Best Six Background Checks for Better Higher Education Hires

Comprehensive background checks for professors and other high-touch or high-visibility positions should be mandatory.

Higher education holds a unique place in the world today. In the U.S., 37.9% of adults age 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree, and that percentage will only rise as time goes on. It also goes without saying that the majority of leaders in this country, whether governmental or in the private sector, hold bachelor’s and typically more advanced degrees as well. Educating the next generation, the future of this country and the world at large, is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. Beyond the implications for the future, failing to perform proper background checks can lead to many issues in the present. For one, it opens up liability for negligent hiring which can end up costing the university should any lawsuits arise.

once word of negligent hiring becomes the norm, things can quickly snowball, and reputation can cost a pretty penny

None of this even gets into the scariest situation of all, a negligent hiring decision that leads to a violent incident on campus. In order to avoid all of the above, here’s a list of the six best background check criteria for better higher education hires.

Criminal History

This one seems obvious for almost any position but can be especially important for higher education hires. Hiring someone with a history of violent crime puts students and everyone on campus in potential danger should they recidivate. The same goes for any crimes of a sexual nature. With today’s awareness of the prevalence of those issues, the potential backlash to something of that nature occurring on your campus.

Failing to conduct a criminal background check, could be catastrophic

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It should be noted that not all types of past convictions should be grounds for not hiring a candidate if the crimes were non-violent and non-job-related.

Education Verification

When hiring someone, one of the things you’ll naturally look at is their educational background. And when you’re hiring for a higher-education position, candidate’s degrees are even more relevant than in most types of organizations, and they typically hold more than one. If you’re hiring for a senior lecturer in anthropology, they better have a Ph.D. from the prestigious school they’re claiming as their alma mater.

How a Federal Employee with Fake Diplomas Worked at the Department of the Interior for Five Years

By Kaveh Waddell and National Journal

It also speaks to a candidate’s overall honesty if they lied about their degree, and no employer/employee relationship should start on that foot.

Professional History Verification

Past jobs can indicate future success more than a candidate’s educational history. When considering an applicant for a teaching position at an institution of higher education, there’s more to professional history than confirming past employment. Of course, that is important as well and shouldn’t be ignored. However, there are other considerations to consider that are still under the auspices of professional history. Chief among them is verifying any claimed publications in professional journals or other academic press. In a publish or perish world, a new hire must be able to deliver on any sort of publishing promises they make. That’s why taking the time to investigate the veracity of these claims is imperative if you want to make an informed hiring decision.

Drug Screening

This one would be taught in Avoidance of Liability 101 with Professor McGruff, the Crime Dog. If a person you employ, while in the course of carrying out their duties, injures or otherwise harms someone, you can very easily be held liable, particularly if you were negligent in your hiring. And if it comes to light that the intoxicated professor who, in his stupor, groped multiple students was never drug tested before being hired, the officials responsible for approving that hire would end up in some pretty hot water in the press. 

Identity Verification

The most basic form of background check: is this person who they claim to be? It’s a simple question that requires much due diligence to answer in the modern digital age.

The proliferation of digital record-keeping has made it easier than ever to alter and downright steal the identity of another person

That’s why identity verification is now more important than ever if you want to ensure the person you’re hiring is really who they say they are.

Media Mention Searches

The most modern of background checks, this one isn’t focused on criminal activity or really anything directly related to the workplace and, therefore, should be applied with a light touch. However,

when hiring high level administrators and other public-facing figures, it’s a good idea to know what their digital presence looks like

To put it bluntly, it’s a great way to ensure the easily dug-up skeletons in your prospective hires closets come out before it’s too late. In this connected era, old social media posts never truly disappear and can resurface at the most inopportune of times. By doing your due diligence beforehand, you help ensure the institution you work for doesn’t come to any avoidable reputational damage.


We know it’s hard out there to find the right organization to trust with this responsibility, given the potential consequences should an error be made.

It’s important to have a sophisticated partner to help you navigate the background screening process.

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At PeopleG2 we specifically cater to the higher education market as one of our main verticals. As a result, we not only have expertise in the background check industry but in your type of institution and its specific needs. Contact us for some some basic information about what a partnership with PeopleG2 would look like.

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