How Long Does a Background Check Take?

November 9, 2017 by Verified First

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To reduce liability, background checks are an essential part of the hiring process. Successfully passing a background check is often the final step in a candidate’s journey. Employers are eager to onboard new employees through quick screening, but speed needs to be balanced with delivering accurate and thorough results.

To help employers assess their screening program and improve hiring efficiencies, it’s important to understand the many aspects involved with pre-employment screening. There are many types of background screenings conducted based on industry, position, and job duties. These checks could include a criminal background check, driving record, drug testing, education verification, employment verification, and reference checks.

To allow employers to make safe hiring decisions, these checks must be conducted properly without cutting corners. Here are some examples of delays that could slow down the screening process.

  1. Limitations at the county court level. Researching a candidate’s criminal records at the county court level is one of the most effective because most crimes are prosecuted at this level. However, there is no centralized nationwide database to pull criminal records, so records must be obtained in person. Additionally, some courts mandate that research must be conducted by a local clerk, which could delay the process even further.  
  2. Turnaround time from employers or educational institutions. If a past employer doesn’t quickly respond to a screening request, it will add extra time to the screening process. Additionally, it’s common to expect delays when trying to verify high school education during the summer or holidays, when institutions lack the staff to quickly respond to requests.
  3. Specific jurisdictional requirements in the area being searched. Some jurisdictions require unique authorization forms or additional screening processes to be compliant with state laws.  
  4. Data entry errors or incomplete candidate information. Even the smallest error will cause delays when your screening company needs to follow up to verify information. The most common errors are entering a wrong SSN or misspelling an applicant’s name. Also, if you have a candidate with a common name, forgetting to provide a middle name will increase the time it takes for your screening company to find and verify information.  
  5. Special considerations for screening. There are a few additional factors that may delay turnaround time:  
  • If a position requires several different types of screenings, it will take longer to process.
  • If a candidate has a history outside the United States, it requires additional time to manually check records, interview authorities in that country, and conduct in-depth research.
  • Finally, if a candidate has a common name, such as John Smith, it will take longer to search because of additional records associated with that name.

Focus on the Candidate Experience

Although some delays may be inevitable, it’s important to remember the candidate experience. Even with candidates with nothing to hide, it’s natural for them to feel anxiety about the background screening process. You can help your candidates feel comfortable moving forward through open communication about what to expect.

Let your candidates know what you are screening for and reassure them you have a process to verify that information is accurate and complete. If you experience unanticipated delays, your screening provider should communicate updates to you in a timely manner. An experienced background screening company will let you know what delays have come up and give a projected timeline to resolve them.

If you’re interested in learning how to improve the turnaround time of your background checks, we can help. For a free assessment of your screening efforts, please fill out the form below.


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About Verified First
Verified First is known for delivering streamlined background screening backed by the best client support, and for developing the easiest, fastest HR system integrations, for free. Our client support team is U.S.-based, answers calls in seconds, resulting in hundreds of positive testimonials and a 96% customer satisfaction. Verified First's patent-pending, award-winning integrations include over 100 applicant tracking systems, and provide clients a turn-key experience.

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