How Long Do Employee Background Checks Take: See The Timeline

Background checks have advanced over the years, and a company must run background checks for many job positions.

However, the problem with background checks is that there is no standard time frame for completion. Some companies spend hours on them, while others can take days. 

A few factors determine how long an employer will take to run an employee’s background check. However, depending on the nature and extent of the background check, it usually takes two to four business days.

Knowing how long a background check will take when considering a new job or just weighing the risks of not completing one is helpful.

In this article, you’ll learn how long it takes to perform an employee background check and what benefits it brings your business.

What are employee background checks?

An employee background check is a process that verifies the accuracy of the personal and professional information provided by a job candidate or existing employee.

This can include past employment history, criminal records, education credentials, and more. 

Employee background checks help protect businesses of all shapes and sizes. It reduces the risk of unintentionally hiring unqualified candidates, reduces turnover, and protects your company’s reputation and profitability.

Hiring the right people is of utmost importance. Employee background checks help you avoid problems in the future by documenting what employees want to hide.

But it can also be a third party, such as a government agency or law firm, requesting a background check.

Why are employee background checks important?

Conducting a background check is important for employers to maintain a safe and productive workplace.

The hiring process has become increasingly more complex as the need for qualified candidates continues to outpace the availability of talent.

Some of the reasons to conduct a background check on potential employees include the following:

  • Stops the “bad apple”
  • Ensures ethical practices
  • Keeps your business legal
  • Protects you from false accusations
  • It gives a better chance of finding the right candidate
  • It’s the law – if you hiring, you need to conduct background checks
  • It works for everyone

Employee background checks are important for businesses for a variety of reasons. Background checks potential screen employees and helps determine if they will be a good match for your business.

Background checks will also ensure that your business has a positive reputation and that the highest security standards are met.

What do employee background checks entail?

Potential employers perform employee background checks to learn about applicants’ personal information and employment history.

The information could include name, address, previous employers, and credentials. The employers or employers could do the process hired companies to perform the checks.

Here is some basic information related to the checks.

1. Past work and education history

Your candidate’s past work and education history are essential for an employee background check. They can also be the difference between a fit and an unfit candidate.

Verifying the information on your candidate’s resume ensures their experience aligns with your job requirements.

2. Verification of identity

An applicant’s identity is key to completing a background check. Before checking any other information, start by confirming the name, address, and Social Security number.

This may be done through a simple discussion with a human resources professional who then hand-verifies the information provided by the applicant.

3. References

A reference check evaluates a job candidate based on feedback from their references.

The purpose of a reference check is to get third-party feedback on a candidate’s past performance, notably how they performed in a similar job.

These checks are usually done during the hiring process and can include former employers and colleagues.

4. Past criminal history and legal issues

With the tight job market, you may be tempted to rush through the hiring process. But before you call in any new hires for an interview, complete a background check first.

Complete your background check, and you will find out about the candidate’s criminal history and legal issues.

Criminal history and legal issues in past employment are also considered. If a new employee has been convicted of violence, felony crimes, or falsifying information, they may not be qualified to work in your business.

5. Credit history, motor vehicle, and license record checks

If you are hiring a new employee, you may be anxious to get your interviewee on board as soon as possible.

You are undoubtedly eager to get the application process behind you and move forward with training and delegating tasks.

But before you present that job offer, the business must invest in a background check.

A criminal background check is the most common type of background check. A law enforcement agency typically performs it.

A credit check is another type of background check. It is usually done by a financial institution or an employer. Credit history will provide information about a person’s payment history to other lenders, including banks.

Factors that determine the duration of employee background checks?

Employee background checks are an important part of the hiring process. It depends on several factors if you’re wondering how long they take.

Some of them include but are not limited to the following.

1. The current workload of recruiters and HR departments

 Background checks are carried out at the end of the hiring process, and employers usually want them done as soon as possible. However, this doesn’t mean that employers can consistently meet their deadlines. 

