How Long Does a Background Check Take?

Sadie . March 3, 2024

When it comes to the hiring process, conducting a thorough background check is crucial. It provides valuable insights into a candidate’s qualifications, character, and potential risks. However, one common concern for employers is the time it takes to complete a background check. In this article, we will dive into the factors that can affect the turnaround time of a background check and provide best practices to expedite the process.

Factors Affecting Turnaround Time

When Placing an Order

When placing an order for a background check, it is essential to provide accurate and complete information. Missing or incomplete details can significantly delay the process. To ensure a smooth and efficient check, consider the following:

  • Provide a current and complete disclosure and authorization form from the candidate. This form is essential for obtaining consent to conduct the background check.
  • Use the legal name provided on the candidate’s license and/or social security card. Inconsistencies in names can lead to delays in verifying information.
  • Supply any nicknames, former names, or aliases the candidate has used in the past. This information helps in conducting comprehensive searches.
  • For education records, verify accurate former names at the time of graduation and the graduation date itself. Ensuring accuracy in these details can prevent delays.
  • Verify the accuracy of the provided social security number, former addresses, and driver’s license number. Any inaccuracies can hinder the verification process.

After Placing an Order

Several external factors can impact the turnaround time of a background check after the order is placed. These factors include:

  • Holidays: Background checks may be delayed during federal holidays when courts, schools, and other public facilities are closed. These closures can create a backlog of records.
  • School Breaks: Education verifications may be delayed during spring, summer, or winter breaks. Smaller districts with limited staff or manual processes may experience longer processing times.
  • Natural Disasters/Weather: Inclement weather, natural disasters, or unexpected events like pandemics can disrupt operations and cause delays in background check processing.

Record Types

Different components of a background check may have varying turnaround times. Several factors that can influence the duration required to complete certain types of records include:

  • References: The response time from references requested by the employer can impact the turnaround time of a background check. Delays can occur if references do not respond promptly.
  • Military Service: Verifying military service may take longer than other records due to the specific processes involved in obtaining this information.
  • Clerk-Assisted Searches: Some criminal searches, manual employment verifications, and education verifications require the assistance of a clerk. Delays can occur due to staffing shortages, budget cuts, and the need to retrieve archived physical records.
  • Education: High schools and smaller educational institutions may have limited resources and slower response times compared to larger universities.
  • Common Names: Candidates with common names may experience longer verification times, particularly for criminal records. Additional research is needed to ensure accurate information is provided.

Best Practices for Faster Results

It is essential to follow best practices during the background check process to minimize turnaround times and manage candidate expectations. Consider the following tips:

  • Provide Thorough Information: Ensure that all necessary information is provided accurately and completely when ordering a background check. This includes the candidate’s legal name, former name, social security number, and other relevant details.
  • Plan Around External Factors: Be aware of holidays, school breaks, and potential disruptions caused by natural disasters or weather conditions. Adjust timelines and expectations accordingly.
  • Establish Efficient Workflows: Streamline your internal processes to optimize the background check process. Implement automated systems where possible to reduce manual effort and minimize delays.
  • Communicate with Candidates: Keep candidates informed about the background check process and any potential delays. Clear communication can help manage expectations and alleviate concerns.


The time it takes to complete a background check can vary based on several factors. By understanding these factors and following best practices, employers can expedite the process and ensure a smooth onboarding experience for their candidates. Remember to provide accurate information, plan around external factors, optimize workflows, and maintain open communication with candidates throughout the process. Remember, conducting thorough background checks is crucial for making well-informed hiring choices and ensuring a secure and productive workplace. Following these best practices will assist you in optimizing the process and obtaining dependable results promptly.

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