6 Reasons for Background Check Delays

Employment screening is a crucial part of the hiring process.  While an employer may want the most rapid response possible, it is wise to mitigate risk by being thorough and accurate.

On average, an employment background check takes up to five business days depending upon the nature and scope of information requested. It can take longer, however, due to a variety of reasons.

Incomplete information. One of the top causes for delay, yet it is the most easily prevented. As an employer, ensure that all the information about a candidate – full name, address, etc., including correct spellings – is accurate before submitting it to a screening agency.

Identity check.  Some records are nearly instant, but others take longer depending on the type of check conducted. A social security number trace may take less time than a passport or national identification card. Some identity screenings may also include a search of a global watch list.

Drug testing. Face it – drug screenings take time. The potential candidate must get to a lab, and then you have to wait or results. On-site facilities for collecting specimens helps, but there is still a wait period.

Holidays and backlogs. Courts can be backlogged or closed for a holiday. This increases time it takes for records to be processed. A delay can also occur when a court mandates research must be conducted specified personnel. Of course, the record must be confirmed as up to date and legally reportable.

Difficulty establishing verifications. Sometimes you may have trouble contacting a former employer or educational institution. Furthermore, their response may take a while. Other times, you may need to request additional information to substantiate previous documentation.

Nonresident information. If a candidate’s background contains information that must be requested outside of the United States, expect a slower process. Organizations and institutions located in other countries may operate differently and require additional time to verify a request.

Remember, if a background check signals a glitch, as a potential employer, you are legally obligated to notify the candidate. Once notified, the candidate has the opportunity to dispute the issue.

Consider contracting a screening agency to do your background checks. They still have to deal with the above issues, but they will be dealing with them – while you have more time to do what you do best.


Data Screening is a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise that has offered business-to-business employment and tenant screenings to human resource professionals and business owners, including staffing companies, for two decades. Among other organizations, they are members of the ASA (American Staffing Association), SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and the NAPBS (National Association of Professional Background Screeners).


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