Tips for Filling out Employment Activities on the SF-86

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There are lots of questions on this site from security clearance applicants regarding what or how to list employment activities in Section 13A on the SF-86. The more accurate and thorough you are, the easier it is for investigators and records custodians to verify the information and check the block. That in turn helps speed…

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Good advise, but I would like to add a few additional suggestions -

  1. If you work a summer job in the summer of 2015, Summer 2016, and Summer 2017, do not list that you worked at this job from May 2015 to August 2017. You worked at this job from May 2015 to August 2015, May 2016 to August 2016, and May 2017 to August 2017 WITH periods of UNEMPLOYMENT from August 2015 to May 2016 and August 2016 to May 2017. You can list these 3 periods of employment with the same employer as 3 separate employment items or utilize the “additional periods of employment” option within the employment item.

  2. If you are a 1099 employee with any company, you are SELF-EMPLOYED. When self-employed, list a verifier who actually has direct knowledge of your self-employment (i.e. customer, client, not your best friend whom you never did work for/with).

  3. Do not check that you are a state employee if you are a city/local government employee.

  4. Do not list someone you have never met as your supervisor (i.e. a random person in HR).

  5. If you work for a temp agency, list the TEMP AGENCY as your employer. The company you are placed at is the Job Location.

  6. If unemployed, list a person who you actually saw while unemployed who can account for your activities during this period of your life. Do not list the random man/lady at the unemployment office.

I am sure there is more, but that is all I can think of now.

And my final PSA, listing correct employment information is especially important for the Tier 1-3 cases where you might not ever meet with an investigator. Letters are sent to employers (on some of these case types) to verify your employment, this cannot be done if you list incorrect information. It will also delay the process if the letters are sent back undeliverable. It could also be a problem if the employer shows no record of your employment (because in reality you worked for a temp agency, for example). All these things DELAY background investigations. As for the T4/T5 cases, you will be able to clarify information to your BI, but if these employments are in different areas, an investigator might already be assigned the work before you ever get a chance to sit down with an investigator. That other investigator is then spinning their wheels searching for people who do not exist. Utilize the comment section if you need to explain some oddity in the employment.


First time applicant here. Does anyone add the tentative offer job that is the reason for the SF-86 as one of the entries under section 13? I know that all others and the current full time job need to be added. Thanks.

No. If you haven’t started, don’t list it.

Why would you list a job you are not legally employed at?

A tentative offer doesn’t mean anything beyond tentative; it also means that offer can be rescinded at any time.

I would also like to add: Do not list your jobs going back 20-30 years. Follow the instructions listed on the case papers, either 7 or 10 years. If they are auto filled from a previous form, delete employments that are out of scope/range. If it’s on the case papers it needs to be discussed. We don’t need to discuss how you were unemployed in 1964, or how you lived in CA in 1980 and worked in NY.


Several years ago I spent approximately 5 hours with a Subject trying to clarify 35 years of work and residential history (with some non-degree education). The Subject was a first time submitter and smugly told me at the beginning that since “we” wanted so much information, he filled out his form from 18 years old to "present’. The dates and locations for these activities did not align.I wasn’t happy and he certainly wasn’t happy at the end. Glad as a fed we don’t do this anymore.

This was the same knucklehead that didn’t believe me when I told him to get a conference room or private office because we were going to be several hours. We ended up in an oversized utility room with no table. Some Subject interviews you never forget.


You’re a trooper for dealing with no table. I hate when a Subject does that to me.

I had a bigwig at a DOE facility get hostile from the get-go, he had been through the process for years and he told me, we don’t have to go through each line of the SF-86, other investigators didn’t do that, he swears everything is accurate, his time is too valuable, it’s ridiculous I want so much of his time, on and on and on…

You already know the ending, of course the SF-86 wasn’t filled out correctly.


I have to say though, the most ridiculous Subject interview stories, at least for me, were when union reps were allowed to sit in.


