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How Long Does a Background Check Take?

By: Celeste Ricco Tuesday, 14 June 2016


As an employer, waiting on the results of a background check can test your patience. Certain searches will generate fast results all the time while others seem to take forever. Some will come back in the same amount of time, every time, but all of a sudden there’s a delay...

Waiting on background check results doesn’t have be that way! The key is knowing which searches can lag and where unexpected delays could occur so you can plan accordingly. 

Here’s a summary of some of our most popular searches and what you can expect:

How long does a Criminal Record Search take?

Criminal record searches can be returned within a few hours or less or can take several days. Fast results are typically when there are no records to report and/or we are able to find records using a portal directly into the courthouse records. The latter allows us to quickly pull files and verify the possible record. These are the best case scenarios and give us the quickest results.

However, many courts still operate in ways that slow down research. For example, the court clerk may be the only one permitted to access and pull files. Others require our researchers to wait in line to access a terminal on site at the courthouse, and may be permitted one query per session… once we’re done, we turn around and get back in line! These are just a few causes for a “Clerk Delay,” which can last a day or two through several days. Unfortunately, there is no way to circumvent court clerks, regardless of how big or small, nice or loud a company is!

In addition to court clerks, other factors can cause delays, such as accessing archive records for unlimited search scope requests. Also, the rare occasion when a courthouse encounters technology issues or migration to new (hopefully more useful) portals, which can cause backlogs. 

Expert Tip: Gather a list of you the common counties in which you search and recruit. We can give you insight into specific turnaround averages so you can better predict your specific timing.  


Interested in knowing what is on your background check?



How long does an Employment Verification or Education Verification take?

A typical verification usually includes three to five contact attempts, i.e. it can take up to three days just to make first contact. But, there is a VERY effective way to speed up the process: use your applicant.

Your applicant is looking for a job so they’re probably willing to make a phone call or two to make it easier for you to move forward with the hire! Ask your applicant to specifically confirm how to verify employment with their employer – contact name, direct phone number and direct email whenever possible. Direct contact information helps move forward an education verification as well. As an added bonus, when employer and school knows of the impending call they are often quicker to respond!

Expert Tip: Verify employment and education that is likely to have an impact on your decision and goes back a reasonable amount of time. For example, if you don’t keep employee files 15 years, what is the likelihood of these files existing with a former employer? If you want this information, a quick call from the applicant can make all the difference!

How long does a Professional Reference take?

Similar to verifications, professional references include a series of attempts… that are accomplished faster when the applicant gives their reference notice. The reference won’t recognize our phone number and a surprising number of people either have full mailboxes or no voicemail set up at all. When the applicant advises their reference to expect a call, we can usually complete a verification in one or two attempts.

Expert Tip: Professional references don’t need to cause delays – work with the employee to notify references ahead of time!

How long does a Professional License Verification take?

A professional license verification typically takes place at the primary source, so they tend to be pretty quick – usually within a day or even a few hours. This is aided by the unique license number and that results often include their legal name. Unpredictable delays can be caused by tech issues at the source. A predictable and more common delay is typos, which can be avoided by asking for a copy of the license to verify the number 

Expert Tip: Accuracy is key in faster professional license verifications so always double check it’s right before hitting submit! (Side note - that’s true for all searches!!!)

How long does a Medical Registry & Sanction Search take?

Medical registries and sanction lists are taken from the primary source or an aggregation source who compiles a variety of primary source data. Fortunately, as most searches are performed online, results are often turned around quite fast – within a day or a few hours. Additional identifiers that are found on the consent form, such as medical license number, can help our researchers verify and quickly report results.

However, situations will arise when the source cannot provide our researcher with an immediate response. For example, if the applicant has a very common name so additional verification is needed, or there is a possible record that needs further investigation. Situations such as these involve additional support from the source and are monitored closely by our researcher to ensure the fastest progress possible.

Expert Tip: Although waiting on further details can be frustrating, the additional research to verify possible records is vital in maintaining patient safety and the integrity of your staff.

So, how long does a Background Check take?

Usually, a background check takes one to three days. The best way to figure out how long your average report will take is to ask us because every search is different! We’ll take a look at your services, scope and common search locations among other information. From here, we can give you a reasonable average and let you know why you might see occasional delays. We may even be able to suggest strategies to help speed up your process. Having a solid understanding of average turnarounds specific to you up front can help predict when to expect results so you’re better coordinated in your hiring process!


Do you still have questions about background screening and how long a background check takes?

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Topics: Background Check, Criminal Background Checks, Best Practices, Industry Resources

Celeste Ricco

Background screening enthusiast. Blogger. FCRA Advanced Certified by NAPBS. Dedicated to all things background screening!