Free Background Checks, Courtesy of the Military

Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. These three concepts have significant value and meaning to the savvy recruiter. I know I?ve written a lot in the past about the excellent character qualities of the military. In some articles, I?ve made some assertions based on my own experiences and provided anecdotal evidence about the military and its work ethic, character, integrity, etc. For some people, that?s all that is needed to encourage them to explore the world of hiring former military personnel. But for others, they want proof of why they should look to the military. This month, here?s the proof! And it comes in the form of security clearances. Security Clearances Many members of the military, particularly those who are considered to be in position of “trust,” are required to submit to a security clearance investigation as part of their work. This is no simple background check. In the words of the Defense Security Service, the agency within the Department of Defense that handles clearance investigations, “a personnel security investigation is an inquiry into the following qualities of an individual: honesty, trustworthiness, character, loyalty, financial responsibility, [and] reliability.” As you can imagine, this can be a time-consuming and expensive process. Here?s why: The agency performs “inquiries of law enforcement files; a financial check; review of pertinent records; and interviews of…friends, coworkers, employers, neighbors, educators, and other individuals, as appropriate.” These references are asked questions about “honesty, reliability, and trustworthiness, and their opinion on whether [the person being investigated] should be given access to classified information or assigned to a sensitive position or position of trust.” If you haven’t guessed already, the three main concepts mentioned at the beginning of this article are security clearances. There are three main security clearances granted by the military:

  • Top Secret. Top Secret is given to those with the most sensitive positions of trust. Applicants must submit their life history for the previous 10 years. These 10 years are subject to investigation as described above. In addition, once the clearance in granted, a Periodic Reinvestigation (PR) is conducted again every five years in order to remain current.
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  • Secret. Secret is the next level down from Top Secret. Only five years of previous life experience will be exposed for investigation. And, rather than a reinvestigation (PR) occurring at five-year intervals, it is less frequent at every 10 years.
  • Confidential clearance. Confidential clearance is the lowest level clearance, but still requires a rigorous investigation. PR occurs every 15 years for renewal.

How Extensive Is Your Background Check? Most employers who compare what they currently do in the area of background checks to the military check cannot hold a candle to the DSS investigation. The investigation literally costs thousands of dollars and goes to great lengths to draw a complete picture of the individual. The bottom line is that once a person holds a current security clearance, it is very credible evidence that he/she is likely to possess the character traits of “honesty, trustworthiness, character, loyalty, financial responsibility, [and] reliability.” Do these sound like qualities you’re looking for in candidates? Take advantage of this free resource from the military by considering what security clearance labels really mean next time you see them on a candidate’s resume. Companies who work directly for the Department of Defense as defense contractors (Boeing, Raytheon, TRW, etc.) already know the value of the security clearance. For the rest of the business world, it can also serve to be a VERY good determinant of an applicant?s future behavior within other non-military companies. And the military has already done the background work for you!

Bill Gaul ( is President and CEO of The Destiny Group, an Internet-based recruiting tool that utilizes the latest patent-pending technology (including audio/visual) for organizations to use to source men and women departing the military services. Endorsed by all of the U.S. Service Academy Alumni Associations, and three times selected as one of the "50 BEST" by CareerXRoads, this online system is the easiest and lowest cost method to reach transitioning military worldwide, without a per-head fee.

Bill's articles are Copyright 2001, The Destiny Group.


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