The University of Illinois Shows its Smarts with their Background Check Program

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When properly orchestrated, a background check program provides real growth and healthy growth to a hiring program. Think of a hiring program like a garden. You want to fill it with beautiful, hearty, vibrant plants, but to succeed, you need to make sure the ground is fertile. Background checks can be the exact nutrients you need to add to make your hiring garden bloom.

The University of Illinois has cultivated a screening program that perfectly illustrates how background checks can create growth and hiring sustainability over time. In 2015, they chose to expand their background screening program to include all new hires, a choice that met with some concern. Let’s take a look at some of these concerns and what results the university saw.

Concern: An expanded screening program would scare off applicants.

Result: There was indeed a brief drop in applicants in the year following the expansion. Applications dropped from 83,426 to 81,751. However, in 2018 the university saw a huge rebound, with applications totaling 101,578. When properly executed, a screening program ensures applicants that they are entering into a safe workplace and can make people more willing to apply. With the amount of attention that is currently on the issue of sexual assault on campuses, it makes sense that applicants would be comforted to know the University of Illinois is thoroughly checking sources like the National Sex Offender Registry to protect both students and staff.

Infographic: Hiring Risk Checklist

Concern: Qualified candidates will be rejected unfairly because of their personal history.

Result: According to Jami Painter, associate vice president and chief human resources officer for the UI system as quoted in The News – Gazette, “If the check turns up something in an applicant’s history, it doesn’t mean that person is automatically rejected.” The University of Illinois is properly applying Individualized Assessment, which helps keep screening programs ethical and fair. For instance, if an applicant is applying for a clerk position with a grocery store but a background check shows that they were arrested for driving under the influence, a company might still choose to hire that person since a clerk position does not include driving. As reported in The News – Gazette, “The applicant is given 10 days to provide additional information to the university before a final decision is made. The university also considers the nature of the offense, how long ago it was, and any rehabilitation efforts and employment history since the conviction.” In 2018, the University of Illinois only rescinded 25 job offers. This background screening program has not gotten in the way of hiring talented individuals, but has instead provided protection and risk mitigation for the organization.

Concern: Background checks will slow down the hiring process.

Result: While the university did report some delays, these were very slight and also included cases that were impacted by the government shutdown. That said, the average turnaround time in their Urbana and Chicago locations was 2.8 days, with their Springfield location coming in at 4.6 days, which the university considers very reasonable.

It’s also worth noting that in 2017, thirty five job offers were rescinded, ten more than in 2018. By running thorough background checks on all applicants who are offered positions, it appears that candidates who know they have a disqualifying history may be less likely to apply, saving the university time and money.

The University of Illinois has set itself up for continued hiring success, cultivating a screening program that only produces more fruit as it grows. Their program encourages qualified applicants by providing a safe workplace and fair, ethical hiring, while discouraging problematic candidates from applying. The cycle of tilling the soil, planting the seeds and reaping the benefits will only continue over time.

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Kasey Schroer

Kasey Schroer is Marketing Coordinator with GIS | HireRight, writing and editing external communications - including press releases, newsletters, whitepapers, emails, flyers, ads, video scripts, and web content. She has been with the company for 5 years.

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