By Mike Wiley


Modern hiring processes are long, and long gone are the days of someone dropping their resume off at the office and getting hired that same week. Nowadays, the process stretches weeks, sometimes months. By the end of the process, everyone is ready to wrap it up and get butts in seats. 

The background check is one of the final stages. Delays in this stage — where your company and your candidates are eager to get started — can be immensely frustrating. 

That’s why turnaround time (TAT) is so important. After all, you don’t want to wait any longer than necessary to verify job applicants’ backgrounds, run criminal record searches, and complete all the other critical pre-employment checks needed for a safe and compliant workplace.

Luckily, automation can dramatically speed up your turnaround times. 

What are the average turnaround times?

Before we cover automation, let’s cover average turnaround times for background checks to understand the industry benchmarks before automation kicks into gear.

Turnaround times are a moving target, and a whole host of factors can slow down your background checks. However, your background check provider should know about most of these issues, allowing them to communicate with you and set expectations. 

For example, these are some of the factors that can affect your turnaround time immensely:

  1. The records aren’t online. Some jurisdictions put their records online, easily accessible via a public access portal. These jurisdictions are the background screeners’ best friend. Without a public access portal, completing a background check may require calling the county clerk or physically going into the courthouse to use their research terminals.
  2. The jurisdiction is slow or overloaded. Some jurisdictions are famously slow. Others are merely going through periods of being overloaded or understaffed. 
  3. Your partner hasn’t optimized their process. The best consumer reporting agencies continuously optimize their processes, but many still struggle to reach maximum efficiency. The agency may still use out-of-date, inefficient processes; they may fail to follow up with candidates promptly, or they may deal with such a large volume of requests that they can’t react nimbly to problems.
  4. You’re conducting a type of screen that takes more time. There are a lot of different types of background checks. Some are simple and quick (like credit history checks), but others require a lot more manual intervention (like employment history verification.)

(Read More: 10 Main Reasons Your Background Screening Turnaround Time Is Slower Than Expected)

Given these criteria, here are some rough estimates for turnaround time across different types of background checks:

  • Criminal Records Searches. These usually range from 3 hours (when data is hosted online) to 72 hours. It rarely takes beyond 72 hours, but certain edge cases will cause delays. 
  • Employment and Education Verification. The industry standard is 24-72 hours, particularly when the data is hosted online through vendors like the National Student Clearinghouse.
  • Drug Screening. Negative tests usually come back within 48 hours. For positive tests, they take longer due to additional retesting to confirm the negative result. 
  • Other services (credit reports, motor vehicle history checks, etc.) Most of the other types of background check services are done within 24 hours, though many are near-instantaneous. If it’s taking longer than that, it’s usually because your provider noticed something strange about the results.

How does background screening automation work?

Generally speaking, automated background checks work by having a bot “scrape” court websites for the data you require. When counties put their conviction and sentencing information online, it allows consumer reporting agencies (like Chane) and criminal records data providers to automatically pull that information, compile it, and format it into a reportable format. 

Without an automated bot, a paid researcher would be doing the same process. In a sense, one of these bots replaces the time-intensive manual work. Now automation doesn’t eliminate the need for human researchers, as many court records are not online, or the website isn’t designed to produce quality automated results. But using automation does free up researchers to focus their efforts on more challenging research needs. 

For companies like yours, the obvious benefit to you is that automated results are nearly instantaneous. The data gets pulled and compiled within minutes. Your background screening partner may take some time to format that data, conduct some quality assurance, and incorporate it into a formal report, but the process is speedy.

How to know if your provider is using automation.

Your background screening provider must be using automation. It’s faster and cheaper. When done correctly in the counties with the right technology, it’s also nearly indistinguishable from manual research methods. 

Not sure if your provider is taking full advantage of automation? Here’s how you find out.

  1. Learn their predicted turnaround times for your jobs. Are they consistently finishing jobs faster than expected or faster than industry benchmarks? They’re probably using some form of automation.
  2. Evaluate their costs vs. other providers. Building automation is an investment for background check providers: it may take time and talent to build the automation, but the results are faster and cheaper. While a consumer reporting agency will look to recoup some of these development costs in their pricing, they will still most likely charge less than other providers.
  3. Ask them. The simplest way is to ask them. They should speak intelligently about using automation, explain if it is a useful option given your county and screening types, and whether they built their automation or work with a specialty vendor.  

Need a partner who is always striving for better speed, accuracy, and cost?

At Chane Solutions, we would be happy to discuss turnaround time with you. We often work with our clients to tighten up the background screening process from both ends, and we make full use of automation where it’s available. Contact us here.