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Posted on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

New University of Michigan policy requires pre-employment background checks and education verification

By Kellie Woodhouse

The University of Michigan now requires all job candidates to undergo a pre-employment background check and has expanded such checks to include education verification.


University of Michigan's campus. photo | Joseph Tobianski

Prior to the June 1 policy change, the university required background checks for on-campus staff positions and health system staff and faculty. However academic departments weren't required to conduct background checks on job candidates and staff departments weren't required to verify an applicant's education.

Those decisions used to be made at the discretion of the hirer. Now, they're mandatory.

Rick Fitzgerald, university spokesperson, said these particular changes were discussed in "late 2012," sometime in November or December; although university officials first began reviewing the school's background policy about a year ago, he said. Fitzgerald did not know exact dates.

According to minutes from a December 13, 2012, regents' meeting, the Board of Regents Personnel, Compensation and Governance Committee began discussing the school's background policy that month. Minutes from a February 21 meeting indicate that the committee was "provided an updated policy on background checks" that month.

"We already were doing background checks in most areas and it just made sense to make it a more comprehensive policy," Fitzgerald said.

U-M's former social media director Jordan Miller was forced to resign Dec. 11 after it became public she hadn't received her bachelor's degree, contrary to claims on her resume and employment application. Miller was hired in February 2012.

At the time, Fitzgerald said it was rare for an inaccurate employment application to come to light after someone had worked in their position for a while. In a recent interview, Fitzgerald said the change in policy was unrelated to Miller's resignation.

"One employee doesn't drive a policy at the University of Michigan," he said.

In addition to verification of the highest academic degree disclosed by a candidate, employee background checks will include a criminal conviction check.

A full-time, part-time and temporary job candidate must now receive a background check before receiving a non-contigent job offer. Newly appointed staffers also may receive background checks.

Last year the university conducted 6,000 background checks. This year, due to the policy change, the school expects to increase that number.

"It is important that the university's academic, research, patient care and service missions are supported by qualified employees with a safe and secure environment for all," U-M Provost Martha Pollack and Head of Human Resources Laurita Thomas said in an email message to university deans, directors and department heads. "One way to accomplish this is through the use of background checks for new members of our work force."

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 8:32 a.m.

While it is unwise to have background checks in higher education, federal regulators and lawmakers should not throw the baby out with bath water and prevent companies running background checks using in-house resources or third party providers like The failure to do so can be costly as companies can become subject to legal challenges and embarrassment which can harm their hard earned reputation. In sum, federal regulators should not act against background checks just because they have been misused.


Wed, Jun 12, 2013 : 4:11 p.m.

That is great but how many current U of M employees would have a job if background checks were done on them?


Wed, Jun 12, 2013 : 11:31 p.m.

Many, because many of them have already had background checks done.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

It's widespread at UM's ITS division to hire without verification. Old-timers get their kid in, many times saying the kid has a degree they in fact do not. The problem is with the hiring managers who accept/support this practice.


Wed, Jun 12, 2013 : 2:31 a.m.

i have to call bunk on this. i work in IT at U-M (for a research group, not ITS) and know most of the folks over there and i can say with complete confidence that there is no nepotism at ITS. it is true that you can be hired in to do IT work sometimes without a degree, or with "some college" but that is simply the nature of the field - it's very experience-driven - given a strong work history, private sector companies sometimes overlook formal education as well.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

In some areas of the University, you can't even do phone interviews until the prospective employee has been checked.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 11:50 a.m.

"One employee doesn't drive a policy at the University of Michigan," ..... Maybe not. But when there is embarrassing publicity associated with it, it certainly can act as a catalyst for change.

Milton Shift

Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 4:57 a.m.

And we wonder why the recidivism rate is so high. Is there any work left for those with convictions aside from selling crack and pulling bank jobs? Sure doesn't seem it.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 2:32 a.m.

How about these fake MDs? Will UM fire these employees who claimed themselves graduated from medical school, but actually only attended 2 years college in China or somewhere else?


Wed, Jun 12, 2013 : 11:30 p.m.

If UM knew about fake MDs or nurses, I'm sure they'd fire them immediately.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 11:14 a.m.

Is this even a problem?


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 2:38 a.m.

And those who claimed themselves graduated from Nursing schools, actually never ever enrolled in any colleges .


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 1:20 a.m.

Do you have to know people there to at least get an interview? I swear, I've applied for so many jobs there that I'm a perfect fit for, but I never hear back from them.


Wed, Jun 12, 2013 : 11:29 p.m.

I think the main issue is that UM gets so many applicants for every position that, statistically, it can take a long time to be the winning one.


Wed, Jun 12, 2013 : 5:34 a.m.

Thanks, all your comments are quite helpful. Especially, sttc. I've noticed the same thing with the City and the County. I am going to contact a friend who works for the school, get some extra advice, and see if I can land a temp job.


Wed, Jun 12, 2013 : 2:56 a.m.

i currently work at U-M and have sat on both sides of the interview table. from my experience, if a colleague refers someone, we will be sure to look out for their resume and the applicant's chances of actually getting an interview are maybe slightly improved, but only slightly... i have seen a referred applicant not get the job... it was ultimately given to someone who applied using the standard process who had standout experience for the position we were looking to fill. in general, a passion for your work, (perhaps most importantly) notable work experience pertinent to the position on offer, and reasonably par credentials will take your application to the top of the pile. as well, it also helps to have a nicely prepared resume, and a cover letter specific to the position on offer. you'd be surprised how little effort many applicants put into their resumes. for some positions, particularly admin and secretarial, working as a temp can definitely help you get your foot in the door. anyone can sign up for the U-M temp pool; this may be worth investigating for some who haven't had any luck applying completely from the outside.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

And the long answer is ...... you are not alone. It took me two years of applying and probably 30-40 applications for both temp and permanent positions before I was offered a 6-8 month temporary position last winter. I experienced the same thing as you .... push the "submit" button for the application and then never hear anything else until a rejection e-mail months later. It is very difficult to even "get your foot in the door" for an interview. When I got the call offering me the temp job I was very surprised and excited. And yes, people have told me that you almost have to work there as a temp before they will hire you on a permanent basis. And yes, knowing someone is a HUGE plus.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 11:13 a.m.

