How Long Does The Background Checks Take?

One of the most common questions we get at Intelimasters about our background screening services is, “How long does the background checks take?”. Well, that’s a loaded question but we’ll try our best to explain why delays can occur and how best to avoid them. 

Pre-employment screening involves conducting several different types of background check, each of which can be affected by various external factors. Some background checks can be done in just a few minutes, hours or days. Others might take weeks to get results. We’ll discuss the different types of background checks in more detail here and give you an estimate of the waiting period to get results for each one. 

First, here’s a list of the different kinds of background checks that can be included in a comprehensive screening service. Employers can mix and match the most appropriate checks depending on the responsibilities and requirements of the role being filled.

Types of Background Check

  • ID verification
  • Education & qualifications verification
  • Previous employment verification
  • Reference check
  • Driving record check
  • Criminal background check
  • Sex offender database check
  • Credit check
  • Bankruptcy check
  • Directorship search

ID Verification

No matter which background checks you plan to use, the first and most important before going any further is to verify applicants’ identities. As long as an applicant’s legal name has been spelt correctly on the application and the date of birth is accurate, we can quickly verify the name, date of birth and social security number in a few minutes by accessing government databases.

However, any discrepancies in the information provided by an applicant will cause delays. If the name, date of birth and social security don’t match or no records exists of the individual, then we have to find out why. First we reach out to the candidate to find out whether they made an honest mistake on their application or resume. If they aren’t contactable immediately, we have to wait for them to respond, or keep following up until we do get a response. 

Discrepancies with an applicant’s personal details could be a red flag indicating identity fraud, which of course will have to be investigated further with other background checks, adding to the time required to complete the screening.

Keep in mind that we usually process batches of applications on behalf of organizations and corporations, screening hundreds of candidates at a time. Each name is processed separately and in the order in which the information is keyed in. So even if the initial identity verification steps go without a hitch with each verification taking about 10 minutes, processing a hundred applications is a minimum of 16 hours of work for one of our researchers!

Education, Employment & Reference Verification

Verifying a candidate’s education, previous employment and any references they have provided often requires our background screening team to contact those organizations and individuals. We may also have to contact the applicant to obtain supporting documents such as degree transcripts and certificates. Turnaround times in such cases depend on the speediness of responses to those requests.

With documents in hand, our experienced researchers can usually tell at a glance whether the paperwork is genuine but it’s always worth double checking by contacting the organization to quickly confirm that the candidate studied at said university or worked in the role(s) stated as previous work experience. 

Our researchers are equally adept at spotting discrepancies that could indicate a dishonest applicant. Again, any suspicions must be investigated, and getting clarification can often be at the whim of various external factors beyond our control.

Criminal Background Checks

Criminal background checks are among the most important but can also be the most time consuming part of the screening process. Some countries such as the UK provide a basic criminal background check (DBS check) as an online service but if a more comprehensive, deeper search is required, documentation must be submitted before the request is approved. There are no guarantees on how long approval takes but you can expect to wait a few more days for each case. 

In the US, a ‘national’ criminal background check is actually the result of searching through hundreds or possibly thousands of databases. That’s because criminal records and the verdicts of criminal cases are kept at local courthouses; not in a nationwide database. Courthouse records are often only accessible on site, meaning researchers have to physically visit the buildings to access records. The Public Access Terminals on site may only give limited information, in which case the researcher might have to rummage through actual documents themselves. If they are not allowed to do that, they must request a Manual Clerk Search, which can be painstakingly slow when dealing with government bureaucrats. Apart from that, public holidays, weather, power outages and a myriad of other factors can cause delays.

Speeding up the background screening checks

A bit of planning goes a long way towards reducing time spent waiting for supporting documents by requiring applicants to provide them up front. Also ensure you obtain permission from candidates to   perform background searches as part of the application. In some cases you will need the candidate to sign additional release forms to perform more extensive investigations such as international background checks or state childhood abuse and neglect searches.

The quickest background checks are those that can be done by accessing a single national or local database to instantly retrieve relevant information such as driving records check and credit checks.

We usually perform Bankruptcy checks and Directorship searches for clients recruiting exclusively for an executive or other high-level position. You can save time by omitting these kinds of background checks when recruiting for the regular workforce but when hiring executives, you need to know whether the candidate has held or currently holds directorships in organizations that could create a conflict of interest. In transparent cases, that information can be researched in a matter of hours on a local level but a more thorough, widespread search consumes more time.   

Finally, keep in mind that you don’t have to run the gamut of background checks. Not all checks are necessary. We help clients save time and money by providing packages of background checks that are the most suitable and efficient for filling specific vacancies.