Questionnaire for Non-Sensitive Positions
December 28, 2010 1:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm filling in a background-check form for a US government job--Questionnaire for Non-Sensitive Positions--and I'm confused. Help!

I think this is less stringent than an actual security clearance, because I won't be working with secret information (but I'll be working in a secure building). The form is confusing, and there's no one to answer my questions, so I hope someone will know what to do!

1. I lived in the same place more than once in the last 5 years (eg. in college and at my parents' house). How should I list the dates? If I list them multiple times, must I list different people who knew me during each time I lived at the same place? (There's only space for one start date and one end date for each address.)

2. For some places I lived, I don't have the address of anyone I still know. (At the college I attended briefly and then left, I don't still know anyone, and they've all moved anyway.) Should I pretend I didn't live there, and stayed at my other address in the same city? (I'd like to avoid lying if possible; technically it's a felony.)

3. Will the investigators necessarily contact all the people on the form? (If so, why don't they want phone numbers?) Should I ask people's permission before listing them, in case they don't want to go through tedious questioning?

4. For times that I was in school, should I list myself as unemployed, or as a student with the school as my employer? (I have been unemployed both while in school and out of school.)

Also, if there's some other source of information that would help me, please let me know. (The Office of Personnel Management website certainly doesn't help.) Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (9 answers total)
My answers are for an SF-86 rather than an SF-85, but I think they're pretty similar in terms of how they want the info...

1. I had to list each one separately because the form specifically requested chronological order, so home/college/home/college etc., but i was able to use the same people as references for each repeat instance.

2. Do not lie or omit. Full stop. The investigators will understand that people lose touch, and they will work with you to get the data they need. But if they find out that you are being less than honest, it's game over. If you don't have the requested info, put " UNKNOWN."

3. Not necessarily everyone, and many times they knock on doors instead of calling. Also be prepared for them to contact people that you didn't list, that they find on their own. And sure, ask for permission if you want, but no guarantee they won't be contacted regardless, even if you don't list them.

4. School is school, and employment is employment. IIRC, there's a detailed "education" section to cover your school attendance. Limit the employment to your actual jobs -- otherwise they might call your school's HR dept, and wonder why they have no record of you working there.

Best of luck!
posted by somanyamys at 2:04 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

3. For some non-sensitive positions they don't even call, never mind knock on doors. All they did was send a few people from my list a postcard/form that asked similar questions regarding how long they'd known me, how long/when I lived in a certain location, etc. This was for a student position my last semester of grad school (which was for a mid-life career change so I had a lot of life history to try to remember). Funnily enough it took them so freaking long that by the time my friends got the form, never mind sent it back, I had about 2 weeks left at my job. It may be that they were less stringent for student positions, but I did have to fill out the form.

Also I would concur, do not omit or lie. I had to recount about 20+ years of work and I've the longest I've ever worked anywhere was 5 years. Half the time I couldn't remember what my supervisor's name was, let alone what my salary was. And when I couldn't, that's what I wrote (that I could not remember and if it was for salary, I gave an estimate, and identified it as such). Fill in the form honestly and to the best of your ability.
posted by kaybdc at 2:28 PM on December 28, 2010

3. I've been contacted as a reference for several people getting various levels of clearance. The requests ranged from simply having to fill out and return a form all the way up to a 30-minute face-to-face interview at my house with a federal agent.

The former was for a nurse who'd be working on a military base, so I'd guess that would likely be closer to what you could expect.
posted by tomwheeler at 2:45 PM on December 28, 2010

For an SF-85, they're not going to do much more than check various criminal/immigration/etc databases for your name and run a credit check. If nothing surprising shows up, they won't bother to call or visit references. They file your form in case they need it later.

If you know of something that's going to pop up on the NAC (database search), put it on the form with an explanation where there is an appropriate question. They do not want lies or surprises. Other than that, just do your best - not knowing all the answers is not going to cost you your clearance.
posted by ctmf at 3:04 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and 1: list them separately. Fill in the same references as before if you want to, just don't leave them blank. 4: unemployed is easier.
posted by ctmf at 3:06 PM on December 28, 2010

Agree that 1) each time you moved home during college is a separate residence (this was really long for me, but the investigator appreciated the thoroughness). Also, if there's a space where you can add comments/rationales, list each length of school time as "unemployed" and add a comment that you were in school full-time.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:50 PM on December 28, 2010

I was put through that same wringer for a project I worked on with the VA back in 2006. To the best of my knowledge they never contacted a single person; I suspect cfmf is dead-on here.

I'd list multiple items if you lived in the same place multiple different times. You're trying to create a chronology here for the person reading the form to follow. Redundancy is dull for you but easy for them to follow.

If you don't have certain information for someone I'd simply put "unknown" or use the last known address you have for them.

Omit nothing if it's asked for. Extra details are dull. Missing/incorrect details are suspicious.
posted by phearlez at 4:15 PM on December 28, 2010

Protip: copy your completed form before turning it in and stash the copy wherever you keep your birth cert kind of stuff. You will want to give yourself a big fat hug when you have to do a periodic recert or go for an upgrade and it saves you from going through that PITA again.

Learnt the hard way.
posted by ctmf at 4:28 PM on December 28, 2010

3. I've been contacted as a reference for several people getting various levels of clearance. The requests ranged from simply having to fill out and return a form all the way up to a 30-minute face-to-face interview at my house with a federal agent.

Concur. I've never had the show up and knock treatment, but definitely the long-ish interview. Maybe it depends on the investigator, or the ability of the investigator to cross check the reference. If you list Touchy from college and they can't get a history on him, they will probably want to "surprise" him at the address listed to make sure it is real.

For the most part, they are looking to make sure your answers line up with your friend's answers. Maybe a spot check of one or two of them to make sure they are real. All they are doing is making sure there you aren't some kind of criminal.

And yes: even if you ARE some kind of criminal, list it. They would rather hire someone who got busted for something minor and admitted to it, than someone who lies about traffic tickets.
posted by gjc at 6:24 PM on December 28, 2010

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