Background checks can take weeks if not automated. It takes about 7 days on average, but given the nature of the process, it can go well beyond 10 days. By using the right software, you can speed up background checks and hire top talent before your competitors do.

Background checks are for new hires and for existing employees who are being transferred, promoted, or reclassified into a new position that's critical. The criminal, educational, and financial records of the candidate are looked into.

Reference checks look to find out the candidates' work history, job responsibilities and performance, and professional references. This is conducted towards the end of the hiring process and is done to prevent hiring an ill-fitting candidate.

How long does a background check take How long does a background check take

The Different Types of Background Checks 

1. Employment Background Checks

An employee background check is a process taken on by an employer in order to verify if the information given by the candidate on employment history, is in fact, true.

This is a background check that must absolutely be run. Especially for roles that have security implications or positions of trust. Examples are jobs in the government, financial institutions, law courts, hospitals, educational institutions, etc. This requires employers and hiring managers to contact personnel or human resource departments at the candidate's previous places of employment. It may also require contacting the candidate if there were periods of self-employment.

An employment background check reveals:

Employment background checks can take between 2 to 5 business days.

2. Academic / Educational Background Check

An Academic background check is required to verify the academic accomplishments of a candidate, including the Dates of attendance, the graduation date, the type of degree/ diploma/ Certificate awarded, the majors and minors, and honors if any.

Educational background checks could take 2 to 3 business days, even longer if it is during the summer holidays, and even more if the school is out of the country.

3. Professional Qualification Background Check

A Professional qualification background check is needed to verify whether the candidate has truly been a member of trade organizations and also their certificates and licensure.

A professional qualification background check can take an average of 2 business days to complete.

4. Criminal Background Checks

A criminal background check is done to verify whether the candidate has had a criminal record. This process may include manual record checking, liaising with authorities across the country or in-depth research if multiple matches are identified and litigation searches across court records for civil or criminal cases.

In the USA, criminal searches are generally completed in 1 - 2 business days, excluding holidays and court staffing issues. Candidates with an international background could take 3 - 30 business days.

5. Credit Background Check

An employment credit check is done to check a candidate's credit history and to see how they have handled consumer debt. It involves a search of the credit bureau records.

The credit background check takes about 24 - 48 hours.

6. Motor Vehicle Record Checks

An MVR or a Motor Vehicle Record Check is used to check a person's vehicular track record, which includes a person's driving history, license class, endorsements, restrictions, suspensions, and expirations.

Depending on the state you live in, the check could take from a few days to a couple of weeks.

7. Global Watch List Checks

The Global Watchlist is a database that consists of a number of lists across the globe that companies use to run routine identity checks against known or suspected terrorists, money launderers, frauds, or PEPs. 

It includes domestic, international, government, law enforcement, and regulatory databases which contain information on individuals who are on a criminal list or restricted from certain industries such as healthcare and finance.

This check can be done within a day or two.

8. Universal Background Checks

Universal Background Checks are that which require all firearm transactions in the USA to go through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It would close the loophole that currently allows prohibited purchasers to acquire guns by requiring background checks on all sales of guns and transfers between two parties like at gun shows, or online. 

Universal Background Checks are required by U. S. federal law, but at least 22 states and the District of Columbia require Background Checks for some private sales of firearms.

Universal background checks can take between 2 - 4 business days.

9. Healthcare Sanctions Check

The US Department of Health & Human Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) guideline bars healthcare organizations from hiring anyone who has been sanctioned from participating in federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The reasons the individuals may be on the OIG Exclusion list are:

For employers and job applicants in the healthcare field and in other related industries, a sanctions check is a critical step in the hiring process. Ensuring that job candidates and existing employees are not listed in any of the several government ban lists is not just a good idea, but could even be the law.

There are no warnings or notifications issued by OIG that tell who is excluded on the List of Excluded Individuals / Entities or the LEIE. So, an Exclusion Screening needs to be done regularly to see what exclusions exist on the LEIE. Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Hospices, group medical practices, and other health care providers risk non-payment of claims and Civil Monetary Penalties (CMP) due to excluded parties.

If the candidates give out their license numbers, these checks are performed digitally, and the results come out within a few hours or a day. When the applicant is uncooperative and doesn't give out their license number, however, it could take longer than a day.

10. Federal sex offender record check

The "Me Too" movement has given way to the priority of a sexual harassment check. All the states provide the records of sex offender data publicly. The process can differ from one jurisdiction to another.

Usually, a federal offender record check can be conducted within a week.


11. Reference Checks

Reference checks verify former employment, employment dates, job titles, degrees, responsibilities, licenses, and certifications. These are usually difficult and time-consuming. If a standardized system is followed, however, the reference should take from 2 - to 3 business days



Employment background checks

2 to 5 business days

Academic/ Educational background check

2 to 3 business days

Professional Qualification Background Check

Average of 2 days

Criminal background check

1 to business days (international candidates - 3 to 30 business days)

Credit background check

24 to 48 hours

Motor vehicle record check

Few days to couple of weeks

Global watch list check

1 or 2 days

Universal background check

2 to 4 days

Healthcare sanctions check

Approximately, 1 day

Federal sex offender check

Within one week

Reference checks

2 - 3 business days

Why do background checks take so long?

A common reason for delays is incomplete or incorrectly filled forms or forms that haven't been authorized.

With each type of background check, the reason for the delay varies. 

How to Speed Up the background check Process

Background screen checks are integral to the welfare of the company, not just the hiring process. So, getting an accurate result is crucial to the safety of the employees, customers, and the organization. 

Background checks are not just performed at the start of the hiring process, but at various stages of the hiring process and even after the employee is hired. This is confirmed by a joint study by and the Professional Background Screening Association(PBSA). Therefore, to avoid confusion and chaos, a system that is efficient is the need.

Finding the Right Background Screening Provider: 

This is the base of the whole operation. Many choose a background Screening Provider based on the cost, not realizing that that could end up costing them more. 

A Background Screening Provider with a low cost is probably one that cuts corners in areas that end up delaying the hiring process. So, when choosing a Background Screening, prioritize someone with a high turnaround time. This will end up saving you more time, which is money, but also money, for itself. A faster background Screen Check is a faster hire.

Using and Integrating the ATS: 

The ATS or The Applicant Tracking System is software for employers and recruiters to keep track of the entirety of the hiring process as well as any checks performed after. In large enterprises, recruiting and hiring is almost an ongoing affair, sometimes with several candidate positions done at the same time or at least coinciding at certain stages of the process.

Almost all Fortune 500 companies use an ATS as part of their recruiting strategy. Once choosing the right ATS software, it is important to integrate it with your Background Screening Provider. This ensures the seamless handling of information.

Utilizing the Existing Online System:

Using a modern and reliable background check software system like Checkr helps smoothen and reduce delays. If their existing questionnaire needs more questions, be sure to point it out to the Provider. 

Sending over filled-out paper forms delays the process even further as the writing is not always legible and it's a double process of typing the information out again into their own system. 

The same principle applies to drug screening. Going paperless on drug screenings helps let the providers know when a patient should get their next drug screen.

Combining Services: 

Using one provider for all background services such as Criminal checks, I- 9/ E - Verify and drug screening, etc. helps with all the information being in one area, instead of in multiple places. Choosing a provider that offers many important services helps with efficiency, brings about more order, and therefore, reduces delays.

If you can find the right provider that has a high turnaround time, an ATS, get it integrated, use an online system during the background checking process and make sure the provider you choose contains a host of services, the background checking process can be sped up.


As opposed to what the norm on the time-consuming nature of background checks is, it doesn't have to be long if the right provider is chosen. But even if you find a lag, you might just need to communicate it with the provider. They may have been waiting for information from you. 

The time varies with each service too, so as long as you pay attention to the areas where the delays can happen and plan ahead accordingly, you should be able to prevent them. When all is said and done, if you still find there to be delays, know that you've done everything you can and some things just require some waiting.