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The union reps (IRS) didn’t bother me as I was able to maintain control during one interview. Call or email me sometime and I will tell you an amusing story about the local TEU president and I.

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Will do! I’m sure it is great!

What about situations where a previous employee’s HR department has policies in place where they only will verify your position, employment dates, salary, and hire date. They will not release any more information besides that even with my consent. Also the supervisor’s will not either.

Yes, for the love of god, UPDATE the dang form. Don’t just leave everything on it.

What people don’t understand is that if it’s listed, we have to discuss it. I’ve spent so much time fixing things and resolving discrepancies that do not matter, only because the subject left it on the form.

We don’t need to discuss your concurrent education and employment from 2001. Please save us both the time and hassle!

I recently had a subject say, when I asked why he omitted something from the form, something like:

Well, honestly I’ve had to fill this thing out so many times and honestly it’s all just such bs so I didn’t really care.

That attitude blows my mind!

Also it was his first clearance investigation ever.

I come across this a lot. Whatever information they provide is what is used to confirm the listed info. Company policy is what it is and investigators have to work within those bounds.

You should still list everything accurately on your end of course.

Ok thanks for the clarification. So if the previous employer’s HR department does have a policy in place where they and current supervisors are not to not disclose any further information on a past employee what does the investigator do then?

You seem worried.

Don’t try and steer your investigation, it can be seen as obstruction.

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Not worried at all, just trying to eliminate hold ups and delays with past employers once my E-quip is submitted.

Under the older SF-86, Section 22 (“Your Employment Record”), provided five (5) responses to the question, which were:

  1. “Fired from a job.”
  2. “Quit a job after being told you’d be fired.”
  3. “Left a job by mutual agreement following allegations of misconduct.”
  4. “Left a job by mutual agreement following allegations of unsatisfactory performance.”
  5. “Left a job for other reasons under unfavorable circumstances.”

But, with the current SF-86, the ‘old’ Section 22 (above) is no longer, and the newer Section 13A (“Employment Activities”) and Section 13C (“Employment Record”) now only has four (4) responses:

  1. “Fired from a job?”
  2. “Quit a job after being told you would be fired?”
  3. “Have you left a job by mutual agreement following charges or allegations of misconduct?”
  4. “Left a job by mutual agreement following notice of unsatisfactory performance?”

Why was the fifth response (“Left a job for other reasons under unfavorable circumstances”) removed?

The reason for asking is because for both the third and fourth responses for either allegations of misconduct or unsatisfactory performance, both specifically state “…by mutual agreement…” What does “by mutual agreement” specifically mean? Does it mean that your supervisor said, “you must quit, leave or resign”? OR, your supervisor said, “I’m not saying you’re gonna get fired, but I think you should resign”? OR, you ask, “Should I resign?” and your boss says, “Yes, I think you should quit.” And, to any of these, you in fact do quit/resign/leave your job? - do these constitute leaving a job “by mutual agreement”?

Because, if you were to specifically ask your boss, “Do you want me to leave/quit?” and your boss replies, “I cannot tell you to resign and I cannot tell you not to resign. You alone must make that decision.” Is that still leaving a job “by mutual agreement”? And if you were to leave “following allegations of misconduct," but it was NOT “by mutual agreement”, then how should one answer the reason for leaving question? How could one say they truly did leave “by mutual agreement” even though there may have been “unfavorable circumstances” to include “allegations of misconduct”, if your boss tells you “I cannot tell you to quit or stay”? Based on the SF-86 written question, I would still think the answer would still be “No.”

All of this is a matter of interpretation and won’t be seen the same way by all parties involved (employer, employee, investigator). Therefore, the best way to approach this is to get out in front of it and just be honest about the situation and the circumstances of leaving employment. Unless it involves employee misconduct it will not be an adjudicative concern for a clearance. Hiding or not disclosing information is definitely a concern.

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