21 Cleared Recruitment Terms You Need to Know

Feb 29, 2024

Starting out in the cleared recruitment field can be overwhelming, and full of complex terms and phrases. It might seem like you’re trying to understand a secret language, from finding candidates to getting them started in their new jobs. But once you get to know the latest terms used in the industry, everything becomes clearer.

We’ve put together a list of these technical terms to help both job seekers and employers. This guide will make it easier for everyone to find their way into the cleared job market.

1. Security Clearance:

A security clearance is similar to a background check. It is crucial for people recruited by the United States government or any company that handles national security material. The security clearance procedure ensures that you may access, manage, and protect classified information securely. There are many levels of security clearances. It is typically awarded to federal employees, individuals working in federal government agencies, and private contractors who work for the government. This extensive process examines your criminal background, credit history, personal conduct, and other facts to determine you are “reliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character, and loyal to the United States”

  • Confidential Clearance: Access to information that has been declared confidential but not classified is allowed at the confidential clearance level. Individuals with this level of clearance usually have access to sensitive, but not highly classified, material. The holder of this clearance has limited access to confidential information and secure federal sites. The confidential clearance will be re-investigated every 15 years.
  • Interim Clearance: An Interim Clearance, also known as Interim Eligibility is issued temporarily based on the completion of minimum investigation requirements for the final clearance. Interim Secret or Top Secret is granted by the issuing authority within 5-10 days after a properly completed SF86 form.
  • Secret Clearance: A secret clearance grants access to sensitive data that, if exposed without approved authorization, could jeopardize national security. Every 10 years, the secret clearance should be re-investigated.
  • Top-Secret Clearance: Top-secret clearance allows access to some of the nation’s most sensitive intelligence and operations data. Top secret clearance is issued on a need-to-know basis to only those with secret clearances. Top Secret clearance grants access to extremely sensitive and highly classified facilities and information, which, if released, could put national security at risk. The top-secret clearance must be re-investigated every five years.
  • Q Clearance: Q clearance, also known as Q access authorization, is a security clearance required by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) for access to Top Secret Restricted Data (TSRD), Formerly Restricted Data (FRD), National Security Information (NSI), and Secret Restricted Data. Restricted Data (RD) is specified in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to include nuclear weapons and related materials. DOE clearances are related to access to atomic or nuclear-related materials, while Q Clearance is equivalent to a top-secret clearance from the United States Department of Defense.

2. Special Access Program (SAP)

A Special Access Program is created that places stricter safeguarding and access criteria than are typically necessary for information of the same classification level, for a particular class of classified material. SAPs use the standard levels of classified information: top secret, secret, and confidential. SAPs also require an assigned codeword and the identification of special handling procedures. Special Access Program covers SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information) and Polygraphs.

  • SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information): SCI or Sensitive Compartmented Information is a type of security clearance that provides access to all the intelligence information and materials that require special access, known as Artifacts. A Top Secret clearance does not qualify a person for SCI access; instead, a person must undergo a rigorous SSBI (Single Scope Background Investigation) to become eligible for SCI Access. SCI information is stored in SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility)/Special Access Program Facility that is specially constructed to safeguard SCI and highly sensitive information.
  • Polygraphs: Polygraphs are a type of Special Access that determines an individual’s eligibility for special assignments or access to critically sensitive information. Government-approved personnel security polygraph programs oversee the administration of polygraph exams, carried out exclusively by trained and certified government examiners. There are three types of polygraphs: Counterintelligence Polygraph (CI Poly), Lifestyle Polygraph (LS Poly), and Full Scope Polygraph (FS Poly).
    • Counterintelligence Polygraph: A Counterintelligence Polygraph (CI polygraph) is a type of polygraph test used to evaluate an individual’s trustworthiness and loyalty to the United States, especially for security clearance purposes. The test covers topics such as Sabotage against the United States, Unauthorized Foreign contacts, or Unauthorized disclosure of classified materials.
    • Lifestyle Polygraph: A Lifestyle Polygraph is a type of test used to evaluate an individual’s suitability for accessing highly sensitive information that can jeopardize national security. It comprehensively examines personal and professional aspects, such as Involvement in serious crime, involvement with drugs in the past 7 years, and deliberate falsification of security forms.
    • Full Scope Polygraph: A Full Scope Polygraph exam combines the Counterintelligence and Lifestyle polygraph exams.

