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The Riley Guide

The Riley Guide: Resumes & Cover Letters

Noting Your "Right-to-Work" and
Security Clearance on Your Resume

I received the following question via email:

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I have seen a lot of ads recently which ask about "the right to work in the U.S." There are also a number of jobs asking about security clearances. Where do you put that information on a resume? Or should it go in the cover letter? Help!
What an employer is asking is are you a U.S citizen or do you hold a current visa which permits you to work here legally. (Not all visas include the right to work.) Many employers want to know your eligibility up front as they are not prepared to sponsor persons requiring visas.

If you are not currently eligible to work in the U.S., do not claim that you are! All persons 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.

I contacted two friends for comment. One is an expert on resumes for the U.S. Government and one is an expert in privacy issues. Their responses differ greatly and depend entirely on who's asking the question, especially where security clearances are concerned. I have reached certain conclusions based on their responses, but you should also read what they had to say for yourself.

Jobs with the U.S. Government

Kathryn Troutman, Author of Ten Steps to a Federal Job and noted expert on Federal resumes.

If applying for a job with the U.S. Government, your "Federal Resume" (and there is a specific format they use) should include your Social Security Number, Citizenship, Veteran's Preference or years in the military service, past federal job experience (if any) and security clearances (or date of your last clearance). This information should be listed in at the top of page one of your resume. This information should be clearly listed after your name, address, phones and email, like this:
  • Social Security Number: 000-00-0000
  • Citizenship: U.S.
  • Veteran's Preference or Military Experience: Vietnam Era Veteran
  • Federal Experience: N/A
  • Clearance: N/A
If you have no military experience, federal job experience or clearance, then you could write N/A. That way the personnelist will not look for the information, they will know immediately how you stand with this info.

When applying for positions with the Federal government, this important information should be listed in the resume, not the cover letter. Many federal recruiting professionals will not consider a cover letter as part of your qualifications. If your resume starts to go "long" because of this added information, don't worry. A federal resume is typically 2 to 4 pages; rather than the private industry expected length of 1 to 2 pages.

Note from Margaret: Anyone applying for a job with the U.S. Government must include their Social Security Number. It is required by law (Executive Order 9397), and yes, the Feds can and will ask you to provide this information up front. Let's face it, they aren't just any employer.

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Keep that Clearance Secure

Susan Joyce, author of and expert in online privacy

With security clearances, you'd really need to know what the appropriate "current regs" say. I'd be very cautious about sharing this information in a resume or cover letter (even though I've seen it done) since improperly disclosing that information could result in the loss of the clearance.

In the "old days", you were supposed to report to the FBI anyone who asked you about your security clearance, particularly if you had one above secret. You were definitely not supposed to be advertising that you had a clearance or what level clearance you had. It was the quickest way to have your clearance jerked.

There are also several different kinds of clearances - DoD, CIA, FBI, DoE, etc. And having a high DoD clearance doesn't mean that someone would be cleared by the CIA, FBI... They don't "transfer" from one to another.

In the current environment, I'd think that having a security clearance is, again, very sensitive. Obviously, for some jobs, you would be eliminated from consideration if you didn't have one. I might include a statement to the effect that information about a security clearance would be provided on an "appropriate need-to-know basis." In the civilian "spook" world, a reference to "having appropriate tickets punched" might be the proper lingo.

But, I would not be specific about agency or level, not even in a cover letter to that agency. Show respect for the clearance, follow the appropriate agency's regulations, and keep the clearance.

Note from Margaret: If you are applying for a job with the U.S. Government or with one of the thousands of government contractors supplying or serving the government, listing the fact that you have a clearance is good, but do so only when requested and then hold the specifics (level of clearance and agency) for the interview.

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Margaret's Recommendations

Based on what Kathy and Susan have said, along with what I have seen in some resumes, I recommend the following if you are asked about your Right-to-Work and possible Security Clearances.
  • Include this information only when it is specifically requested.
  • Do not list your right-to-work or security clearance on resumes you plan to post in general online databases. The exception is those sites that cater specifically to candidates who hold these certifications, but do your research and verify that they properly protect the privacy of registered users of the site (, for example.) If you are submitting your resume to a specific employer or recruiter who requested this information, then list it, but be cautious about listing this in resumes that you cannot control.
  • Never disclose what kind of security clearance you have nor the level of your clearance except in an interview. Just note the fact that you have a security clearance by a simple listing: SECURITY CLEARANCE: Yes. The details will be discussed during that interview. And remember that information you provide will be verified, so this is definitely not the place to "inflate" your qualification.
  • For non-Federal resumes, your right-to-work information and Security Clearance appear at the end of the resume after your employment history, education, and other relevant sections but before the "references provided on request" statement.
  • For Citizens of the United States, list your right-to-work information as CITIZENSHIP: United States.
  • For non-citizens of the U.S. who currently hold a work visa for this country, list the country of your citizenship followed by the visa you hold (H-1B, etc.), so
    CITIZENSHIP: Country
    U.S. VISA: H-1B

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