2.2. 14 Background Checks

Policy Section: Employment

Policy Number and Title: 2.2.14 Background Checks
Applicable to: All Regular HR Positions
Effective Date: January 1, 2014

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 to complete a background check successfully prior to the start of employment. The type and extent of background checks 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 2.2.5 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 Social Security number, criminal history, 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. Typically, a third party vendor is utilized.
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 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.


Results of all background checks are confidential and will 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 any 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, has oversight responsibility of the administration and funding of the background check program. All 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 staffing specialist will initiate the background check process.
This program is administered in accordance with the University’s nondiscrimination policy.  
New Hire Background Checks
HR background checks 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 before the selected candidate begins employment and often prior to extending the job offer. When the job offer is extended prior to the completion of the background check, the job offer will be contingent upon confirmation that the background check was concluded successfully.
Depending on the circumstances, Human Resources may approve hiring managers to extend contingent job offers that will be subject to successful completion of the background check prior to the start of employment.
Current Staff
Current staff members will be 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 will be required to undergo the appropriate background check. Examples include, but not limited to, driving, education, finance, residential access.
Review & Adjudication Process
All results provided by the third party background check provider are reviewed by HR in compliance with the applicable legal requirements, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
When the background check indicates a discrepancy, HR will notify the candidate of pre-adverse action and carefully follow established procedures to give the candidate due process to clarify the discrepancy. Candidates may request a copy of the report from the vendor.
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 will be 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 the final adverse action.

Roles & Responsibilities

Office of Human Resources
The Office of Human Resources 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


Office of Human Resources

Related Policies

Dean of the Faculty Memorandum #28

*This policy may apply to certain temporary positions. Some academic positions may also require a background check; dean of faculty employees should consult with the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.