2.2.6 Background Checks

Policy Section: Employment

Subsection: Hiring Practices

Effective Date
May 01, 2023
Previously Updated
October 10, 2016
Applicable to
Benefits-Eligible Employees
Responsible Executive
Romy Riddick, Vice President for Human Resources
Responsible Office
Office of Human Resources
Footnote for applicable to section

Faculty and academic professionals should consult with the Office of the Dean of the Faculty for more information, including eligibility and procedures.

Policy Description

Princeton University utilizes a confidential pre-employment background check program in order to reduce risk to the campus community and have a standardized process to employ a highly qualified workforce. The University requires selected candidates (as defined below) to complete a background check successfully prior to the start of employment. The type and extent of background check may vary depending on job requirements and/or functions. Background checks are not intended to be used instead of or in-lieu of reference checks. Refer to policy 2.2.2 Conducting an Employment Reference Check.

Background Check

A background check is the process of verifying certain job-related information provided by a candidate. Generally, this includes the Social Security number, criminal history, National Sex Offender Registry Search, and/or employment verification, but may encompass other types of checks. The candidate must sign a release, and the employer must follow applicable regulations throughout the background check process, including adhering to standards of confidentiality and communication. Princeton University utilizes a third party vendor.

Selected Candidate

The single leading finalist chosen for a vacant position to whom a job offer is expected to be made.

Reference Check

A reference check is the process used by hiring managers to verify the most critical information provided by a job candidate, including, but not limited to, employment history, skills, competencies, job responsibilities, and performance. Reference checks can provide invaluable insights to help a hiring manager determine whether the candidate’s overall qualifications fulfill the requirements of the position to be successful and whether to extend an offer of employment.

Application of the Policy

Results of all background checks are confidential and not be disclosed to any individual, including hiring managers, except to the extent necessary on a need-to-know basis. Hiring managers do not receive details of the background check, only a notification of whether the results do or do not meet Princeton’s guidelines.

Program Administration

The Office of Human Resources, in conjunction with the Office of the Dean of the Faculty (DoF) for academic positions and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) for PPPL positions, has oversight responsibility of the administration and funding of the background check program. Positions eligible for background checks normally contain language in the job posting to inform prospective applicants of this requirement.

Princeton University utilizes a third party vendor to collect data in a secure and confidential manner. The vendor works directly with candidates to obtain their written consent and all relevant necessary information. For HR positions, the talent acquisition specialist will initiate the background check process.

This program is administered in accordance with the University’s nondiscrimination policy.

New Hire Background Checks

New hire background checks for staff hired through HR minimally include a verification of the candidate’s Social Security number and criminal history record. For certain positions, the verification may also include employment history, highest level of education, motor vehicle report, professional license, credit check, sex offender registry, drug screen, and/or others as necessary.

These checks are completed following acceptance of the job offer and before the selected candidate begins employment. When the job offer is extended prior to the completion of the background check, the job offer is contingent upon confirmation that the background check was completed successfully.

Depending on the circumstances, HR may approve hiring managers to extend contingent job offers that are subject to successful completion of the background check prior to the start of employment.

Current Staff Background Checks

Current staff members are exempt from this policy unless they are promoted or transferred to a position that involves responsibilities and/or requirements that are substantively different from their current jobs, in which case, the selected internal candidate is required to undergo the appropriate background check. Examples include, but are not limited to, driving, education, finance, and residential access. Staff members who work in youth programs, camps, and/or clinics are normally subject to annual background checks in accordance with NJ regulations.

Review & Adjudication Process

HR reviews all background check results provided by the third party provider in compliance with the applicable legal requirements, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

When the background check indicates a discrepancy, HR notifies the candidate of a pre-adverse action and carefully follows established procedures to give the candidate due process to clarify the discrepancy.

HR may consult with the Office of the General Counsel and/or Department of Public Safety to assist in making the final employment determination. All decisions are made on a case-by-case basis consistent with business necessity, taking into account factors including, but not limited to, the nature and gravity of the offense, the time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence, and the nature of the position sought.

In accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, HR notifies the candidate of any final adverse action.

Post-Offer Pre-Employment Screening

In addition to a background check as described above, some positions may require a functional capacity and/or medical examination. These examinations are completed after a conditional job offer has been made and before employment commences. Individuals who do not complete these examinations successfully are notified in writing by HR. The Office of Employee Health is responsible for reviewing and assessing all medical information supplied by third party vendors and/or healthcare providers.

Roles & Responsibilities
Office of Human Resources

HR is responsible for:

  • Oversight of the background check program
  • Determining the appropriate components of the background checks required for the position
  • Coordinating with hiring managers, vendors, selected candidates, and others as appropriate
  • Funding for the cost of the program for benefits-eligible positions (for temporary positions, contact HR)

Candidates are responsible for:

  • Providing accurate and complete information on the Princeton employment application and/or their resumes
  • Providing required information to the third party vendor in a timely manner
  • Disclosing pertinent information to HR prior or in response to the background check process
Update Log

10/10/2016: Clarified information related to summer camps and pre-employment post-offer examinations

4/12/2023: Policy update to include National Sex Offender Registry search