The Riley Guide: Resumes & Cover Letters
Job postings in certain fields – especially those that deal with sensitive material – may ask you to reveal your security clearance in your application. Requests that you reveal your "right to work" in the U.S. are even more common, for almost all types of jobs. Where should you put that information on your resume? Should you reveal it in your cover letter? This article will address the main concerns involved in revealing your security clearance, and offer some tips for sharing it in ways that won't compromise your own security. Read on to find out how to handle these types of situations.
When a potential employer asks for information on your right to work, they're asking whether you're a U.S citizen, or whether you hold a current visa which permits you to work here legally (because not all visas include the right to work). Many employers want to know your eligibility up front, as they're not prepared to sponsor people who'll require a visa in order to do the job legally.
This hopefully goes without saying, but if you're not currently eligible to work in the U.S., don't claim that you are. All people hired in the U.S. are required to fill out an I-9 form on their first day of employment, showing proper documentation proving their eligibility for employment – so you'll only be setting yourself up for future disappointment if you don't tell the truth from the beginning of the process. As long as you're a U.S. citizen or have a work visa, you shouldn't have any problems with this question – but there's no need to put it on your resume, since the employer will ask for it early in the application process anyway.
Certain jobs require security clearances – and if you're applying for a job with the U.S. government, this is a question you may find yourself being asked. Federal resumes use a specific format, somewhat different from that of standard civilian resumes; and if you have one, its top page should include your Social Security number, your citizenship status, your veteran status or number of years in military service, your past federal job experience (if any) and any security clearances you have (or the date of your last clearance).
List the info above right after the header information – like your name and contact info – at the top of your resume, not in your cover letter; or if you don't have any of them, list them as "N/A," so your potential employer knows not to look for them elsewhere in your documents. And don't worry if your resume runs a little longer than usual because of this added information. A federal resume is typically two to four pages, instead of the single-page resumes that are common in the non-government world.
Although you'll need to disclose the information mentioned in the previous section if you want to apply for a federal job, it's still a good idea to limit the detail you provide early-on in the application process. Security clearances can be a sensitive issue – and while you may need to reveal that you have one in order to be considered for a job, it's not the sort of information you want just anyone to be able to find out – in fact, under certain circumstances, disclosing your exact level of security clearance to the wrong person can actually cause you to lose it.
Thus, if you're applying for a job with the federal government – or with a contractors supplying or serving the government – the best way to handle the question of clearance is to simply state that you have security clearance on the resume (without providing any specifics). You can always discuss the actual level of clearance, and the agency with which you have it, face-to-face in the interview itself. Treat this as a "need to know" question, and you'll preserve your chances of landing a job while also preserving your own security.
The tips above should keep you out of trouble while keeping you in the good graces of any potential employers. Here's a final summary of things to keep in mind as you prepare your federal resume and apply for government-related jobs:
- If you're a U.S. citizen, list your right to work as "Citizenship: United States."
- If you're not a U.S. citizen but have a work visa, list the country of your citizenship followed by the visa you hold (for example, H-1B).
- Limit your responses on security clearance to a "yes" or "no" answer, except in actual interviews.
- Don't list your exact level of security clearance in a resume you post to an online database.
- Never inflate your claims about your level of clearance, even if you're being vague about details.
- On a federal resume, list your right-to-work info and clearance (yes or no only) at the top. On a traditional resume, list this info at the bottom.
In short, it's fine to be specific about your right to work, but security clearance is a sensitive issue. If you're not sure what the current regulations say about who you can share your clearance with, contact the agency that provided the clearance before you go into an interview, and confirm who you're allowed to share the clearance with, at what point in the interview process, and how much detail you're allowed to reveal. Stay on the safe side, and your federal job search should go smoothly.
Federal Resumes: Ten Tips for Success — Helpful article covering differences between federal and traditional resumes, and how to make yours shine.
Create Your Federal Resume — Clear side-by-side comparison between federal and traditional resumes.
Preparing for the Security Clearance Interview — Points to consider when discussing security clearance in interviews.