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Could you pass a background investigation?

You probably know that many positions - including internships - require the applicant to pass an initial drug test and to pass future random drug testing once employed.
But you might not have known that it's common for employers to do background checks on job candidates to evaluate their "character, trustworthiness, honesty, reliability, discretion, and soundness of judgment"* and to identify potential safety and security risks. Potential government and defense industry employees must be able to obtain and maintain a security clearance, and a background investigation is essential.

It's important to know that even though you may interview successfully and receive and accept a job offer that is conditional upon passing a background investigation, if you fail the required background investigation, your offer will be withdrawn or [if already employed pending clearance] your employment will be terminated.

U.S. Citizenship is required for all defense-related employment, whether in government or private industry. Even if you are a U.S. citizen, if you are a dual citizen of another country, hold a foreign passport (valid or not), or have close relatives who live in a foreign country, you will not be eligible for security clearance.

As part of the background investigation for security clearance, your friends, neighbors, employers and other associates will be interviewed about your past behavior and asked to evaluate your suitability for a position of trust. Make sure they know this is serious so you don't find yourself in the situation of a recent graduate whose roommate thought the whole thing was a joke and made [incorrect] statements that cost the candidate's job.
In addition, your past employment history, credit score, current and past financial circumstances, and criminal history will be investigated for security clearance and may be investigated by non-government employers as well.
Can you honestly say "yes" to the following questions?
I am not currently 90 days or more delinquent on any debt.
I have never been 180 days delinquent on any debt.
I have not recently used illegal drugs.
I do not have a pattern of alcohol-related incidents.
I am not an unlawful user of, or addicted to, a controlled substance.
I have never been convicted of a crime for which I was sentenced and jailed or imprisoned for more than 1 year.
I have not been dishonorably discharged from any branch of service.
If you can't answer affirmatively, you are not likely to pass a government background investigation, and you should not pursue any employment that requires security clearance.
*From the SPAWAR "Security Issues" handout

"Bring the past only if you are going to build from it."
-Doménico Cieri Estrada

Authored by Rosemary Hill.