2.4 Interviewing, References, and Background Checks

This policy was last updated April 9, 2024. See the update history page for more information.

2.4.1 Guidelines for Interviewing

The interview is a valuable tool for the supervisor in assessing the applicant's suitability for the position. It is also the applicant's principal opportunity to gain knowledge concerning the duties and responsibilities of the position and the immediate and extended working environment.

The supervisor or other person conducting the interview should prepare for it by studying the application form or resume and by reviewing the qualification requirements established for the job. In addition, the interviewer should list specifics to be explored, such as apparent gaps in the applicant's work record, ambiguous or contradictory entries on the application, etc.

The interviewer should be aware that the applicant may be inexperienced in the job interviewing process and may need to be put at ease during the interview, so that they can participate fully.

Interviewers should also be aware that questions that would ordinarily be lawful may, in some circumstances, be held to be evidence of unlawful discrimination; for example, if information is requested which is not job related and has a disproportionately burdensome effect on women and minority group members.

Allowable questions are any which pertain to the background of the candidate both in education and experience essential to actual performance of the job. These include:

  • Any incomplete information on the resume or application for further review.
  • Why applicant left former job and what kind of references they would receive from former employer.
  • What applicant's prior job duties consisted of and what they liked or disliked about prior jobs.
  • In what kind of job duties, hours, days, etc. applicant is interested.
  • Allow applicant to mention and discuss what they feel is relevant to the job.
  • Citizenship or working visa but not country of origin.

See hiring process information from Human Resources, including questions to ask and not to ask when interviewing candidates (under Resources).

2.4.2 Checking References

Employment references should be checked for all applicants prior to an offer of employment. These references will be evaluated with the hiring supervisor in relation to the applicant's education, experience, abilities, and the requirements of the job. Educational and personal references are not routinely evaluated; however, a supervisor may request that this information be checked if circumstances warrant it.

It is normally the responsibility of the interviewing recruiter or the departmental supervisor to obtain references. Supervisors who take responsibility for obtaining references may consult with the appropriate Human Resources Officer.

2.4.3 Background Checks

MIT is committed to providing a safe learning, working, and research environment for the MIT community and to protecting the Institute’s resources. In support of this commitment, MIT requires criminal background checks for the individuals identified below.

New Hires

All new faculty and staff, as well as all postdoctoral scholars (associates and fellows), must have a background check completed through MIT as a condition of hire or appointment. Rehires to MIT must complete a background check before rejoining the Institute in the following circumstances: 1) they have been separated from MIT for one year or more; or 2) they have been separated from MIT for less than one year and have not completed a background check at MIT within the previous four years.

Finalists for paid positions at MIT are informed in advance that a criminal background check will be performed and must consent to it.  Background checks are generally completed before the individual is hired, though a contingent offer of employment may be made before the background check is complete.

For some positions, other types of background checks, such as a motor vehicle check, credit check, fingerprinting, or security clearance, may also be required as a condition of employment. In such cases, the job description should identify any additional background checks. Lincoln Laboratory administers its own security clearance process, which includes criminal background screening, for all of its employees and for certain campus employees.

Current Employees

MIT employees are not subject to criminal background checks unless they receive an appointment on or after August 14, 2023 to one of the following roles and have not completed a check in the previous four years:

  • Employees appointed to a position on Academic Council;
  • Employees appointed to a position that includes being a resident in MIT housing, including heads of house, graduate resident advisors, area directors, and others.

In addition, specific units within MIT may establish a local practice requiring background checks at the point of voluntary transfer or promotion. These local practices must be 1) applied consistently to all voluntary transfers and promoted employees in that unit; and 2) approved in advance by a senior officer or designee. For service staff, the background check provisions of the applicable collective bargaining agreement take precedence if they are in conflict with the provisions of this policy.

Specific positions at MIT are subject to recurring background checks for continued employment as required by law. Additionally, MIT faculty, staff, and students who work with minors must complete a criminal background check every four years in accordance with the Protection of Minors Policy.

Volunteers, Affiliates, and Other Individuals

Under limited circumstances, the Institute may require background checks for volunteers, affiliates, visitors, alumni, or other community members involved with MIT programs or who reside in MIT housing. Any units that wish to conduct background checks for such individuals must receive approval from their senior officer or designee. More information is available here.


MIT students are generally not subject to this policy unless they serve as graduate resident advisors, work with minors, or work for a department, lab, or center subject to specific requirements for background checks.

Background Check Process

The background check process is overseen by the Office of Public Safety in accordance with the Institute’s Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) policy, Nondiscrimination Policy, and Massachusetts and federal law. A criminal conviction does not automatically preclude employment at the Institute. Any information discovered through the background check process is used solely to review an individual’s suitability for employment at the Institute in that position. Results of background checks are confidential and shared only with a small number of MIT employees who have received state certification to review criminal records.

Criminal background checks are conducted by a third-party vendor and consist of a social security number trace, a review of criminal convictions for the past seven years, and a review of the sex offender registry.  Background check records are kept separate from employees' personnel records and are maintained in accordance with Massachusetts and federal law. Further information on MIT’s background check procedures can be found here.

2.4.4 Notification of Interviewed Applicants

In order to assure a positive relationship with the Institute's applicant community, each person who is interviewed by a departmental supervisor should be notified of the result of the selection process. Such notification can take the form of a telephone call, email or a personal letter, depending upon individual circumstances and styles.

Transfer applicants for all categories of employment, as well as outside applicants for Support and Service staff positions are notified of the results of their interviews by the recruiter and/or the department interviewer.