3. Background Check

Employment verifications are a central part of recruitment. They usually involve details related to the candidate’s job history, as well as academic credentials, criminal records, and other vital particulars. To ensure that the background check is complete and thorough, it might also be important to look at some other vital details, like the licenses and certifications held, the driving records, and credit reports (if necessary), apart from any references presented by the job applicant.

4. AI Recruitment

Traditional recruitment involves sourcing, screening, and selecting candidates, which may be time-consuming and expensive. Recruiters often encounter obstacles such as filtering through a high volume of resumes, identifying the most suitable candidates, and maintaining communication with applicants. AI recruiting solutions seek to address these issues by automating and augmenting critical elements of the recruitment process. Artificial intelligence can also be utilized to conduct remote assessments and interviews. Online tests, video interviews, and virtual reality simulations can help assess candidates’ technical capabilities, cognitive ability, and cultural fit without requiring in-person contact.

5. Candidate Screening Process

The candidate screening process is an important step in recruitment, in which potential applicants are carefully assessed to establish their suitability for a given job vacancy. This procedure has multiple stages, beginning with the review of resumes or job applications. Recruiters review these documents to find candidates whose qualifications, skills, and experience match the job requirements. Successful candidates proceed to the interview stage, where they speak with recruiting managers or participate in panel interviews. These conversations help employers learn more about candidates’ experiences and qualifications for the role.

6. Reverse Recruiting

Reverse recruiting, also known as reverse headhunting, is an approach that job searchers use to contact potential employers, and it is common in the technological industry. Candidates take a proactive approach to introducing themselves to firms where they want to work. The purpose of reverse recruiting is for candidates to demonstrate their value proposition to potential employers—how they can help the firm succeed and solve its business problems. By being proactive in their job hunt, candidates boost their visibility to employers and discover openings that may not be listed publicly.

7. ATS

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are software platforms that help organizations and hiring managers manage their recruitment processes more efficiently. These tools streamline a variety of hiring operations, including advertising job vacancies, managing candidate applications, and tracking their progress through the hiring pipeline. ATS platforms also help recruiters communicate with candidates by allowing them to schedule interviews, issue automated email notifications, and track communications all within the system. This centralized communication ensures that everyone involved in the employment process is informed and up-to-date.

8. Facility Clearance

A facility clearance is a classification issued by DCSA (Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency) to a specific facility indicating that it has met certain security requirements and has been allowed to handle classified information or sensitive materials. Facility clearance requires thorough security assessments, background investigations, and strict adherence to specific security regulations. It ensures that sensitive data is protected from theft, unauthorized access, and disclosure by putting in place the necessary security measures and limiting access to classified material to authorized individuals only.

9. Cognizant Security Agency

The phrase “Cognizant Security Agency” (CSA) often refers to a government agency in charge of supervising and managing security clearances for organizations or contractors working for the government. In the United States, for example, the Department of Defense (DoD) functions as the Cognizant Security Agency for various kinds of federal contracts and programs. Some responsibilities of CSA include Monitoring and auditing security practices, Conducting security clearance investigations, Managing the transfer and safeguarding of classified information, Serving as a point of contact for security-related inquiries, etc.

10. SF-86 Form

The SF-86 form, officially known as the “Questionnaire for National Security Positions,” is a standard document used by the United States government to conduct background checks on anyone seeking access to classified information or sensitive positions. It is an important step in the security clearance procedure. The SF-86 form’s primary function is to collect detailed data about an individual’s background, including personal, employment, educational, and financial history. Typically, individuals requesting a security clearance must fill out the SF-86 form either electronically or on paper. The completed form is delivered to the appropriate government agency or contractor responsible for conducting background checks.

11. Adjudication

Adjudication is the formal process of assessing the findings of a background check to evaluate an individual’s eligibility for access to classified information or sensitive positions. Trained adjudicators examine all collected data, including the SF-86 form, interviews, and other paperwork. They evaluate the individual’s suitability, trustworthiness, and dependability using specified standards and procedures. Security issues, such as criminal behavior or foreign influence, are taken into account, as are mitigating aspects such as rehabilitation or a steady employment history. Adjudicators consider all aspects of an individual’s background before drawing a fair conclusion, which may include granting, refusing, or limiting a security clearance. This procedure assures uniformity, and fairness, and safeguards national security interests.

