Subject: Reference and Background Checks

Section: U204

Date: May 17, 2004

Prior version Date(s): January 1, 2001


To provide guidelines for HR administrators and/or hiring managers responsible for contacting employment references and requesting background checks on prospective staff employees, or serving as references for former staff employees.



The University may conduct reference and/or background checks to determine an applicant’s appropriateness for a position.



A reference check is an inquiry about job performance, usually from people identified by an applicant. A background check may include investigation of Social Security Number, criminal history, academic preparation, motor vehicle records, or other records applicable to the job for which the applicant is being considered.


Requesting Reference Information:

  1. The HR administrator and/or hiring manager is advised to obtain and contact at least two (2) employment references prior to extending an employment offer to an applicant. The applicant should complete and sign a job profile before reference inquiries are conducted. A completed and signed profile protects the University to investigate or verify pertinent information about an applicant. For an internal candidate, the hiring manager should take special care to ensure the application is confidential, and that contact with the staff employee’s current Department/School/Division is not made until the employee is considered a finalist and/or references are to be checked.
  2. An applicant who refuses to sign a profile may be eliminated from further consideration for employment.
  3. The HR administrator and/or hiring manager may request that UHRM conduct reference checks. Information provided by references must be retained along with other application materials for three (3) years.
  4. The HR administrator and/or hiring manager who conducts reference checks should refer to the Forms section on AdmiNET for relevant reference checking information.
  5. An applicant who provides misleading, erroneous, or deceptive information on a profile, resume, or in an interview will be immediately eliminated from further consideration for employment.

Providing Reference Information:

  1. External employment verification requests should be referred to UHRM-Wage and Salary Administration (Records Office), which will verify information presented by the requestor, but is limited to title, dates of employment, and last salary paid.
  2. Internal reference requests from one University manager to another University manager will be addressed honestly, based solely on documented job performance.

Conducting Background Checks:

  1. Any position that requires a background check will be indicated on the posting.
  2. An applicant must complete and sign release forms before a background inquiry is conducted. Refusal to sign release forms may eliminate an applicant from further consideration for employment.
  3. No staff employee who is subject to a background check will be allowed to begin working until the background check results have been received.
  4. To ensure confidentiality of all applicant information, UHRM centrally coordinates the background check process except for motor vehicle record checks. The Office of Risk Management, Audit, and Safety evaluates driving records. Results of the background check are sent directly to the Associate Vice President for Human Resources.
  5. A background check is conducted on any current staff employee who transfers into a position when:
    • The position has been identified as requiring a background check.
    • A background check was not conducted upon the employee’s initial hire at the University.
  6. All background checks, at a minimum, will include the following:
    • Verification of an individual’s Social Security Number.
    • Check of criminal history in the states where the individual resides or resided in the past seven (7) years. These checks also indicate checks for federal offenses. For residents of Illinois and Indiana, both states may be checked.
    • Check of motor vehicle records, if a position requires a staff employee to operate a motor vehicle.
  7. Any candidate for a position that requires a staff employee to operate a motor vehicle will be ineligible if his/her motor vehicle record shows excessive driving convictions, as set forth in the University’s Vehicle Loss Control Program.
  8. Information obtained in a background check will be compared with information provided by the applicant. An applicant who provides false, incomplete, or misleading information on a profile, resume, or in an interview will be immediately eliminated from further consideration for employment. If discovery is made after the applicant is hired, action will be taken consistent with the University's Termination Policy.
  9. Having a criminal history, a criminal conviction, or a motor vehicle violation does not necessarily preclude employment. The nature of offense and its relevance to a particular job is considered on a case-by-case basis. The Associate Vice President for Human Resources (or designee), in consultation with Legal Counsel, when necessary, evaluates the relevance of the criminal history of the individual being hired to the position being filled.
  10. Should a criminal history preclude a current staff employee from being hired into a new position and his/her former position is no longer available, the employee may apply for a vacant position for which he/she is qualified.
  11. The hiring department is responsible for costs associated with conducting background checks. The hiring department is responsible for checking references and for verification of credentials (e.g., degrees and certifications) unless UHRM provides this service upon request.