How Long Does a Background Check Take?

Background checks are an essential part of the hiring process, but they can be tedious and take time. How long does a background check take normally?

So you’ve requested a background check and now you’re waiting for the results. Maybe you’re in the process of applying for a new position or maybe you’re the employer seeking information on a prospective employee. Whatever the case, your next thought may be, “How long does a background check take to process?”

What is a background check? It is a routine process of obtaining records on an individual. The most common records requested are usually criminal records, but depending on the type of work involved, the process may involve more and take much longer. It is important to remember that when applying for a background check, the length of the process can vary.

I requested a background check, so how long does a background check take?

Routine employee screening usually takes around one to five days. That is the standard amount of time expected to wait for a background check to come back. However, the length of time it takes to get a background check can be prolonged depending on a number of factors.


There are multiple companies and organizations that offer background check screening services. If you’re an employer, the amount of time it takes for the process can depend on the reliability and thoroughness of the company you choose. Some have faster turnaround times than others, but fast doesn’t always mean accurate and thorough, so keep this in mind.


The industry in which you are applying can also factor in how long the background check takes. While most employers request a simple criminal record, additional information can be requested, and this can add time onto the turnaround. Different companies have different requirements and checks they run during their screening process, so don’t be surprised if it takes longer than the usual five days. In addition to the simple criminal record, some companies may request driving records, credit checks, employee verification, education verification, and social media account research.

For certain industries, you may require an extra security clearance. If you are applying for a high-profile government position, to work with children, or somewhere that you will have to have a high amount of confidentiality and risk, the verification could take much longer. Additional requests may include sexual offender records, credit reports, and litigation history.

Why There May Be a Delay with Your Background Check

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It is possible that delays can occur when requesting records on an individual. When it comes to criminal history, a good route can be researching the counties where the candidate spent most of his or her life. If you decide to go this route, these investigations could take time, as there is no centralized database of every county in the United States.

Once the records are obtained from the courts, the background check companies must then verify that the records are accurate, legal and belong to the candidate. Depending on the company, this can also delay the process. If you want to verify the records yourself, check out the best background check services – they are quick, easy, and affordable.

Another delay that can occur is the employment verification and reference requests. When an employee is requesting a reference check from past employers, if the former employers don’t respond in a timely manner, this could add delays to the process. Also, international companies and companies that have since been shut down may be a bit more difficult to get ahold of. Difficulties with seasonal jobs may also occur. Typically, employee checks take up to three days.

Things to Remember

When requesting criminal records on an individual person, there are a few situations that could come up that could lead to a longer process. In the event that some information comes up on the individual that is adverse, by law the organization is required to verify that the information is valid. The Fair Credit Report Act also requires employers to inform the candidate of why they were not hired should anything come back on their background check. Candidates are also allowed to dispute the decision.

All of these requests, while essential to the job hiring process, can be cumbersome and take longer than usual. Regardless, a background check is an important point in the hiring process, as it can tell you whether or not the candidate will be a good fit for the position.