Background Checks

How Long Does a Background Check Take?

  • November 7, 2022
  • Jenni Gray
  • Approx. Read Time: 2 Minutes
  • Updated on June 25, 2024

Running an employment background check is an integral part of the hiring process. A quick turnaround time on these checks is vital to a smooth onboarding process for your candidates and your organization.

What can you do to help speed up the time it takes to receive your completed results? And what should you consider if it’s taking longer than you expected?

What affects turnaround time?

When Placing an Order

Missing or incomplete information is the primary cause of a delayed background check when placing the order.

  • Provide a current and complete disclosure & authorization form from the candidate.
  • Use the legal name provided on the candidate’s license and/or social security card.
  • Supply any nicknames, former names, or aliases currently or previously used by the candidate.
  • For education records, verify accurate former names at the time of graduation, as well as the date of graduation.
  • Ensure accuracy on provided social security number, former addresses, and driver’s license number.


After Placing an Order

  • Holidays: Federal holidays mean that courts, schools, and other public facilities are closed. This also tends to create a backlog of records to work through due to the closures.
  • School Breaks: If education verification is required, spring/summer/winter breaks may delay the return of an education verification. This is amplified for smaller districts that lack the support staff or automated processes to work through verifications.
  • Natural Disasters/Weather: Closures caused by inclement weather and natural disasters, or even a pandemic as we learned in 2020, can be frustrating as they’re often unexpected and may also cause backlogs.


Record Types

Some components of a background check may return the same day, while others inherently take longer than others. Components that typically take longer include:

  • References: These are dependent on the response from references requested by the employer. If a candidate’s references don’t respond in a timely manner, these can delay the return of a record.
  • Military Service: Verifying military service may take longer than other records, due to the process required to obtain information.
  • Clerk-Assisted Searches: Many criminal searches, manual employment verifications, and education verification are not automated and require a clerk to assist in obtaining the record. Courthouse limitations such as staffing shortages, budget cuts, and archived records – literally physical paper records stored away in boxes in a storage facility – may also delay turnaround time.
  • Education: Often, high schools and other smaller schools are not as robust and are not able to respond as quickly as a larger university would.
  • Common Names: Candidates with common names will often take longer to verify, particularly on criminal records, as additional research is required to ensure the CRA is providing information on the correct person using multiple touch points.


For more insight on how these factors affect turnaround time, download our white paper here.

  • Legislation
  • Time of day & week, as well as season
  • Employer Workflow & Optimization
  • Candidate Experience



Follow Best Practices for Faster Results

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes to process your background checks, and several factors affect the time it takes for them to return. Keep these factors in mind and follow these best practices to keep turnaround times to a minimum and manage your candidates’ expectations.

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