How Long Does an Employee Background Check Take?
How long will the background check on my candidate take? Hiring teams often are under tight timelines to interview, make an offer, then onboard candidates.
There is one question from hiring managers that makes recruiters a little nervous: How long will the background check on my candidate take? Hiring teams often are under tight timelines to interview, make an offer, and then onboard candidates. Sometimes a background screening can take longer than anticipated, leading to a longer than expected onboarding time.
A typical background check that is only verifying basic information in the United States can be as short as two to four business days, or about 10-15 days in Europe and Asia Pacific. You might be thinking to yourself right about now, “Hey, my screens usually take longer than that!” and you may be correct. There is a huge variation in the timeline of a typical background check that varies the cost and scope of your check. Often, there are many different types of checks conducted on one candidate, making the process more time-consuming for the research team(s) doing the verification(s).
Let’s go over the most common types of background check services, and their approximate timelines.
An identity check is often used as a foundation for more comprehensive checks. A basic ID check on a U.S. candidate can take two to four days, while more comprehensive checks could take longer.
For example, a Form I-9 and E-Verify is an easy and efficient online solution for managing employment eligibility in the U.S. and only takes a few days to conduct. On the other hand, employers in the financial services industry run more comprehensive background check on their employees, which need to adhere to regulatory standards and could take longer to conduct. Some countries rely more upon manual checks such as verifications by phone call or email, as large databases do not exist in their region.
Employment verification can be more complicated and time-consuming than identity checks and is one of the most common types of background checks used globally, as noted in the 2023 HireRight Global Benchmark Report. Unlike identity or criminal checks, this type of check may include contacting administration or human resources departments at the candidates' past employers. It may also require verifying periods of self-employment with the candidate. Typical employment verification can take two to three business days, or even longer if it is difficult to get in touch with past employers, or if the contact themselves no longer work there.
Criminal Background Checks
Criminal checks are used by employers across the globe, and the timeframe for a check can vary significantly depending on where you are conducting the searches. In the U.S., criminal searches are usually completed in one to two business days but can be lengthened by weekends, holidays, and court staffing issues. For candidates outside of the U.S., the process can take significantly longer, from three to 30 business days. In many cases, the processes may include manual record checking, communications with authorities in different countries, or in-depth verification and research when multiple matches are identified.
Academic and Education Verification
Confirming the academic qualifications of a candidate is quite common, especially within Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) and Asia-Pacific (APAC). This type of check may involve contacting various schools and universities, which can be time-consuming. National and global databases for diplomas and educational certificates do not exist in many locations, and researchers need to contact universities and schools individually. A typical report may take two to three business days, but this can take longer in the summer and during school vacations. If there are non-US educational institutions to verify, that can add more time to the background check. In some instances, a release form must be signed by the candidate before the institution will release any information, adding to the timeline.
Other Background Checks
There are several other background check services that an employer can request about a candidate, depending on how intensive of a check the position requires. This can include motor vehicle records, social media screening, credit search, and reference verifications. These can vary in how comprehensive they are, how long they take, and if there are any federal regulations to consider.
Most of the time, background checks are relatively straightforward and are performed quickly. However, you can see there may be circumstances extending the timeline of a background check on a candidate. The more comprehensive the check or the more sources a background researcher must verify, the more time it may take to complete a background check.
Employers often ask background screening providers how to speed up their candidates' background checks. While there are many elements that are out of control for the screener and the candidate, there are many factors that can slow down the check. Here are a few ways that employers and candidates can prepare for a background check to help the process along:
Advise the candidate to prepare their data
Candidates may be asked to provide documentation the background screener may need to help them verify the information. Having documentation ready can help the researchers conduct the screening quickly. They may ask the candidate to provide proof of employment or verify past addresses or dates of employment. Having this information or documentation ready can certainly speed up the process if it is needed.
Use an Applicant Center for screening
Utilizing a secure and personalized candidate portal can expedite the background screening process for both the candidate and the employer. This will help to consolidate communication from the screening vendor to the candidate in one place. Candidates can upload documents and provide information directly to the background screener. Additionally, candidates have access to a help center and other resources that they may need during the screening process. HireRight offers an Applicant Center to all organizations, free of charge, that are using the HireRight Global Screening Manager.
As we can see, the time it takes to perform a background check on a candidate can depend on a number of variables. We hope that the general guidelines that we have provided can help both employers and candidates understand the process, and how to help mitigate any factors that may affect the final timeline. For more information about HireRight's background screening services, please visit the HireRight Services page.
Release Date: August 29, 2023
Lindsey Goodwin is the Vice President of Customer Service, responsible for global workforce management and service delivery, and oversees process improvement for Customer Service, optimizing tools and processes in effort to increase employee engagement and enhance the customer experience. Lindsey has over a decade of industry experience and has previously been responsible for marque brand (Fortune 50) client relationships for one of the world’s largest credit bureaus.