How Long Does a Background Check Take?

Background checks are required for nearly every job these days, from the hiring company simply calling up a potential hire’s references, to requesting public records such as criminal or driver’s histories. The best checks are the ones that are thorough and avoid taking any short cuts, so if you’re an eager hire waiting to find out if you got the job of your dreams, or an employer looking to start a new employee as soon as possible, you know a background check will take some time. But just how long should you expect?

The short answer? There is no set time. Several factors influence the length that a thorough background check takes – the biggest being, naturally, how extensive the check is. Some of the simplest checks only look at the applicant’s Social Security Number to verify its authenticity for work eligibility. Others, however, can look back into the applicant’s work, educational, military, criminal, credit, property, and driving history, all of which takes time to obtain the proper records from the various courts, schools, and employers. Usually, it can take about a week to hear back from these sources, though there could be delays due to holidays or requests that have to be made by mail. If the applicant has a common name, the researcher may find many records that then need to be reviewed for identification, as well.

For extensive background checks, a separate company that specializes in the service is often contracted. These companies have streamlined the process to return the results faster than a manual check done by the employer. In most instances, it will about take about three to five days, though it can also take as little as one day for the results to come back.

Whether you’re the employee or applicant, there are things you can do to help the process go smoothly. For those requesting the check, make sure you fill out the Employee Background Check Request Form clearly and legibly, as any mistake could slow down the process. Likewise, as a potential hire, make sure your name, address, Social Security Number, driver’s license number, and other information is filled out on the Applicant Authorization and Release Form, and that your job application is completed clearly and legibly with no errors. Also, try to choose references that are reliable and not so busy that they may take several weeks to respond to inquiries from your hiring company. Above all, be patient and cooperative.