How Long Does A Background Check Take?


The time it takes for a background check to be carried out depends on many factors. One of the most significant factors is the type of check being carried out but other considerations can also affect the turnaround time. The complexity of the background check in terms of the volume of research a provider may have to undertake will directly affect the feedback time. Similarly, if they are dealing with particularly delicate checks, such as requesting sensitive information from a court of law, it may take longer for them to receive permission. Other delays can be caused by differing levels of cooperation from various contacted bodies; A major cause of delay can occur when non-governmental institutions are contacted for information (such as the applicant’s former school) because there are no strict time constraints within which these institutions must supply the information and/or they may have limited access to potentially incomplete records.

Despite the above, by far the most common delays are caused by failure on the employer’s part to gain proper authorization from the individual on whom they intend to perform the check. It is the law to attain such authorization before starting the background check process.

Regarding the following scenarios, beware of providers who offer an ‘instant’ check for criminal or employment background checks – these are not thorough background checks, often rely on incomplete data (that has been made available to the provider in a cheaply negotiated deal) and do not offer satisfactory depth of research to be relied upon. Tenant background checks are more likely to be turned around quickly but one should still be wary of a provider that returns it ‘instantly’ – they have likely not carried out sufficient checks. Read providers’ service documentation carefully – some offer conflicting advice even on the same webpage.

How Long Does A Criminal Background Check Take?

A: Most reputable background check providers will deliver a criminal background check within three business days.

Criminal background checks tend to be the most sensitive category of check. Partly this is borne by the fact that many human resources departments won’t even consider an applicant with a criminal record but also people are often highly embarrassed by and defensive of their criminal history. Most reputable background check providers will turn around a criminal background check within three business days but they can be delayed for numerous reasons. The forms of authorization provided by the potential employer must be thorough, signed in full, and permit criminal background checks specifically. Without the proper authorization the provider will (and should) reject the documentation and request completed authorization, which will of course delay the process.

Most frequently, criminal background checks are centred around a county court criminal search. These are usually straightforward but depending on the state/county laws and on the individual in question, courts may demand for the search to be carried out internally; that is by employees of the county court in question rather than by the background check provider. This of course can cause delays, especially if the court has a backlog of sensitive checks it needs to process or if it’s a particularly busy time of year for employment.

Of course, most background checks are routine and turn up nothing but delays can also occur when a background check actually returns a negative result. Rather than cutting the process short and returning the results immediately, a reputable background check provider will usually research the findings more thoroughly to ensure their validity before responding to the client (the company/body requesting the background check). This can include further research into results of proceedings or indeed into the dates and times of the alleged incidents. If the provider finds a criminal history outside of the county court search, they will at a minimum need to verify the findings with the courts, which of course can cause delays for the same reasons outlined above.

Finally, criminal background checks may take longer depending on the industry the potential employer is operates within. For example, jobs that involve contact or care for minors or vulnerable people absolutely require mandatory sex offender register checks, whereas other industries may not. The more searches that need to be addressed, the higher the chance of a negative result and the more potential for delays.

How Long Does An Employment Background Check Take?

A: Employment background checks are very routine. Most providers will complete them, assuming nothing negative turns up, within three business days, and often sooner.

As with all background checks, applicant or employer documentation mistakes cause the most delays but there are other factors that affect their turnaround time. Sometimes, when your background check provider contacts a previous employer of the applicant, they can be slow to respond. This can either be for legitimate reasons, such as as busy period or understaffing or simply because the previous employer is not very organized! It is even possible that the applicant is in direct contact/is friendly with the previous employer and has asked them to delay.

Similarly, when contacting previous schools or educational facilities of the applicant, it’s very possible that the background check is being performed during school holidays and so no one is available to retrieve the information. Also a common factor with educational facilities is that they are simply understaffed. When a school does reply promptly with an applicant’s education history, the data can often be incomplete, poorly collected or contain missing incident information; when this happens, delays are likely because the background check provider will likely have to investigate further to obtain accurate records, e.g. by speaking with members of staff.

How Long Does A Tenant Background Check Take?

A: Tenancy background checks are relatively straightforward. For this reason, many tenant background check providers offer a twenty four hour turnaround service.

In reality, getting hold of the relevant persons in this time frame can prove taxing but should a provider manage it, tenant background checks can be turned around even quicker than this, often in a matter of hours. Landlords frequently make the mistake of selecting ‘instant’ services when it comes to tenant background checks in order to cut overheads. Very often they are a false economy; instant checks are rarely if ever reviewed by an FCRA Certified Screener. As a result inaccurate, ineligible, outdated or unauthorized information is much more likely to appear in the check results supplied.