How Long Does A Background Check Take?

Because a background check is a crucial part of any hiring process, a background check manages to blend together a combination of “I need it now” and “I need it done right”. The truth is that we cannot provide you with any absolutes about a background check, because there are a myriad of different circumstances that can determine how long a background check takes, and what type of background check is requested. Despite the fact that you could potentially ‘trust your instincts’ on a candidate, it does increase the possibility of future unpleasant situations – situations that could damage your brand or your customers.

So How Long Does It Take?

On average, everything that is included in a pre-employment background check is going to take between two and four days. There are several reasons that this could be slower or faster:

  • Reviewing delays – Sometimes public agencies or past employers have to deal with a backlog of information requests. This means that it could take a few extra days to receive the answer to your questions.
  • Technical delays – If the candidate provides incomplete information, if there are spelling errors, typos or just difficulty finding records, it could take a bit longer before a background check is complete.

The Length Of Specific Background Checks

One of the reasons that it might be more difficult to determine the exact length of time for a background check is because there are several different types of background check. These are a few of the different background checks to consider:

  • Criminal background checks – Private databases and public record searches have information about warrants, convictions, and past charges. Some states are not going to relay anything that is older than 7 years, or charges not resulting in convictions. Because there are different law enforcement agencies where a background check company has to get information, a detailed check could take anywhere between a month and a few days.
  • Employment verification – Does what they told the interviews and filled out on their resume match up with the applicant’s job history? This means that you have to contact past employers and generally takes around three days. It could take longer if you have a former employer that requires more documentation to release records or if incomplete or poor paperwork is provided.
  • Identity – Oftentimes verifying official ID (Social Security card, license etc.) with a local database can move rather fast. However, it could take days (or upwards of a month) to complete a search throughout national databases.
  • Academic verification – Does the candidate’s educational background match up with the information provided? This depends on when and where the check is requested. Certain schools have different archiving systems and different staffing during the summer months.
  • Professional qualifications – During this check the company verifies whether the candidate has the certifications or licenses that they need. Important professions in which this matters include physicians, attorneys, or architects. If you used a different name to obtain the credentials, delays could be a little longer. Otherwise you should expect between one or two days.
  • Motor vehicle check – This tells the company about the applicant’s license status and driving record. The check can go back 3 to 10 years and will include violations and fines. The different state’s motor vehicle department are all different in how fast they respond, but you should not expect more than three days to a week. Name variations and incomplete data are common causes for delay.
  • Credit check – If you have a candidate who will deal with money or has access to potentially damaging financial information, chances are that company will run a credit background check. It should take one to two days to determine basic financial stability
  • International Background – If the candidate has resided in another country, it might be relevant for employers in the United States. Each separate country will need to be contacted to get the information. Depending on the relationship with the United States, database and willingness to divulge information, this should take upwards of 4 to 6 days.
  • Citizenship – Is this person legally allowed to work in the United States? The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is going to perform security, criminal and financial checks when someone applies for naturalization. The USCIS is also going to take fingerprints. While there is no official timetable for citizenship checks, expect around four days.

What Is Recommended?

While it is certainly understandable that a company wants the quickest possible turnaround, it is important that the information provided is both accurate and thorough. While a simple criminal check is going to tell the company a bit about the candidate, there is other (potentially damaging) information that they are not going to get through this way.

There are many different aspects to a pre-employment background check. This can vary depending on the job responsibilities, industry that the candidate will be working in, and the organization itself. Checks could also include social media research, drug testing, your driving record, and education verification.

What Can The Candidate Do To Speed Up The Process?

Given that a candidate will want the process to go as fast as possible, and an employer will want to have the information available as early as they can, it is natural that you try and speed up the process. While there are a certain number of factors that you cannot change yourself, there are a few different things that clients could do to speed up the process:

  • Make sure to gather the pertinent information – As a candidate, if you are informed that you are going to undergo a background check, you know that whoever is screening you is going to need some information. This could include your former residences, types of educational degrees, salary information, dates of employment, and more. If you make sure that all this information is kept in a single location, you could A.) help avoid unnecessary inaccuracies that are going to slow down the process, and B. make the entire process go much smoother.
  • Cooperate – Sometimes the screening party is going to contact the candidate directly; this is done by the third part to help facilitate the process around the background check. Sometimes the candidate is going to provide a unresponsive or uncooperative information source such as a professional reference, former employer, or academic institution. The candidate could stay ahead of the situation by offering old W2s, paystubs, or copies of diplomas. This is going to speed up the overall timeline. If the candidate lists someone as a reference, it is a good idea to let them know ahead of time that someone is going to be in contact with them. This will make sure that there is no confusion and will help expedite the process.
  • Be up front and honest – It is important to note that an external background provider must verify that information is accurate if they receive potentially conflicting or adverse information; the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires this. It is possible to slow the entire process down if you need to dispute incomplete or incorrect information. This is why it pays to be up front and honest the first time around.

Hiring Companies – Be Open And Honest

As a hiring company, it is important to note that even though candidates who have nothing to hide are a bit anxious about the entire background check process. This is especially true if delays occur. This is why it is a good idea to be transparent as a hiring company. Especially if these are candidates that you are actively interested in hiring! Makes sure that the candidate knows what type of information the background check is going to look for. Make sure that the candidate understands that this is not a personal check, but rather to make sure that provided information is both accurate and up to date.

A Good Background Check Matters

Despite the fact that there are still going to be a few times that a background check takes a bit longer, this should provide you with a bit more information about what could affect the final timeline of a completed background check.

A good background check takes time, and costs money. There is a reason that you are actively screening potential employees – because you want to make sure that you are getting the best candidates possible. That is why it is always a good idea to go with a company that has a proven track record of providing background checks.