If a company is going through a hiring phase when looking for several new employees, HR personnel might need more time to run background checks on all of them.

If a company is expanding and making many new hires during a short period, this could cause delays in background checks.

2. Degree of sensitivity factor for the position

Background checks are usually performed to determine whether an employee is suitable for a specific position or employment.

Background checks are typically done toward the end of the interview process and can take 3-5 days. 

Time duration may vary depending on the information requested, past work history, and availability. The more sensitive the position, the lengthier the background check will be.

3. The complexity of the prospective employee data

Background check times will vary depending on the complexity of the information and the methods used to verify it.

Some background checks may take as little as 24 hours to complete, while others may need several days or weeks to be cleared.

If a prospective employee’s data is easily verifiable, the process can be completed within 24 hours.

However, the verification process will take longer if multiple local, state, and national databases exist.

4. The nature of the company and industry

The company’s needs and the job’s nature influence how long employee background checks take.

Regulation agencies, the military, and government jobs might require more thorough background checks than white-collar jobs.

Security-related positions may require a continuous background check throughout employment, while lower-risk roles may not.

Therefore, when running a background check on an employee, it is important to consider the nature of the job to identify any risks that could arise from it.

5. Incomplete or incorrect applications

Incomplete applications are by far the leading cause of delay in background screening. Providing incomplete or incorrect background check information will invariably delay the process. 

As part of your hiring process, screen every applicant and ensure they have all the required information on their application.

The firms offering these third-party services say one of the best ways to reduce errors is to have an automated process. Besides, it can help reduce errors and time-to-hire dramatically.

How to perform employee background checks efficiently

1. Prepare applicants for what they can expect

Hiring a new employee is an exciting event in any company, but before hiring someone, you want to ensure they’re a good fit for the job.

By screening for criminal histories, drug screenings, and employment verification before hiring, you can rest assured the person you hire is trustworthy.

Making employee background checks easy for applicants is important, so they won’t feel their privacy is being invaded.

The last thing you want is for someone to have a negative experience with your organization right from the start.

2. Prioritize gathering all relevant information

Part of the time-consuming challenge is to gather all relevant information about a candidate before a background check begins.

Often, candidates have worked for several companies before applying for a new job, and obtaining authorization from previous employers can be time-consuming.

Having all your documentation in order will help speed up the process, so gather as much information as possible before sending out requests to credit agencies and banks.

The more thorough your search, the shorter it will take.

3. Encourage honesty throughout the process

When it comes to employee background checks, honesty is the best policy. Trust your instincts.

Ask follow-up questions if something seems suspicious about an applicant’s job history or other information. 

The more transparent your hiring process is, the easier it will be for applicants to understand what you’ll need from them.

A thorough background check won’t do much good if you don’t know everything you need.


How much does it cost to run an employee background check?

Background checks can cost $20 to $100 per applicant. Furthermore, the fees may vary depending on an employee’s screening level, like a criminal record check or drug screening.

Do employee background checks give peace of mind?

Employee background checks can provide peace of mind and help companies vet new hires.

Are employee background checks a must for employers?

While they are not mandated by law, most companies conduct employee background checks to safeguard their company.

Furthermore, if you’re worried about potential employee fraud or theft within the business, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Final thoughts

Many employers seek to hire the best candidates for certain job roles. Recent graduates or unemployed individuals may find the length of time an employee background check may take an important consideration.

Employee background checks can take a few days to a few weeks. Law enforcement officers, for example, often require more time as they must collect a lot of information.

Since federal and state agencies are conducting these checks, you must get all the relevant information as soon as possible.

Whether you’re looking for a part-time gig or want to move up in your company, keeping a good company record makes a lot of sense.

That will be more important than ever as legal issues become more common and companies become security nightmares.

Lastly, managing your employees requires patience and qualities on your part as an employer or a manager.

Let’s be honest, it’s not an easy job. However, an article is written for managers who wish to be the best. Check out the article that highlights the top areas of improvement for managers.

Thanks for reading.