Forms, Policies, & Guides

204 - Reference and Background Checks

Subject: Reference and Background Checks

Section: U204

Date: October, 2016


To provide guidelines for conducting background and reference checks on staff new hires and internal applicants.


Term Definition

An individual who, in a timely manner:

  • Requests to be considered for employment;
  • Completes a profile/application via UChicago Jobs;
  • Identifies a specific position opening;
  • and is minimally qualified (i.e., possess the required knowledge, skills, education and experience) for the position opening
 Internal Applicant

A current employee who establishes themselves as an applicant. 

 HR Partner

Department/division personnel who serves as the representative for the department in all human resource issues and processes staff transactions in campus HR systems (i.e. Workday and UChicago Jobs) on behalf of their department/division.

 University HR

 The central human resources body for the university's staff talent acquisition policy and processes.

 HR-Talent Acquisition

 The COE responsible for oversight of the university's staff talent acquisition policy and processes. 

 Hiring Unit

 Campus unit to which a new or vacant  position reports.

 Hiring Manager

 The individual requesting the new or vacant position being filled. Generally, the position being filled will report to the hiring manager.

 Temporary Position

 A position that is expected to continue for less than twelve months.

 Regular Staff Position

 A position that is classified as staff and does not serve in a temporary or seasonal capacity.

 Benefits Eligible Position

 A regular staff position that is scheduled to work an average of 20 hours or more per week and is therefore eligible for benefits.

 Non-benefits Eligible Position

 Positions that are expected to continue for at least twelve consecutive months at 19.5 hours or less per week.

 Converted regular staff employee

 A current non-staff employee who will be transferred or promoted in to a regular staff position.


 The COE responsible for providing oversight and approving key transactional HR activities for staff employees and providing assistance to Workday end users.


The University requires newly hired and converted regular staff employees (benefits eligible and non-benefits eligible) and temporary employees accepted into the Human Resources (HR) temporary pool, to undergo a background check. The University also requires a criminal background check for applicants for temporary staff positions and a unit may require a criminal background check for incumbent staff employees moving into new staff positions. The background check is to be completed only after a conditional offer of employment has been made and accepted by the applicant. A valid background check report will be conducted prior to the hire or conversion date. Background checks must include the following:

• Criminal history, which includes a registered sex offender check;

• Academic credential verification (transferring academic employees may be excluded).

As described below, the background check also may include credit history, motor vehicle records, employment verification, professional license and certification verification, or other job-related information. A background check must be completed and a satisfactory report received before a new hire may start work. In exceptional circumstances, the Associate Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer (AVP&CHRO) (or designee) or the department/unit head may authorize an applicant to begin work before a satisfactory report has been received by submitting a letter of authorization on department letterhead to HR-Operations.

Reference checks should be completed prior to conveying an offer to an applicant. If a background check was completed within the past twelve months, the results from the previous background check can be used to confirm eligibility for hire, in lieu of initiating a new background check.



1. All applicants who are interviewed for a position must complete and certify accuracy of a job profile and complete and certify the accuracy of an authorization to complete a background check. An applicant who refuses to certify a profile will be eliminated from further consideration for employment.

2. After the applicant receives a conditional job offer and accepts the offer, the HR Partner (HRP) and/or hiring manager should commence the background check.

3. The University contracts with a third party background check agency which conducts criminal background investigations, employment and academic verification as allowed by applicable law.

Reference Checks

4. The HRP and/or hiring manager should obtain and contact at least two (2) professional references. HR-Talent Acquisition may conduct reference checks upon request by the hiring manager or the HRP.

5. Before beginning a reference check, the HRP and/or hiring manager should refer to the Professional Reference Check Form for relevant reference-checking information.

6. For an internal applicant, the hiring manager should take special care to ensure the application is confidential. As a courtesy, the hiring manager should only contact the employee's current unit when the employee is considered a finalist and/or references are to be checked, and the hiring manager has confirmed that the employee has notified his/her supervisor.

7. Internal reference requests from one University manager to another University manager should be limited to job and performance related information.