The short answer is "probably."


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:41 p.m.

I'm curious as to what the results would be if the entire staff was checked.


Wed, Jun 12, 2013 : 4:23 p.m.

Me too!


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:20 p.m.

Do "background" checks include credit checks, or just criminal background checks? How do credit checks figure into hiring decisions, if they are collecting that data on individuals? Just curious. For example, if someone goes through a personal bankruptcy due to a divorce, etc., how would that be any business of a potential employer? Personal bankruptcy info would be part of a credit check.

Milton Shift

Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 4:55 a.m.

"Credit worthiness" more typically relates to health, and whether the individual had health coverage when illness struck. That, and whether they entered their 20s with a trust fund, or alone financially and emotionally.


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 3:31 a.m.

The new policy does not mandate credit checks for everyone. But I would assume that positions that are sensitive in that regard will perform them anyway.

Usual Suspect

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:29 p.m.

They almost always do. Credit worthiness typically relates to decision-making ability.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:12 p.m.

This should have been mandatory for the entire university for last decade, not left up to some hiring units to decide whether to do it or not. It shouldn't be a roll of the dice. Same treatment for every employee hired in every unit.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10:43 p.m.

A friend was a Zamboni driver at Yost Ice Arena. There was no background check. None. Can you imagine? Zamboni drivers with no background check? He was a terrible driver, and I didn't even like to ride in his car! It' a wonder he didn't drive the thing out onto the streets of Ann Arbor.

Linda Peck

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

This is a good idea. I was surprised they were not already doing this.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 9:58 p.m.

I was just hired by Uof M last week (temp job- not full time), and the new background check form wouldn't accept my post secondary school info. I tried Univresity of Michigan- no go. I tried Univ. of Mich. - nope. There was a drop down list that included M.S.U., Notre Dame and oodles of foreign schools i've never heard of but no Michigan. I left it blank and emailed my contact and they said don't worry about it. Hopefully just a glitch, but 5 yrs. of Engin./ Educ. courses that I wanted to include.

Silly Sally

Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

Perhaps if you spell it correctly...


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

The system functions exactly as dagoose described (except for the times when it decides to stop working at all).

Jay Thomas

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 9:57 p.m.

Checking the legal status of both faculty and students to be in the United States should be the next step.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 9:41 a.m.

But it's okay for a student? They can be enrolled ahead of someone legal?


Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 3:27 a.m.

UM has been meticulous about checking the vas status of every foreigner paid by the university for more than a decade. The penalties for screwing this up are very high, and so UM has been very diligent about this, even though it involves an nervous amount of paperwork.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 9:48 p.m.

These shouldn't be new. These should have been in place years ago.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 9:47 p.m.

Will they be checking immigration status?


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:13 p.m.



Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

Complete and thorough background checks are time intensive and expensive. There is no one computer search which would provide all necessary background information on an individual. Especially if that individual is from out of state or lived in several different states. An interesting article would be for Ms. Woodhouse to investigate and report on " whom " is conducting the backgrounds, and to what degree and depth.

Steven Taylor

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10:36 p.m.

As a private investigator I can use one particular service at a very cost effective rate (less than 50 us dollars) and have a complete history on you.. Everything from your facebook account, to credit scores, address/employment history.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10:36 p.m.

There are many many many companies that require these things...and have for quite some time.

Michigan Reader

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:56 p.m.

One of my former employers used a professional background search company.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

They're just now getting to this? Boy, were they ever in the dark ages.

Laurie Barrett

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:26 p.m.

Odd; education matters for hiring at UofM, but not for calculating salaries.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8 p.m.

I worked in many UM depts over the last 18 years, ALL did background, criminal, and education checks, and they called all references to boot. Surprised that not doing these checks was more widespread (or, perhaps it was the one most-notable recently!)


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

Sure, when you leave UM for private sector, return, leave, come back, etc.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 10:35 p.m.

So you had to undergo background checks, education checks, and reference checks every time you changed departments? Interesting...


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8 p.m.

Using "information" not provided under the Bullard-Plawecki Employee Right to Know Act affecting job applicants has been of concern for many. See:

Steven Taylor

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

Shame it took them getting caught with their pants down for the fibbing from the 'social media manager' debacle from earlier this year... You'd think they'd be doing a better job of it.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 7:42 p.m.

The Joint Commission requires verification of qualifications for all professional employees at the hospital. The hospital must be able to prove that they have a system in place to verify these qualifications. That has been true for decades. Why did it take so long for the rest of the University to decide it was important.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

Because the rest of the university isn't under the Joint Commission's scope?


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

Yeah, sure one VERY VISIBLE problem didn't create a policy... Sure


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 9:48 p.m.

I think djacks nailed it.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

Maybe it's the many Non Publicized employees that drove the policy?


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 8:07 p.m.

Nor at Penn State.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 7:44 p.m.

The University always puts its spin on these situations because they don't want to admit they made any mistakes. Look at the four lawyers who no longer work at the University or were demoted after the child porn scandal. Funny that none of their resignations were related to the scandal.