March 28th, 2024 | Sterling

How Long Does a Background Check Take? 

Conducting background checkson prospective employees is a crucial part of any hiring process to help build a foundation of trust and safety for your company. Turnaround times from start to finish vary significantly by the type of searches needed, the company that provides them, and the speed at which the candidate provides the required information. 

While most employers want the quickest possible turnaround, it is also important for the screening to be thorough and accurate. This helps to mitigate risk later and increases the likelihood that employees will reflect the values of the company from the start. 

While most background checks usually run quickly and smoothly, there can be extenuating circumstances that may cause delays in the process. For example, some verifications can be delayed by unresponsive past employers or academic institutions. 

To understand turnaround time, it’s important to recognise that there are multiple elements to pre-employment screening. Depending on the organisation and its preferences and policies, as well as the industry and job responsibilities, background checks can commonly include: 

  • Identity verification 
  • Criminal background checks 
  • Employment and education verifications 
  • Social Media Searches 
  • Reference checks 

 All of these searches are important, and while they can run concurrently, they are independent of each other, and each component has the potential for delays. 

Where Delays Can Occur 

If your background screening company is doing their job properly, they will use procedures to ensure accuracy in returning records that belong to the person you are screening, are up-to-date, and are legally reportable. 

Identity verification at the start of the background check helps confirm the candidate’s identity and their associated data. It’s an important first step in the hiring process that, if performed digitally, can take approximately 90 seconds or less. Performing identity verification before screening helps facilitate faster and more complete results because it pre-populates verified data into the background check, reducing downstream delays associated with incorrect or incomplete information. 

By owning our own processes and automating where possible, we keep the focus on Sterling clients. This is key to how we avoid preventable delays and deliver on both speed and accuracy. 

When it comes to education and employment verifications Sterling is enabling automation technology like standardised data collection using prefill and tech-enabled contact research in our verification processes to help eliminate preventable delays. 

Unavoidable delays can be a part of verifications. They often rely on the response of the verifying source, and this can be a common source of delay for these services. If a past employer doesn’t respond to a request in a timely matter, employment verification results will take longer. Education verifications, especially for universities and colleges, can be delayed during summer months or holidays, or when the verification processes require use of mail. 

At Sterling, we’re proud of our dedication to innovative technology that helps us deliver industry-leading turnaround times for our background checks. When delays do occur, we partner closely with our clients to help work through them as quickly as possible. 

Candidate Experience is Paramount 

It’s important to remember that even those who have nothing to hide get anxious about the background screening process, especially when delays occur, so being transparent with your candidates is essential. Keep in mind that a positive candidate experience from start to finish will help you deliver hiring success. Let them know what you are looking for and the types of information that might concern you. Communicate that you have a process in place to ensure that the information you use is accurate and up-to-date. Lastly, let them know how long it generally takes to complete the background check process. 

Sterling’s Hiring Reimagined research report surveyed more than 3,700 recent job seekers, 71% of whom said they considered dropping out or actually dropped out of their most recent hiring experience. Why? The process took too long and was too complicated. This sentiment is eye-opening but provides opportunity for employers to improve their hiring process. 

Candidates can complete their portion of the background check easily and quickly within our Candidate Hub. The intuitive, mobile-first design gives candidates on-the-go access from any device, anywhere, anytime, helping to minimise their time spent on the screening process. A recent candidate who went through our background screening process noted that “the service was on time and efficient”, and that Sterling was “very responsive with every step of the process”. While delays may occur along the way, every effort is made to avoid wasting your and the candidate’s time. 

For the third year in a row, Sterling won the HR Tech Award for Best Comprehensive Solution for Enterprises. Our Candidate Hub was recognised for putting “power and transparency in the hands of every candidate, enabling them to see their progress at any time. This is what a modern background check should look like,” shared by Ben Eubanks, Chief Research Officer, Lighthouse Research & Advisory. 

It’s also worth noting that as the employer, you can and should expect assistance from your background screening company. As your business partner, they should be communicating delays to you in a timely matter, letting you know the nature of the delay, how to minimise the occurrence of delays while maintaining accuracy and speed, when you can expect to see the results, and ultimately how to create a pleasant experience for the candidate. If you suspect the delays are due to your provider, ask for complete logs which detail a timeline of all actions taken to complete the search. 

Background checks are an important undertaking for any employer. When they are done right, they become essential building blocks to establishing and preserving a strong company culture and to creating a foundation of trust and safety for your organisation. 

To learn how Sterling’s tech-enabled background screening services are optimised to help your organisation accelerate hiring and create a culture of trust and safety, contact us today. 

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.