Background checks can cover a wide range of things, from just your credit report to your criminal status to your job history.
But how long does a background check take in 2023?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t simple.
Many factors can affect the time it takes to get the results.
- How Long Does a Background Check Take?
- Why a Background Check Might Take Longer Than Expected
- How Do I Know If I Passed My Background Check?
- Why Is It Important to Complete a Background Check Quickly?
- How to Speed Up Your Background Check
- Wrapping Up
How Long Does a Background Check Take?
A background check can take a few minutes, a few days, or a few weeks.
It depends on what kind of background check you run and how quickly the necessary information is collected.
Some background checks can take months to complete, such as ones for federal employment, but these are not common.
Background checks that take weeks and months are usually only done for people seeking security clearance with access to classified information.
What Are Turnaround Times for Background Checks?
The turnaround time on a background check depends on what kind of check is being run.
Excluding super high-security level 3 checks, these are the turnaround times on the common level 1 and 2 background checks:
- Federal background check: 1 day
- Fingerprint background check: 1 to 3 days
- Employment background check: 5 minutes to 5 days
- Universal background check: 2 to 5 minutes
- Criminal background check: 1 to 3 days
Why a Background Check Might Take Longer Than Expected
There are a few reasons a background check may be taking longer than expected.
However, a long return time on a background check does not mean you didn’t pass, so don’t worry just yet!
- The background check company is having difficulty contacting former employees, banks, or educational institutions for education verification, employment history, and credit history.
- A criminal record, or lack thereof, may be delayed due to backlogged courts or a holiday when the courts are closed.
- You may need to wait for a Medical Review Officer to contact you with the results of a drug test you took.
- If the background check company has to acquire information on your history outside of the United States, this can slow down the process.
Why Do Traditional Background Checks Take So Long?
Traditional employment background checks include a check on criminal records.
Criminal records usually take the longest to complete if the courts aren’t running smoothly.
COVID-19 caused a backlog in many courts, making it difficult for clerks to attain the physical records needed for most traditional background checks.
What Factors Can Slow Down a Background Check?
Many factors outside your control can cause a background check to take longer.
Once again, delayed background check results do not indicate that you did not pass.
There are many moving parts involved with background checks.
Some of these parts can take longer due to real-world problems.
Below are common reasons that you have not received your background check results:
- Accuracy of the data provided
- Degree of automation in the screening program
- Number of locations you contact
- Types of positions being verified
- Response time of verification sources
- Time of day the information is requested
- Varying federal/state regulations on processing information
- Delays caused by outside parties (mail services, email services, etc.)
- Weather delays
- Level of court record access required
- Delay in the communication of the confirmation of results
What Can Cause Pre-Employment Background Check Delays?
The two most common reasons for a delay in a pre-employment screening are a lack of response from previous employers and a delay in court records for criminal offenses.
As many people know, bosses are usually busy people.
If you are running a business and managing a team of employees, your top priority is not always confirming employment records and former workers.
While this can be frustrating for those running the background check, it is a fact of life, and sometimes you have to wait or reach out again.
While many systems these days are automated, there are still courthouses operating off of physical records and manual bookkeeping.
Therefore, sometimes you’ll have to wait for an actual human clerk to read the background check request and then find time to locate the files.
Once they do this, they’ll usually have to fax over the records or scan them and send them an email.
Whatever the exact process is, this will always take significantly longer than an automated criminal background check.
How Do I Know If I Passed My Background Check?
There are three ways to find out if you passed your background check.
The first is simple; the company will reach out to you to confirm that you passed your background check and are all set to proceed.
The second way you’ll know is that the company or establishment that ran the background check makes you an offer.
Whether you’re joining a club or are a job applicant, if they run a background check, they won’t give you a position until they get the green light on the background check.
The last way you can know if you passed your background check is not the best, but it is an option.
You can contact the company or potential employer and ask about the status of the background check.
This action is inadvisable, as it can come off desperate and impatient.
Will I Be Contacted If I Pass My Background Check?
It can go either way.
Sometimes you will be contacted when the background check clears to let you know that you can move on to the next step in the process.
If they take the next step, you can almost guarantee that you passed the background check.
Sometimes the entity that ran the check doesn’t feel the need to explicitly tell you so.
Does the Employer Have to Disclose Why the Background Check Failed?
Yes, according to guidelines set out in the FCRA, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, they must disclose the results.
You may not receive the results unless you request them, and the employer, landlord, or bank may simply reject you.
However, you are well within your rights to ask them to share the results of the background check.
If you request the results, you will receive the full report and a written explanation for why the results caused an adverse action.
What If I Have Concerns About the Results of a Background Check?
If you have concerns about the results of your background check, all you can do is be prepared.
Make sure that you provide accurate and honest information when filling out applications.
To help you understand your rights, you can review the background check laws in your state and how they apply to you.
Of course, the best way to feel confident about the results of a background check is to keep your criminal history clean and maintain cordial relationships with former landlords and employers.
Why Is It Important to Complete a Background Check Quickly?
A quick background check is important for both the person running the check and the applicant.
If you apply for a job or an apartment rental and your background check takes three weeks due to inaccurate information or other reasons, but someone else’s check only takes three days, you’ll likely lose the opportunity.
Unfortunately, sometimes this is out of your control, but the more thoroughly you fill out applications and offer contacts for a reference check, the faster the criminal and credit check will finish.
As an employer or landlord who runs a background check, you probably want your apartment or job position filled as soon as possible.
The longer a background check takes, the longer you go without monthly rent or someone fulfilling necessary duties for your business.
How to Speed Up Your Background Check
To speed up the background check process, there are a few things you can do to get it completed quickly.
1. Gather All Relevant Information
The best way to speed up a background check is to gather all the necessary information and documentation for the company.
This documentation will include W2s, SSN, proof of income, etc.
Having as much documentation as possible will eliminate the need to contact certain individuals for verification, streamlining the process.
2. Research History of Records
It can help speed up a background check if you understand how recordkeeping works.
Research the history of records in the relevant locations, such as places you once lived or worked.
Having this information can help you prepare for the obstacles you may encounter.
3. Be Honest Throughout the Process
When it comes to background checks, don’t lie.
It is much easier to move past a blip on your record if you are upfront and honest about it.
Telling them about something before they run the check is often the best move to gain their trust and start on the right foot.
Background checks are useful for so many reasons to ensure you know who you are hiring or who you are letting live on your property.
If you are waiting on a background check or are getting ready for one, the best thing to do is be aware of what they look for and be as honest and transparent as possible.