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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

June 18, 2009

Criminal background checks policy part of hiring process, starting July 1

by Diana Pounds

Criminal history background checks become a routine part of the hiring process at Iowa State, beginning July 1. "Routine" is the operative word. Those hiring new employees won't notice much difference in the search process, as human resource services (HRS) staff will handle most details surrounding criminal history investigations. HRS also will initiate credit history investigations, which will be required for certain positions involving cash and financial assets.

The new hiring process also requires hiring departments to do reference checks and verify the academic credentials, at a minimum, for candidates selected for hire. (Departments also may opt to do these checks for finalists.) Here's what you need to know about changes in the hiring process.*

The timeline:

The new criminal and credit history requirements apply to any vacancy posted July 1 or later. The requirements don't apply to vacancies posted earlier, even if the positions are filled after July 1.

Criminal history investigations are required for:

External candidates hired for full-time or part-time positions, whether continuous or term. This includes faculty, professional and scientific (P&S), merit and contract positions.

Criminal history investigations aren't required (at this time) for:

Student employees (undergraduate and grad), post-docs, or temporary or casual employees. Investigations also aren't required for current Iowa State faculty, P&S, merit or contract employees who change positions within the university.

Credit history investigations are required for:

Those hired into administrative positions at the level of chair, director, dean or higher. Credit histories also are required for employees in certain positions that involve access to university funds, cash and financial assets or accounts. HRS staff will help units determine if positions require credit history inquiries.

Selecting a background check:

The hiring department will chose from background check options when initiating the online notice of vacancy form. At this point, the hiring department will:

  • Decide whether to do a background check on all external finalists or only the candidate selected for a position
  • Select one of six background packages (The basic criminal history package costs $53.20 per individual; a credit history only is $7)

Who does the checks:

HireRight, a national employment screening firm, will handle both criminal and credit histories for Iowa State. HRS will automatically initiate the inquiries at the appropriate time in the search process. Most inquiries can be completed in one to two days. Inquiries on international prospects take longer.

Confidentiality of background checks:

HRS staff will review criminal and credit histories. If information turns up that may impact the hiring decision, it will be shared with the job applicant, who will have an opportunity to respond. HRS also may consult with ISU officials, such as university counsel, the office of the provost, a vice president or dean, or the head of the hiring department. Background check results won't be shared with search committees. Ultimately, HRS officials will make a recommendation to the hiring department on the impact of results on the position. A criminal conviction or negative credit history isn't an automatic bar to hiring. Officials will consider the nature and seriousness of the incident and its relevance to the position under consideration.

Academic, reference checks are hiring departments' responsibility:

HireRight will not inquire into candidates' employment history, including past performance, or academic credentials and licensure. Hiring departments are responsible for checking references and academic credentials, at a minimum, for candidates selected for hire.

* This information comes from Vicki Brubaker, human resource services associate director; Jill Pretzer, human resources specialist and Kathryn Overberg, associate university counsel. For information about background searches, see the background checks section of the university Policy Library or contact Pretzer, 4-4756,


Starting July 1, the hiring process will require:

  • Criminal history checks
  • Credit history checks (for some positions)
  • Verification of academic credentials and reference checks