Whether you're filling one out for the first time or returning to it again, SF-86 is a document most clearance-holders dread. SF-86 is long, detailed, and can be very frustrating. It's important to make the process as easy as you can; you don't want to just make the form less of a headache, it's critical that you keep it error-free. Clearancejobs.com recently put up four excellent tips on filling out SF-86, so check them out below and the ordeal will seem much less daunting.
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1) Prepare: Information on SF-86 is widely available, so make sure you figure out what documents you're going to need before filling it out. If you don't gather all of your documents beforehand, a process that could take a few hours might instead take a few days. Keep information in mind like whether or not you've flown out of the country recently, all of your previous residences, and a list of your former bosses.
2) It's Okay to Estimate Dates: Unless you have a memory like a steel trap or happen to keep a detailed record of your life, you're most likely going to forget specific dates. Understand that it's okay to estimate this information: even if you don't remember the day, the month will suffice. Just remember not to lie – the goal is to be as accurate as possible, so don't try to fill in the blanks or fabricate information because it feels right.
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3) Read Carefully: When you're reading each question, make sure you know precisely what it's asking you and answer only that question. Pay attention to words about timing and phrases like, "have you ever," or, "in the past 7 years." It might be frustrating to mince words, but it'll save you and the OPM a lot of time if you answer questions correctly.
4) Keep Hardcopies of All Records: Never assume that information just happens to be on hand or is floating around somewhere on your computer. If you keep all important documents in one place, your preparation will go a lot more smoothly and your answers will be much more accurate.
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