Good behavior – right thing to do – but also critical for passing company background checks.

Even after you receive and accept an employment offer from a company, your evaluation is not necessarily complete.  Almost all offers are contingent upon completing a background check and drug test.  Companies will check your driving record, criminal record, possibly your credit report, and conduct a drug test.  You have to pass the background check.

While this is not a problem for 99% of  JMOs , I felt it was important to write this to inform others about the importance of background checks.  Companies have a lot of choices in the market today. They want the perfect candidate, and a less than clean background could cause them to rescind an offer.

Here are some recommendations to ensure smooth sailing through a background check.

1.  Keep your driving record clean.  The number one mistake I see JMOs make is to have too many speeding tickets.  This is a big deal for companies that provide a car.  They have strict driving record standards, and if the position comes with a car you have to meet those standards.  Keep a light foot and keep your future options open.

2.  Alcohol related incidents.  The next common mistake has to do with incidents related to alcohol.  It could be a DUI or disorderly conduct.  I know the military has high standards as well, so hopefully between the military and understanding the importance of a clean record, people will be smart about how, when, and with whom they consume alcohol.

3.  Passing the drug test.  I have never heard of a JMO failing a drug test for having drugs in the system, but I once heard of someone failing the test for alcohol in the system.  I don’t know the whole story, but apparently the person drank (I don’t know how much) at a party the night before a scheduled drug test.  This seems innocent, but I personally would not put anything but food and good water in me the day before a test.  Showing up to a drug test with alcohol in your system indicates that you could show up to work with alcohol still in your system.  Obviously, not an impression you want to make.

4.  Full disclosure.  We all make mistakes – and some make big ones and they get on their record.  Most mistakes, however, will not follow you and damage you forever.  The key is to answer background check or application questions directly, giving full information.  Do not try to hide anything or evade questions, because the company will eventually find out.  If you are unsure about how to answer a question appropriately on an application , ask your recruiting firm or an employment lawyer.  I can’t recall any candidates who fully disclosed any background issue from the beginning, not passing a background check.

5.  Mistaken identity can also create a problem.  Usually this  can be cleared up, but it can cause some unnerving moments and delays.  Protect your identity. There are lots of reasons to protect against identity theft, just consider this another one.

6.  Ensure your undergraduate and graduate (if applicable) degrees have “Degree Conferred” or some other statement proving you completed your coursework and earned your degree.  To ensure they get the right people applying for positions, companies include the requirement of a degree in job descriptions.  Therefore, legally they can only hire people who have that degree.  I know this may be hard to believe, but I see about 5 academic transcripts a year without an indication of “Degree Conferred” on them.  This is usually an oversight by the school and can be rectified.  However, it is so much easier to take care of this by getting several copies of your official transcript verifying you earned your degree, before you start your career search.  Typically official transcripts have a seal or stamp from the university and are not those you print from the Internet.

Once again, this is not an issue for most JMOs. But it is important to understand the necessity of continuing to be a model leader, fully disclosing your background on an application, and getting the necessary documentation to pass a background check.

Joel Junker