How Long Do Background Checks Take? What You Need To Know

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Posted by: David Garcia

Topics: Background Check 101

As a recruiter, your main job is to find the best talent possible that will positively contribute to your company.

As an employer, you will need to have background checks performed on potential employees to mitigate risks and ensure a sound hiring decision.

Even if you’ve been through the background check process before, you may have some questions about how it works. Sometimes, background checks only take a couple of days to go through. In other cases, they may take a week or longer to be completed. When you follow up with a vendor for a status update, you may even receive an unclear response or no answer at all. 
Delayed employment background checks can cause the candidate you worked hard to find to grow frustrated. They may readily accept another position elsewhere while you wait for their background check to make its way back to you.

To keep your candidates interested, you should familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the background screening process.

More interested in outsourcing? Here's a helpful guide on how to pick a background check company.

Here, we’ll cover how long a background check takes and some ways to minimize delays.

How Long Do Background Checks Take?

Under perfect conditions, a background check takes one to three business days. However, one can take up to 14 days or longer depending on the scope of the searches. Delays will impact the talent acquisition process such as:

  • Sorting through your pool of candidates and setting up interviews.
  • Scheduling on-boarding and avoid the need to push training sessions back.
  • Managing your candidates’ expectations of their employer.

You should understand what influences the turnaround time for a background check. This way, as an employer, you can prepare for how long the process actually takes.

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What Are The Causes Of Delays At The Component Level?

Many factors can prevent a background check from getting back to you promptly, which can leave you frustrated as the employer.

These are some of the causes of delays that we encounter most frequently:

Candidate Authorization

A vendor must receive authorization from a candidate before they can complete a background check. And this isn’t just common courtesy. The Fair Credit Reporting Act federally mandates employers follow the act to ensure compliance.

On the surface, this step of the employment background screening process is pretty simple. A candidate will receive various documents via email that they can view and authorize on their smartphone. It’s an efficient, secure ordeal to streamline the process.

However, delays in the screening process can occur when the candidate fails to take immediate action. If an applicant waits three or four days before reading over the authorization form, this already creates a major delay. The employment background check itself cannot begin until an applicant offers their approval.

Candidate Drug Test Scheduling

Drug testing is another factor that has to do with the candidate’s action (or lack thereof).

When an employment background check has a drug test component, a candidate will likely need to go to a physical location to provide a urine or saliva sample.

Scheduling conflicts or a lack of urgency may cause candidates to delay visiting a testing clinic.

This kind of delay will ultimately prolong the time it takes for you to get the drug test results you need.

Drug Test Clinic Delays

Postponed appointments aren’t the only reasons for delays in drug tests.

The clinic may have a large number of people that need test results. In rare cases, a specimen can become tainted or lost, which will require the applicant to come back in and submit another sample.

If the clinic produces a non-negative result, the applicant’s report will need to be reviewed by a Medical Review Officer.

While they aren’t routine, any of these situations can create delays in the employment background check process.

To learn more about delays check out our blog on nationwide data on delays by state and county.

County Court Information

A majority of the United States’ counties have online portals that share civil and criminal case information. In these counties that offer online access, vendors can usually return criminal record results in less than one business day.

However, some counties may not offer enough information online. In these cases, a representative will need to visit a courthouse and retrieve the pertinent criminal record. This time-consuming process can slow down an employment background check by several days or weeks.


Verifications regarding background checks most often refer to education and employment verifications. Each can present challenges that result in screening delays.

Education verifications are easiest to obtain at the university level. Most higher education institutions are a part of the National Student Clearinghouse so that vendors can access degree verifications within one day.

If a screening vendor needs to access proof of high school education, the screening process can be trickier. A vendor will often need to reach out to the specific school for proof of graduation. In some cases, the vendor will be better off working with the applicant to obtain the necessary transcripts.

Some third-party services will force this time-consuming work back onto the recruiter. To avoid the headache of chasing down education verification, you should recruit an employment background check vendor like ScoutLogic. We will always do the extra work for you so you don’t have to seek out the information you need.

Employment verifications can also be easy or difficult to obtain. Large employers can usually offer employment verification through a third-party service within one day. On the other hand, mid-sized and small employers aren’t usually subscribed to these types of services.

If an applicant has worked for a smaller employer in the past, verification can only be obtained by:

  • Reaching out to the employer individually
  • Obtaining past W2 forms from the candidate

This kind of manual verification takes much longer than the automated process offered by larger companies.

However, the right employment background check vendor will work efficiently to get you the verification you need. Here's a quick guide you can use when picking a background check company.

How Can You Speed Up Employment Background Checks?

Some of the factors we’ve discussed are outside of your control. However, there are certain steps you can take to minimize delays as the employer and speed up the screening process:

  • Set a time limit on the authorization process: As a recruiter, you should inform your candidates to complete the authorization process as soon as possible. Let them know that their employment may be delayed if they don’t provide their consent timely.
  • Push applicants to take the required drug tests: Find a background check vendor that will remind the applicant daily to visit the drug testing clinic.
  • Follow up with drug testing clinics: You or a vendor should always follow up with the drug testing clinic within three days of a test. This way, you can understand what is causing any delays for the screening.
  • Communicate court record delays: Let candidates know that the acquisition of court records may be delayed even if they seek other opportunities. Provide honest updates on their background check and offer revised TATs when they become available. Your background check vendor should be providing you with proactive updates.
  • Check “unable-to-verify” rates: When you choose a vendor, find one that has a 10% unable-to-verify rate or lower. This will help ensure that they are doing the work to keep the verification process moving swiftly along.
While time is of the essence, you don’t want to risk completing an inaccurate or incomplete employment background check. Our experts at ScoutLogic can efficiently and accurately check a candidate’s criminal background, credit history, and other information. This way, you can rest assured and choose the right person for the job.

Our team at ScoutLogic follows all of the steps listed above to speed the background check process and bring on the ideal members to your team.


Background checks are an essential part of the recruiting process.

Even though you can perform a background check yourself, you risk obtaining incomplete information or creating a compliance risk. Your time and effort should be spent writing job descriptions, conducting interviews, and completing reference checks, not chasing down background checks. It’s best to hire a third-party service that has vast experience in delivering accurate background checks.

With that being said, you shouldn’t enlist just any screening vendor to perform your background checks.

Get in touch with one of our experts at ScoutLogic today to simplify the background screening process. We’ll assign you your very own Scout that will work as an extension of your team.

Plus, we’ll offer updates throughout the screening process and deliver timely background checks. This way, you’ll always know what to expect and be informed of any hiccups in the process.

Contact one of our ScoutLogic employment background check experts today to get started!


ScoutLogic is not a law firm.  You should always check with qualified counsel before you make any changes to your background check program.  If you need a qualified attorney, we would be happy to make a referral for you.


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