside activities (i.e., work performed on behalf of a foreign government)
The top reasons for flagging candidates? Financial, followed by personal conduct, foreign preference, drug abuse, criminal conduct, alcohol abuse, sexual conduct, and misuse of information technology.
With regard to flagged issues leading to outright denial of security clearance, sexual misconduct headed up the list (83 percent denied), then criminal conduct (81 percent), and personal conduct (80 percent).
In the 14 years following 9/11, the federal government’s rapidly growing intelligence complex has resulted in a similarly meteoric rise in the number of candidates applying for security clearances. Employers and recruiters on the lookout for professionals with those clearances should know what it takes to obtain them.