How Long Does A Background Check Take?

In the U.S., many employers use pre-employment background checks as part of the hiring process and these can take 5 minutes or 2 days to weeks, often depending on the position at hand.

Employers will run an employment background check to avoid hiring a candidate who could pose a threat to safety and security in the workplace or who could become a liability. Most organizations (over 70 percent) will run background checks on individuals they want to hire.

In general, we can see two different types of employment background checks. The checks that are carried out before a job interview and the ones that are performed before an employment contract will be signed.

Background checks that precede job interviews are generally based on information that’s publicly available such as education and prior employment, and social media usage.

This sort of background checks can be done almost instantly. If an employer invites you for an interview, you can be sure you’ve already passed this stage of your background check.

How do you prepare for social media usage?

A good source of information is the website CareerBuilder. The majority of employers and hiring managers in the U.S. say they are researching job applicants on social networking sites.

So be aware that your social media accounts are checked. Your accounts are scrutinized when you want to enter the job market.

Estimates are that more than 30 percent of all American employers that were checking a candidate’s social networks found relevant information there that made that they wanted to hire the candidate.

It goes without saying that employers will be looking for all sorts of red flags as well. The CareerBuilder website also indicates that almost 50 percent of employers and hiring managers say that when researching applicants’ social network accounts, they found things that caused them to specifically NOT hire that candidate.

Now, this information should not discourage or intimidate you. On the contrary! You can use your social accounts very well to your advantage. If you do it well, your accounts will provide them with zero reasons NOT to ask you for an interview as well as numerous reasons to get you aboard!

When it comes to indication what your desired annual salary expectations are while you’re on an hourly pay schedule now, use this paycheck calculator to get a good impression of how that relates.

How to prepare for the education background check

Employers perform an education background check to verify your educational claims on your resume. This way, they can verify your credentials and identify possible discrepancies before they will hire you.

Government agencies are warning potential employers about possible liabilities if they hire applicants based on fake credentials.

For employers, it’s quite easy to check your educational background, and today, fake diplomas are easily identified. So please, never use a fake diploma and never lie about certifications. Your credibility and future are at stake!

Professional employment background check (after the job interview)

Usually, a professional employment background check will take between 2 and 5 days. To be allowed to run this sort of employment background checks, employers need an applicant’s authorization.

All employers need to follow federal compliance laws and regulations and also adhere to specific state and local rules and laws when they perform background checks.

It’s very important that you’ll learn all about how to ace the job interview. Once you’ve passed the first screening of all applicants, this is your chance to show that you are the one who’s got what it takes to help the company get ahead and solve issues.

What does a background check show?

Employment background checks include generally records and information dating back as many as seven years though some states allow getting back up to 10 years.

Employment background checks can include but are not limited to a candidate’s educational and professional histories. The following may be checked:

Identity check

Identity verification is a critical starting point for employers and hiring agencies. It is conducted to confirm that candidates are actually who they say that they are. Especially in days like these, when it’s getting harder and harder to find a good job, employers want to know who they’re hiring. Identity verification results are the foundation for all of the remaining background research.

Education check

Education verification is used to avoid a very common aspect of falsification on resumes. Many organizations require job-related certificates, degrees, or majors and many candidates stretch their educational histories and hope that a potential employer will not check their resumes for possible discrepancies.

Estimates are that more than 80 percent of all employers have encountered resumes that after screening appeared to include falsifications!  Professional employment background screening agencies are often hired to secure the quality of their new employees by verifying the education and professional activities listed on applications and resumes.

Criminal record check

Criminal background checks are usually included in employment or pre-employment background checks. It is a legal investigation into a candidate’s past and used to help decide if a candidate should be hired or not.

Criminal background checks may search county, state, and federal databases to provide relevant information to possible employers about a candidate’s criminal records and history.

Volunteer organizations, employers, and hiring agencies can use criminal background reports to find out if a candidate is trustworthy and honest or that a candidate could pose a potential threat to their organizations or their other employees. Screening candidates will help mitigate risk, protect a company’s assets, or avoid negligent hiring legal issues.