12. Polygraph Examination

The Polygraph Test is also referred to as a “Lie Detector Test.” It is a procedure that observes a variety of physiological indications, such as pulse, blood pressure, breathing, and skin conductivity, to determine whether a person is lying when asked a series of questions. The polygraph test works on the idea that any untruthful responses stimulate different physiological reactions than non-deceptive answers.

13. Facility Security Officer

A Facility Security Officer (FSO) is an individual who is responsible for supervising the security program and ensuring compliance with government regulations related to the protection of classified information. An FSO’s role is to oversee sensitive or secret information, such as that of defense contractors, government agencies, or firms working on classified projects.

14. Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA)

The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) is the largest security agency within the US Department of Defense (DoD). It oversees personnel supervision, technology protection, and counterintelligence, and provides training, education, and certification. DCSA conducts investigations using various methods to gather information about individuals. This information helps adjudicators decide if someone is eligible for access to classified information, civilian work, or specific positions, credentials, and facilities within the Department of Defense.

15. Favourable Adjudication

A favorable adjudication is an extremely important milestone for persons seeking security clearances because it allows them access to classified information and offers up options for employment or assignments requiring such credentials. It demonstrates the effective completion of the thorough background investigation procedure as well as the individual’s compliance with security standards and criteria.

16. Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement (SF312)

Non-Disclosure Agreement, Standard Form 312, No individual may access classified information unless they have signed a Standard Form (SF) 312, a Classified Information Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), and a security clearance in line with DoD 5200.2-R. Access must also be necessary to carry out a legitimate and authorized government function.

17. Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)

CUI refers to sensitive information that is not classified as classified national security information but still requires safeguarding to prevent unauthorized access, dissemination, or loss; in other words, a category of information controlled by the U.S. government that is sensitive but not classified. There are 2 types of CUI (based on how data is handled): specific and basic. It includes controlled technical information (CTI), personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), sensitive personally identifiable information (SPII), proprietary business information (PBI) or confidential business information (CBI), unclassified information sensitive but unclassified (SBU), for official use only (FOUO), law enforcement sensitive (LES), organizational information, and any other personal information.

18. Federal Contract Information (FCI)

FCI represents data that is not publicly available and can be obtained by a contractor on behalf of a US federal agency. This sensitive information is frequently utilized within the government and its contractor services. FCI covers a wide range of data, including detailed procurement strategies, exact contract agreements, specific technical specifications, advanced research data, comprehensive financial information, and vital policy directions. The sensitivity levels of this information might vary significantly with potentially far-reaching consequences if not handled correctly.

19. Controlled Access Program (CAP)

A specialized program governing access to particularly sensitive or compartmented information. Controlled Access Programs guide the management of CAPs and define CAP as “a top-level control system and any compartment or sub-compartment under that control system.” Within the intelligence community, the topmost level within a CAP structure is called a control system. The Director of National Intelligence approved programs that come under CAP to protect national intelligence, namely:

  • Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) refers to compartments that secure national intelligence sources, methods, or methods of analysis.
  • Special Access Programs (SAPs): About intelligence activities (including special activities, but excluding military, operational, strategic, and tactical programs) and intelligence sources and methods.
  • Restricted Collateral Information: Other than Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) and Special Access Programs (SAPs) that impose controls governing access to national intelligence or control procedures beyond those normally provided for access to CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, or TOP SECRET information, and for which funding is specifically identified.

20. Security Clearance Sponsorship:

Security clearance sponsorship is a process facilitated by Corporations, the military, and the U.S. government for an individual’s application for a security clearance. This typically involves the employer initiating and guiding the candidate through the security clearance application process, which can be complex and time-consuming. Some of the most common sponsors of security clearances include DoD (Department of Defense), DoS (Department of State), DoJ (Department of Justice), DHS (Department of Homeland Security), DoE (Department of Energy), DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), OPM (Office of Personnel Management). Each federal agency has its security clearance issuing authority and background check standards.

21. Security Cleared Recruitment Firm:

A security-cleared recruiting firm is a company that hires people with security clearances for positions in government agencies, defense contractors, or other organizations that require access to classified material. These organizations often specialize in matching people with the required level of security clearance to job openings that require such clearances, accelerating the hiring process for both employers and job seekers in sensitive industries.

Cleared Recruitment is a complex domain, our dedicated and experienced team here at iQuasar has an in-depth knowledge of this domain and its terminology and will guide you through the complex process of Cleared Recruitment that you need to succeed in the federal marketplace. Please feel free to reach out to us, and we can set up a call to discuss your company’s specific needs.

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