When there’s hiring to be done, you want to complete it as quickly as possible. The longer your positions go unfilled, the more pressure it puts on your organization. Productivity may suffer, deadlines may be missed, and revenue may tumble.
In short, you need people in the seats.
This is why background check turnaround time is so crucial. You simply can’t afford to wait any longer than necessary to verify the backgrounds of job applicants, run criminal record searches, and complete all the other critical pre-employment checks needed for a safe and compliant workplace.
At the same time, you can’t afford to sacrifice accuracy at the altar of speed, either. The ideal background screening provider is both prompt and reliable. You can count on the results, and you can expect to have them in as little time as it takes to get them right.
So what is the absolute minimum amount of time required to perform an accurate background check? It depends on the type of screening and a few other factors.
In this article, we’ll break down the turnaround times you can expect from industry-leading background screening and verification services. We’ll also discuss some of the circumstances that influence turnaround time.
Employment and Education Verification
The time required to verify both a job applicant’s employment history and education depends on similar factors.
Education verifications can come back very quickly, especially if the university makes its data available through online vendors such as the National Student Clearinghouse. Equivalent databases exist in the employment world, most notably, The Work Number (formerly owned by TALX, currently a division of Equifax). These verification databases are nearly instantaneous.
If an employee’s background information is not available through a centralized online system, verifying employment or education history may require phone calls or other manual steps.
In these cases, turnaround time can be challenging to predict, as it relies on the responsiveness of third-parties (schools or employers) and how far back they keep records.
Generally, 24 to 72 hours is considered the industry-standard turnaround range for employment or education verification.
Occasionally, the process can take longer for legitimate reasons, for example, if the applicant has a common name, or if their graduation date was decades ago. But if you’re still waiting on a verification three days after your request, consider checking with your vendor about the delay.
Criminal History Search
County-level criminal record searches typically take no longer than 72 hours. Experienced consumer reporting agencies will have a more precise sense of the turnaround times of the various counties they deal with frequently.
Certain situations can cause a criminal background search to exceed the three-day standard. These include:
- An applicant with a common name (such as John Smith).
- A search that goes back 10 or more years.
- Searches that require the assistance of a county clerk.
- A high number of criminal records for a single applicant.
Some criminal background checks can turn around in 24 hours or less — sometimes just a few hours. This is generally the case when counties house their data online.
As with verification, the more manual steps required to perform a criminal background check, the longer it will take.
Other Background Screening Services
Thanks to the existence of convenient centralized databases, most other pre-employment screening services take less than 24 hours. These include credit reports, motor vehicle checks, and medical sanction checks.
These types of services will typically only take longer than a day if the background screening company notices something strange about the results and determines it warrants a round of quality assurance. This would be an indicator of your vendor’s expertise and commitment to accuracy.
How to Maximize Turnaround Time for Background Checks
To ensure a speedy turnaround, it’s essential to provide your background screening provider with all the pertinent details about a job applicant, including name, date of birth, and social security number. The more information your background screening firm has, the better, especially when it comes to applicants with common names.
Also, be aware that more comprehensive background screening packages may take a bit longer to complete than individual services.
Finally, if you feel your background checks are taking too long, a knowledgeable, experienced screening firm can help you understand why.
In the meantime, for more tips on achieving faster background checks, access our free guide, “Improving Turnaround Times on Background Checks: Challenges, Opportunities, and Expert Advice.”