Background Checks

How Long Does a Pre-Employment Background Check Take?

  • April 3, 2024
  • Linda Ballard
  • Approx. Read Time: 7 Minutes
  • Updated on April 4, 2024
Cisive. Six Reasons Your Background Check is Delayed.

This article addresses how long a background check for employment takes and what this type of screening involves. It also discusses specific reasons for delays and how to streamline the employee screening process so you can efficiently complete the hiring process and onboard new employees.

Specific aspects of the pre-employment background check timeline discussed in this article include:

    • A pre-employment background check is defined as a screening that investigates information provided by the potential hire and verifies the applicant's qualifications for the job.
    • The timeline for a pre-employment background check is typically 48 hours to 5 days but can be longer if complex screenings are required or external factors affect the data-gathering process.
    • External factors that could slow down a pre-employment background check include incomplete paperwork, institutions that operate without urgency, and a failure to acquire the necessary signatures before submitting the information for the background check.
    • A qualified professional background check service can take care of these types of screenings without requiring the employer to spend time and money contacting multiple organizations and agencies.

Background check report delays can derail your hiring process, making it harder to fill critical positions in your company or organization. Vetting prospective employees is essential because bad hires cost an average of 30 percent of a position's annual salary.

While a short delay is typical while you vet potential hires, unreasonably long turnaround times could cause job candidates to look elsewhere and affect your company's reputation among job seekers.



Key Takeaways:

Here are the key things you need to know about background check delays:

        • Background checks usually take between 48 hours and 5 days, depending on the information being verified.
        • Some types of pre-employment background checks, such as education checks, may take longer than others.
        • Some jobs require specific types of background checks before a person can be hired because local and federal regulations may require only hiring licensed or certified employees.
        • Having the proper paperwork and consent signatures helps speed up the background check process.


Table of Contents

  1. What Is a Pre-Employment Background Check
  2. How Long Does a Pre-Employment Background Verification Take?
  3. What Factors Can Delay a Pre-Employment Background Check?
  4. Make Pre-Employment Background Checks Efficient
  5. Speed Up Hiring with Cisive's Background Check Services

What Is a Pre-Employment Background Check?

A pre-employment background check is used to gather information about a specific job candidate before continuing the hiring process. When handled properly, a background check gives you vital information about potential hires and makes finding the ideal candidate easier.

Pre-employment background checks typically verify the candidate's education history, previous employers, and licensing or certification details. They also may check for a criminal record, collect information on driving history, and verify resume details provided by the candidate.

Specific types of pre-employment background checks to consider implementing for potential hires include:

    • Prior employment verification check
    • Determination of eligibility to work in the United States
    • Personal or professional reference check
    • Degree and academic performance check
    • Criminal background check
    • Drug and alcohol screening
    • Skills testing or portfolio assessment
    • Driving record checks and motor vehicle licensing check
    • Confirmation of professional certification or license
    • Social media and Internet search
    • Credit check

The Federal Trade Commission regulates the types of background checks you can perform and how you can and cannot use information from background checks to make hiring decisions.

Companies that deal with sensitive data or hire for jobs requiring specific professional certifications often use pre-employment background checks. Even non-sensitive positions may require a basic background check to protect your business, employees, and clients.

If the job requires a security clearance, pre-employment checks may be more intensive than a standard background check. Individuals whose job requires driving may need a commercial driver's license (CDL). Checking for proper licensing may be part of a background check for these hires.


Recommended Reading: 10 Best Background Check Companies in 2024


Screen smarter, hire safer. Get the right talent to drive your success. Speak to an expert.


How Long Does a Pre-Employment Background Verification Take?

A new job background check can take anywhere from 48 hours to 5 days. Because these checks require responses from a variety of agencies, organizations, and institutions, it's hard to predict the specific timeline for completion.

Background checks involving intensive research or contact with organizations outside your local area may take more time. However, government organizations often have reliable turnaround times for background check requests.

