Self-Selection and the Application Process

Self-Selection and the Application Process2016-12-14T20:48:12+00:00

In considering working for the new administration, there are some things to be aware of that can prevent people from navigating through the confirmation process. Candidates under serious consideration for Cabinet and sub-cabinet positions, members of regulatory commissions, for ambassadorships, for judgeships and for members of numerous advisory boards, will undergo a full FBI background investigation that includes a thorough review of their employment, professional, personal, travel, medical, financial, legal, military and educational histories.

Candidates for these positions must disclose their financial holdings and sources of income because of possible conflict of interest. Candidates may be required to divest from certain stocks, create a special trust, or put in place other means of redirecting control of their financial holdings. Candidates who are successful in being appointed will have to file a financial disclosure statement annually during their period of service.

Appointees are often severely restricted in their dealings with the Federal government and industry before, during, and after their appointment, to prevent possible conflict of interest. These restrictions may impact future earning potential for those who are successful and become members of the new administration.

Candidates that are considered for a specific position will be asked to complete a Personal Data Statement for White House review. Conflicts of interest may derive from sources of income; aspects of personal and professional life including to which organizations they belong or once belonged; and any speeches, books, articles, papers or editorials they may have written.

Candidates will also be asked to disclose any legal, administrative or regulatory proceedings to which they may have been a party. They should assume that all information provided during any part of the confirmation process is ultimately subject to public disclosure, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.


Candidates run into problems or delays in the confirmation process for a variety of reasons. Some of them had otherwise excellent qualifications and ran into other controversies, while others were perhaps unrealistic in their estimation of what it takes to land these plum positions. Show-stoppers can include such issues as:

  • A history of treatment for drug, alcohol, or mental illness.
  • A poor credit rating.
  • Affiliation with radical or terrorist groups that advocate overthrowing the government.
  • Child support delinquency.
  • Delinquency in paying bills.
  • Employing undocumented workers or illegal aliens as domestic staff.
  • Exaggerating or falsifying education and academic achievements.
  • Failing to file or pay income taxes in a timely manner.
  • Failing to pay employer taxes on household staff in a timely manner.
  • Failing to pay workers at least minimum wage.
  • Filing bankruptcy when there are no extenuating circumstances.
  • Having a criminal record.
  • Having been convicted of felonies or any offense that carried a significant fine.
  • Having served time in jail, prison, or on house arrest.
  • Issues relating to spousal abuse.
  • Questionable tax deductions.
  • Receiving other than an honorable discharge from military service.
  • Recent drug use. Allowances are made for youthful experimentation with marijuana, but the usage of any other, more powerful drugs is a red flag.
  • Ill-advised social media posts or activity.
  • Writings and speeches that are controversial or that support or advocate radical causes, or anything that could cause embarrassment to the President if chosen for a position in the administration.

This list is by no means all-inclusive. Some issues are hot button issues at a point in time, and may not merit a second look in the next confirmation process. There are three main questions that are relevant for Federal appointment candidates to ask themselves. Is there anything that might:

  1. Risk embarrassing the new administration?
  2. Create a national security risk?
  3. Raise questions of qualifications for a position, such as inflated credentials?

Candidates who know or question whether they can pass the risk test should self-select out of the nomination process.

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