8. Information provided by references and gathered during the reference check must be retained along with other application materials for a minimum of seven years for the applicant who is hired and three years for all other applicants.

Motor Vehicle Record Check

9. The Office of Risk Management and Internal Audit conducts motor vehicle record checks and evaluates driving records. Any applicant for a position that requires the operation of a motor vehicle will be ineligible for the position if his/her motor vehicle record shows driving-related convictions or excessive moving violations, as set forth in the University's Vehicle Loss Control Program.

Credit History Check

10. A satisfactory credit history may only be required when it is a bona fide occupational requirement of the position and as allowed by law. A credit history check may be conducted for jobs that must include one or more of the following responsibilities:

• Management responsibility for setting the direction or control of the department;

• Access to sensitive information that a student or patient authorizes the University to obtain, process, and keep to which only managers and a select few employees have access;

• Access to financial information that is non-public and relates to the overall financial direction of the University;

• Confidential information that is stored in secure repositories not accessible to the public or low-level employees, or national security information;

• Custody of or unsupervised access to cash or marketable assets, which means University property that is specially safeguarded from the public and to which access is only entrusted to managers and select other employees (does not include fixtures, furnishings, or equipment); or

• Signatory power over business assets over $100 or more per transaction.

Use of Background Check Report Information

11. Upon completion of the background check, the agency conducting the check will provide HR-Operations with a complete report. To ensure confidentiality of applicant information, HR- Operations will receive the report, communicate with the HRP and/or hiring manager, and confirm whether the applicant is eligible for employment in the position. Data and information collected as part of the background check report shall not be used for the purpose of evaluating the applicant for employment unless otherwise permitted or required by law. HR will maintain data collected as part of the background check in separate confidential files. Any employee who is responsible for an unauthorized disclosure of information collected under this policy will be subject to corrective action up to and including termination of employment.

12. The HRP and/or hiring manager will gather, evaluate, and maintain any job-related background check information and verifications not included in the background check conducted by the agency such as reference checks or professional certifications.

13. Having a criminal conviction does not automatically preclude employment. The AVP & CHRO (or designee), in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel, when necessary, evaluates the relevance of the criminal history of the individual being considered for hire to the position being filled. The nature of the offense, the circumstances surrounding it, the proximity in time of the conviction, and its relevance to a particular job will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The only data and information that the hiring manager will receive concerning an applicant's criminal history is whether the investigation on the applicant yielded satisfactory or unsatisfactory results.

14. If a current employee's background check information precludes the employee from being hired into a new position, the employee typically will remain in his/her former position. However, if the employee's background check information reflects that the employee is not qualified or casts doubt on his/her ability to safely perform the former job duties, the employee may be precluded from returning to his/her former position and may apply for a vacant position for which he/she is qualified.

15. Hiring an applicant when the background investigation yields unsatisfactory results must be approved in writing by the Office of Legal Counsel.

16. 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. An employee who provides false, incomplete, or misleading information during the application or interview process may be subject to corrective action up to and including termination of employment. (Refer to U208 Termination of Employment.)

Applicant Rights and Obligations

17. Applicants for employment, promotion, or vacant positions must disclose criminal convictions (excluding convictions that have been sealed or expunged) on the Background Check Authorization Form provided by the background check agency. Each applicant will be evaluated based on the nature of the crime, when it occurred, and the duties and responsibilities of the position for which the applicant is being considered.

18. If the University intends to take an adverse employment action because of information in the background check report received from the agency, the University will provide the applicant with a pre-adverse action letter or notice that an adverse action may be taken based at least in part on information provided in the background check report, a copy of the information on which the adverse action will be based, and other information as required by law.

19. An applicant denied employment based on unsatisfactory results of the background check report who believes his or her background information is incorrect as reported by the agency, may contact the agency or other entities to provide correct information. The applicant is ineligible for hire to the position unless the official records confirm the correction to the information.

20. If the University decides to take an adverse employment because of information in the background check report, the University will provide the applicant with an adverse action letter informing the applicant of his/her rights as required by law.

Employees represented by a bargaining unit may be governed by the appropriate bargaining unit agreement.