Depending on the type of background checks you need, you may choose to make a job offer and begin the onboarding process before all the checks are complete. If you plan to wait to hire until all background checks are done, prepare your onboarding schedule to take into account any potential delays.


Recommended Reading: Master the 4 C's of Onboarding


Delay 1


What Factors Can Delay a Pre-Employment Background Check?

External factors can influence how long a background check for employment takes. The employer and potential hire may not be able to control all these factors, though careful attention can minimize possible issues.


1. Inaccurate or Incomplete Check Request Forms

For a background check to run smoothly, all the provided information must be accurate. Inaccurate information on the request forms, even for something as simple as a list of employment dates or the specific name of a certification or degree, could cause a delay.

If the information you fill out on a background check form is inaccurate, you may need to fill out new paperwork or make corrections to the original form. Double-checking the data before sending it to outside institutions for processing helps prevent unnecessary delays.


2. Failure to Have the Necessary Documents Signed by the Applicant

Before obtaining a background check, the potential hire must give consent to the check. If the individual doesn't sign the required paperwork on time, this halts the process.

Disclosure laws require you to get a signature from candidates for any necessary background checks and inform all applicants that your company does background checks for potential hires.


3. Confusion over names

A potential hire with a common last name, such as Smith, might get mixed up with others who have the same surname. Names that have been recorded in multiple variations, such as Richard, Rich, and Rick, may also complicate the process.

In the case of name confusion, the job candidate may need to provide all name variations they've previously used. The background check processor may need to validate the name and ensure that all results are matched to the correct person before proceeding.

Including a middle name or connecting other identifying information to the request can help limit name confusion. Some original records may not include this information, though, so common names still require screening to determine whether the record matches your candidate.


4. Lack of digital records

Previous schools, employers, or organizations associated with the potential employee may not have digital records, particularly if the original connection with the person occurred before digitization. You may have to wait for hard copies of these records to be printed and sent in the mail or scanned to send digitally.


5. Slow turnaround times due to low prioritization

While background checks may be a priority for you and your organization, the previous employers or agencies sending the information back may work on a different timeline. If the sending organization is slow to respond, you may not get the results you need in a timely manner.


6. Disputed information

The person under investigation during a pre-employment background check may dispute some of the uncovered information. Rechecking disputed information could delay the process.

In many areas, laws are in place that require employers to allow candidates to dispute information uncovered during a background check.


Recommended Reading: 9 Effective New Hire Onboarding Strategies


Delay 2


Make Pre-Employment Background Checks Efficient

While many things can delay the background check process, working with a company experienced in handling background checks minimizes potential delays and helps keep you on track during the hiring process.

Reduce the possibility of delays during a new employee background check with these tips:


    • Collect and organize relevant information and details before starting the background check. Keep all the necessary applicant-provided information and signed consent forms in one place to make it easy to provide the information for background check requests.

    • Double-check results for accuracy. This is especially important if your potential hire has a common name or an extensive list of places to check in their work or educational history.

    • Be upfront and transparent about your background check policies and methods. Letting potential hires know what to expect reduces anxiety on both sides and creates a congenial working relationship that makes things easier in the future if you do hire the person.


Speed Up Hiring With Cisive's Background Check Services 

Quick and efficient background screenings help streamline your hiring process. Cisive can help you organize and complete pre-employment background checks with a quick turnaround time. 

With the highest accuracy in the industry for education and employment verification, Cisive makes it simple to complete basic background checks for potential hires. A full suite of background check options lets you tailor screening to specific positions.

Plus, our web-based portal lets you easily access background check results and set up screening protocols for different jobs with various screening requirements. Investigative audits ensure accuracy, and careful dedication to legal compliance helps your company or organization meet legal guidelines for specific types of new hires.

From regulatory requirements to professional qualifications, employee verification needs are as unique as your company. Speak to a Cisive background check expert and sign up for a demo today.


Screen smarter, hire safer. Get the right talent to drive your success. Speak to an expert.


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