These days there’s too much competition for jobs to leave anything to chance. You must make every effort to present yourself as responsible, professional and capable. A background blemish like a poor driving record could force a potential employer to disregard your application, or to select another candidate, especially for a position that requires you to spend time behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Remember your driving lessons? Or maybe you don’t, which is part of the problem. Well, those instructions about defensive driving and avoiding moving violations were taught for a reason. Those classes are intended to keep you and other motorists safe.
If you’re working a job with company safe-driving policies, any hint of irresponsible driving could make you an outsider. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid this:
Understand your background check
Many companies will search criminal records and civil traffic records as part of a routine investigation before they hire you. Criminal charges for reckless or impaired driving will obviously raise questions. Jobs that stress safe driving could raise issues with a history of multiple violations in a short period of time, however.
The Society for Human Resource Management notes many companies have a standard for “unacceptable” driving histories, which tends to include a suspended or revoked license, or “three or more moving violations in the past 36 months.”
You can get ahead of that by searching public records laws in the states where you live to gain a sense of the information available to employers and the general public. You can also check with your local Department of Labor to see what information a potential employer can search. These steps won’t erase a criminal charge or civil citation, but at least you’ll be prepared.
Some employers simply want to see if you’re honest. U.S. News careers editor Jada A. Graves cites a 2013 study that showed 52% of employers said “they’d be more inclined to hire a candidate who disclosed a conviction before a background check revealed one.”
Learn the rules of the road
Scofflaws and routine traffic offenders do not inspire confidence in potential employers—not when they have a stack of applications from people with clean records.
Perhaps it’s time to do a little due diligence and let your next boss know you care. Making mistakes in your youth is especially common. In the U.S., where motor vehicle crashes is a leading cause of death among teens, plenty of entry level workers have repeat traffic violations on their records. Sites like Driving-Tests.org provide free and interactive tests to understand traffic safety standards in greater depth to prepare drivers for DMV tests.
If you’re seeking a new job, try to view yourself through the eyes of your potential employer. Show potential employers you have a grasp of your past and what you aim to do to be a more responsible person in the future.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison