How Long Does A Background Check Take (+ FAQs)

Jul 22, 2020

Written by Caitlin Proctor

Written by Caitlin Proctor

Career Expert, ZipJob

An average of 250 resumes are sent for a single opening. See how Zipjob uses professional writers and technology to get your resume noticed.

An employment background check is usually a good sign! Many employers will only conduct a background check at the later stages of the hiring process when they’re comparing one or two job applicants. This leaves many job seekers asking how long a pre-employment background takes–and how soon they might expect a job offer!

Look no further! We’ll cover exactly how long it takes for a background check to come back.

How long does a background check take?

Pre-employment background checks usually take two to five business days. However, there are a few factors that can make the turnaround times longer, or delay a job candidate from hearing about the results.

How long does it take for a job background check

Two to five business days is how long it generally takes for the potential employer to get the results back–so don’t expect a reply right away. It may take one to two weeks to hear back after a background check is done.

First: yes, a background check is usually a good sign that the company is seriously considering you for the position! Here are some other common questions regarding a background check during the screening process:

What are they checking for?

1. Past employment history

The employer may be checking to verify that all of your experience listed matches your records. Make sure that all of the dates and company names/titles listed on your resume are accurate.

2. Education

The employer may also verify that you earned the degree(s) listed on your resume or job application. Lying about your education is a serious offense that could get you in trouble so ensure that the education section of your resume is accurate and up to date.

3. Criminal record

This is straight forward – most employers will check your criminal records before making an offer.

4. Credit history

The employer may also conduct a credit check if the position will allow you to have any sort of financial authority. We wrote a good post here on bad credit and how it can affect your job search.

How long does a criminal background check take for a job?

It takes the same amount of time. A criminal background check is part of a full employment background check process. Expect to hear back within a week or two.

How long does an employment background check take for a government job?

It’s the same for a Federal or Government job: two to five business days. It could take up to 30 days for some higher level government positions like the FBI. Employment background checks are more extensive and detailed for government departments.

Why is my background check taking so long?

If it has been longer than two weeks, there may be an issue with your background check. It’s possible that there is a red flag like conflicting employment information. If there is an issue, the employer may reach out to clarify some information.

It could also be that there was a delay by the background check company.

Lastly, it could be that the background check was complete but they still have not made a final decision. It is common for multiple candidates to go through a background check before the employer makes a final decision.

How do I know if I pass my background check?

They will either call or email you to let you know that the background has cleared. You may not even receive a notification that you passed the background check – you may just receive an offer.

Why is my background check still pending for a job?

It could be simply because the background check isn’t ready yet. There could also be something the employer discovered in the background check that they’re reviewing.

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Does the employer have to disclose why the background check failed?

Yes! According to the EEOC and The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – Employers are required to provide two notices to an employee/job applicant when taking an adverse employment action based on information found in a background report.

If your employer did not provide you with a copy of the background report before they chose not to hire you, then you have claims to pursue against the employer under the FCRA.

What if my background check is wrong?

You first need to obtain a report. You would then contact the background check service company and ask for a re-investigation of your results. You may be asked to verify your information and supply additional information. They will be required to correct any inaccurate information as long as you provide the right evidence. You can then contact the employer with the updated report.

Additional FAQs from the community:

“Who can we contact about our background check status?”

Start with the company you’ve applied to for an update about your background check’s status. If that doesn’t work due to nonresponse or lack of information, you can also try to reach out to the company running the background check if you have that information.

“I got my offer letter contingent on a background verification, but I haven’t heard if my background is cleared. Should I contact HR?”

Unless you expect something to show up on the background check that would disqualify you for the position, it is safe to assume your onboarding process is on track. You would most likely hear if there was a problem, but it would be appropriate for you to reach out to your future employer to verify.

“I missed city court on a misdemeanor charge due to covid. They issued a warrant. Will this show up on a state police background check?”

The misdemeanor might (if you get convicted), but it looks like the warrant might not.
Here is more info: Do Warrants Show Up on a Background Check? If you have further questions, you might want to seek legal counsel!

“I had my interview on Monday and the company told me it would run the background check the same day. Now it’s Friday and I haven’t heard anything! What should I do?”

Give it a little more time. The company may have waited a couple more days to start your background check, or the background check company could be delayed. Contact the interviewer next week to ask for an update.

“I’ve been waiting for my background check to clear for a government position since May 2020, I was told by the agency with whom the position is with, there’s a backlog on background checks but other non-governmental employers are getting them back sooner. What could this possibly mean?”


This could mean several things. Here are some factors to consider:
1. More people have been applying for government jobs over the past several months, so there likely IS a backlog much longer than usual.
2. Certain parts of the background check process may be delayed by office or court closures. Look into your state or county’s updates for more specific information.

“My background check came back and reported that I am ineligible to work at a day care. Why?”

There are a few reasons you may not be eligible to work with children. The best course of action is to follow up on why the background check showed this result.

You can ask the employer for a copy of the full report. If the company is not wiling to provide it, you have claims to pursue against the employer under the FCRA.

Summary

A background check is usually a good sign, but don’t stop the job search process until you’ve accepted a job offer. There are a number of factors that can draw out the pre-employment background check, but the majority don’t raise any questions.

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