I worked for 4 months at my previous job, which I loved. It required a high security clearance that came in stages. I passed the first two and on the third check, concerns came to light and I was last minute asked to join a Zoom meeting on my day off. When I joined, I saw my boss and a lady who would later be introduced as HR. I was told I was terminated without cause effective immediately and I was, oddly enough, offered a severance worth my monthly pay. I was not full-time, and was relief/casual staff, so I covered when needed. I also didn't get benefits. They definitely didn't need to give me that severance, since it wasn't required. I believe this was done by my supervisor who was not responsible for terminating me. I believe it was letting me know I did a good job.

My question is, I have an interview soon for a job I have lots of experience in. This job only requires criminal background checks and vulnerable sector checks which I am accustomed to. No crazy high level security clearance here!

I don't know if I should tell them about my last job. It was only 4 months, and it didn't end well, so perhaps I should just leave it and not include it on my resume and not bring it up in my upcoming interview. What do you think?

Or do you think I should include it and discuss my termination if needed? I have no issue being honest and telling them exactly why. I don't think this should be an issue with perspective employers since I'll never have another job that requires such a crazy SEEP security clearance.


They did tell me I could get a reference letter from them for the future, and I'm sure if I gave my supervisor as a contact she would have great things to say about me.

That job would add a lot to my resume, as I have a lot of the same experience. The last job was not my typical thing. So, for that alone, maybe it's worth while including. Does including a job of 4 months seem ridiculous to anyone?

I'm in Canada if that matters.

  • 14
    Do you expect any negative outcome when you just tell them what you told us?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Mar 27 at 8:47
  • 3
    If you were terminated without cause, are you 100% sure it was due to the third clearance check? If not, why not just say “I was terminated without cause, but I could ask for a recommendation if desired”.
    – Didier L
    Commented Mar 27 at 23:10
  • 2
    Did they say why were you terminated?
    – ventsyv
    Commented Mar 28 at 18:06
  • How can 'without cause' not include security clearance? Commented Mar 31 at 19:31

4 Answers 4


I don't know if I should tell them about my last job.

You don't need to say anything about your last job unless the interviewers ask you.

If they ask you, then tell them the truth.

Simple as that.

You should still list this job on your resume.

If the interviewers ask about the last job, then you can tell them that you have never had any issue with common background check with other jobs. But, for the last job, checking for "high level security clearance" is quite different. They will understand the complexity of checking for high level security clearance. No worry.

  • 15
    After all, you can be denied clearance for things that have nothing to do with you (like a reference not submitting their paperwork on time, or having a close relative that relocated to a less-than-friendly nation). Most any employer should understand that jobs requiring security clearance are a completely different world.
    – bta
    Commented Mar 27 at 22:09
  • 6
    Denied clearance can just mean someone else screwed up and your application expired. They're not going to give you any details because they do not want people to game the system, but they err on the side of caution. I failed a security clearance at a government job application and the reason they gave was they couldn't find my name... I was like "Uh, here's my passport and driver's license. I have schooling records since Grade 3, and lived in the country for about 20 years and paid taxes since high-school." but nope, couldn't fix it, so i just dropped it.
    – Nelson
    Commented Mar 28 at 1:55
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    @Nelson Just dropping it is bad advice. There actually is something you can do about it, and that's hire a lawyer who specializes in clearance issues. They will go through the appeals process. Denial of a security clearance can be a black mark on future federal and contractor jobs.
    – user71659
    Commented Mar 28 at 15:50
  • 1
    @user71659 True. But if you actually received that kind of denial, you will receive a written notice informing you of the reason for the denial and your right to appeal it. Most likely, this isn't a real formal denial of a properly-applied-for clearance. Commented Mar 29 at 18:05

Since you have left on good terms with your manager and with a reference in hand, there is no reason to exclude the job from your CV.

If it was a relief/casual role anyway, then people might expect this to be short-term.

It's not clear from your question whether you actually know the reason why you've been refused a national security clearance, and whether that reason is non-prejudicial.

It's worth noting as well that a security clearance is often position-specific, and a refusal in relation to one position does not necessarily imply what the outcome would be in another.

If you are asked at a future interview, or decide to broach the subject at interview pre-emptively, and if you're not dealing with someone familiar with national security vetting processes, then I would be prepared to briefly explain that national security clearances can be refused for many mundane reasons including your network of family and friends, the background of your parents, travel history and time out of the country, and various other reasons.

I would also use as gentle language as possible, such as saying you "couldn't gain" a clearance and therefore "couldn't continue" in the role which required it, rather than that you "failed" the check, that it "raised concerns", or that you were "terminated".

The picture you want to paint is that security vetting processes move in mysterious ways, not that you are a confirmed concern to national security!

Other than these points, I think you will be fine just explaining in the same manner as you have in your question.

  • 1
    +1 for the examples you give for "use as gentle language as possible".
    – Keiji
    Commented Mar 28 at 13:45
  • Yes, simply stating it was a "short-term contract" seems reasonable. Commented Mar 28 at 16:10
  • Another +1 for the language examples. Sounds a lot better than the way it was phrased in the original question. Commented Mar 28 at 19:08

People on this website are so downvote-happy... I think this is a fine question, if a little bit of an overthought one. I agree with Job_September_2020's answer and think you should follow that advice, but wanted to add my own thoughts:

As they said, high level security clearance is a very different beast. No one is going to judge you for failing it, so you shouldn't be afraid of prospective employers finding out about it. Because of that, I think you should absolutely list your role and what you did while there on your resume and talk about it in interviews when relevant. It sounds like you had a great experience and excelled while you were there, which is the type of experience that can really boost your prospects in an interview. And definitely take up your supervisor on the reference letter. Could be a real feather in your cap.

You don't have to explain why you were terminated unprompted - any company that cares about how short it was will ask, and then you should be upfront. Won't be a big deal.

  • To enhance this answer for a potential clearance-ignorant interviewer, I point at this washington post article (behind a paywall, which I did not breach) which appears to suggest a 16% False Positive rate (aka every ~1 in 6 people get rejected incorrectly). This should help assuage concerns of an interviewer should you be asked (unclear if poly was what was failed, but the concept is the same). washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2006/05/01/… Commented Mar 28 at 18:32

These things happen sometimes. During the third stage, something showed up that was clearly not your fault, but did create a possible risk. One example I heard about was a guy with close relatives in an area where KGB could find them easily,and attempt to blackmail or coerce him. The investigating agency did not want to put him at risk for that, so they denied the clearance.

The key is that YOU DID NOTHING WRONG. If you'd done something bad, you'd be the guest of honor in a VERY ugly investigation. You aren't.

List the job. If they ask, tell them: The job required a special clearance. During the investigation, I was found to be ineligible for that clearance. It happens sometimes.

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