Drugs check

Employers are looking to provide safe, secure, and drug-free workplaces to their employees. So to eliminate candidates that have a history of drug and/or controlled substance abuse, they perform pre-employment drug screening.

Often, drug abuse and health screenings can be integrated with criminal and background checks. This will not only save time but increase the chances of revealing other negative behavior of candidates.

Medical check

Most employers will include a pre-employment medical check as part of the process of hiring new employees. This is done to make sure there are no serious medical conditions and that the candidate is mentally and physically fit for the job at hand.

There are restrictions as to what medical exams are permitted but not all exams are considered equal. A physical fitness test, for example, is not regarded as a medical exam as long as it relates to a job function and not measure biological or physiological responses.

If an employer withdraws a job offer due to medical exam results, the withdrawal needs to be job-related. Employers are required to keep all medical information private.

Credit history check

A pre-employment credit check is usually carried out by a background check agency. Employers generally check the credit and credit reports of people applying for a job, particularly for positions that include finances and management positions.

Particularly for positions that require financial integrity and confidentiality, for example in the accounting, investing, and financial sectors, credit checks will likely be required. So when it comes to your desired salary, an employer wants, understandably, to know your financial background.

The credit history check report shows the debt a candidate has incurred such as mortgage and car payments, credit card debt, student and other loans. A candidate’s payment history of those loans and debts is also listed, including late payments.

There is information, though, that will not be included in pre-employment credit reports such as a candidate’s date of birth and credit score.

Driving record check

Many regulated agencies impose specific requirements when it comes to screening drivers. There are numerous instances that employers are legally responsible for their employees that drive for the company’s business purposes.

Pre-employment drivers record screenings are recommended and sometimes required when a candidate’s position requires driving for the employer in a company vehicle or in their own or rented car.

What if a background check takes longer?

Background checks may take sometimes longer than between 2 and 5 days. Let’s see how it comes that sometimes a background check may take a bit longer.

One of the most common reasons for delays is an incomplete or inaccurate check request form. And sometimes, an employer doesn’t have the required authorization forms signed by an applicant. This is a requirement by law.

When a job applicant agrees to the background check and provides all of the requested information, the employment background check will take not that much time.

Background checks will not be carried out or completed until a candidate’s written consent is received. So job applicants should make sure to release their consent and authorize the employer or the hiring agency to screen their backgrounds.

Another reason why the screening is delayed could be that an applicant has used a different name in the past. Also, when an applicant goes by a popular common name, his or her records might be mistakenly be mixed up with those of another person that has the same or similar name.

Name variances and aliases may also cause a delay and then, manual checks are required to establish and/or confirm the applicant’s identity.

For applicants that lived in a foreign country for work or school during the last decade, international background checks may be required as well and this may be a cause of delay.

Usually, international checks will take at least 4-5 days depending on the country. There are countries, however, that have very extensive privacy protection regulations and laws and when that’s the case, background checks may take up to 25 days to be completed.

What happens when I pass a background check?

When you’ve passed the first employment background check, you may be invited for a job application interview and sometimes, the employer will start the completion of the hiring process. If that’s the case, you will receive an employment contract.

How do I know if I failed the background check?

Employers are obligated to inform job applicants when they’re not hired due to information revealed in an employment background report.

Employers are required to give you a notice that’s including a copy of the report they based their decision on and a copy of a legal-conditions form that the screening agency needs to have included with presenting the report.


An employment background check and a pre-employment check have become normal elements of employment application processes.

These processes are generally pretty straightforward and happen usually within expected turnaround times. There are situations, however, that unexpected delays may occur.

When you have the feeling that your background check takes too long, just contact the company or the person who requested or ordered the check and find out why it’s taking so long. It could be that more information on your behalf is required such as aliases or a previous address. In case the delay is not in your control, however, for example when the delay is due to manual processing, then you know at least what’s causing the delay.

Last Updated on March 30, 2020