Why Background Check Taking So Long? Find Out Reasons

why is my background check taking so long

Hoping to start your dream job, but is the employment check taking a while? Perhaps you’ve even applied for a home loan but the bank has yet to confirm your credit history? Regardless of the type of background check, there may be a myriad of reasons thats why background check taking so long!

Background checks can take a long time due to their complexity, the need to gather information from multiple sources, and potential backlogs. These factors vary depending on the specific type of check being conducted and the current demand.

Not to worry! This helpful guide will answer every single question you might have about why background check taking so long. In fact, this guide may even answer a few questions you didn’t even know you had until now.

Specifically, this article will cover:

  • The many causes for a delay in a background check
  • Whether different types of background checks take longer than others
  • The longest possible wait for a background check
  • Easy and practical steps you can take to speed up the background check process.

So, whether you’re waiting on a background check to receive your driver’s license or you’re a prospective employer trying to contact a referee, this is the article for you. What are we waiting for then? Let’s dive right in!

How Long Does A Usual Background Check Take?

A background check can take anywhere from a few days to a few months, with specific types like a fingerprint background check timeline varying based on different factors. The most common checks will often take a few days and will most likely be for criminal or employment history.

Why Is A Background Check Taking So Long?

The speed at which a background check is done depends on a variety of factors. Unfortunately, there is no one answer or universal solution to this problem.

Understanding the Background Check Process

background checks taking longer

When a job applicant applies for a position, the hiring process often includes a background check. This check is a crucial step for the potential employer to ensure they’re making a safe and informed hiring decision. Let’s dive into what this process involves.

Step-by-Step Breakdown of a Background Check

  1. Background Check Request: The process begins when an employer, after receiving a job application, requests a background check. This is typically done after a job candidate has passed initial interview stages.
  2. Consent and Authorization: The candidate must provide consent for the background check. This involves filling out background check request forms which are legally required.
  3. Data Collection by the Background Check Company: A background screening company then collects data. This includes criminal records searches, employment verification, educational institutions checks, and sometimes credit checks.
  4. Comprehensive Background Check: The check is thorough. It might include criminal history checks, international background checks, and reference checks. For certain jobs, like a government job or positions requiring security clearance, more detailed checks like federal background checks are conducted.
  5. Review for Accuracy: The background screening process involves reviewing the collected data for accuracy, which is crucial considering that the results of a background check last and can impact future employment opportunities.
  6. Report Generation: Once the data is verified, a background check report is generated. This report is then sent to the employer.
  7. Employer Decision: Based on the report, the employer makes a hiring decision. If any adverse action is to be taken based on the report, the candidate must be informed.

Common Misconceptions and Realities

  1. “Background Checks Are Instant”: A common myth is that background checks are instant. In reality, they can take a couple of days to a few weeks, depending on the type of check and background check backlogs.
  2. “All Background Checks Are the Same”: There are various job background check types. Some are simple, like checking criminal records, while others, like comprehensive background checks, are more detailed.
  3. “Background Checks Only Look at Criminal History”: This is not true. Background checks can include employment verification, educational purposes, credit checks, and more.
  4. “A Criminal Record Automatically Disqualifies a Candidate”: Not necessarily. Employers consider the nature of the offense, its relevance to the job, and how long ago it occurred.
  5. “Background Checks Invade Privacy”: Legally, background checks are conducted with the candidate’s consent, and they adhere to privacy laws. Consumer rights are a crucial part of the process.

Understanding the background check process helps both employers and candidates navigate the hiring journey more effectively. It’s a complex process, but it plays a vital role in ensuring safe and suitable hires.

What Causes Delays in a Background Check?

background check taking long

Slow turnaround time? There are multiple reasons for why background check taking so long. Below is a comprehensive list:

Incomplete or inaccurate information

If the applicant has not filled out the necessary documentation correctly or has left out key pieces of information, the verification process will take longer to complete!

Make sure that they file everything properly so that further cross-referencing and fact-checking is not needed by the agency conducting the background check.

Multiple jurisdictions involved

Sometimes a background check may require the input of multiple states, countries, or international organizations to cover every aspect of an individual’s history. Communication between jurisdictions can be slow and could delay things further.

Complex or extensive background history

A comprehensive assessment of one’s history could take a long time especially when it spans multiple years with many noteworthy moments.

For example, if an individual has a long history of criminal activity, this can take a while to efficiently examine and then provide a report on.

Inconsistent or hard-to-verify references

Delays can often occur when the referee provided by an individual is difficult to contact, uncooperative, or inconsistent with the details on file.

It is very important, therefore, that all referral information is correct and that the individual has informed their referee that they may be contacted.

Administrative errors or discrepancies

Like everything in life, freak administrative errors or discrepancies can occur by mistake.

Often small (but no less tedious), these issues must be resolved before the background check process may continue.

Depending on your state or local laws, certain regulations may delay background checks further.

It is therefore necessary to check with a local body to confirm what hoops you may need to jump through to make the process run smoothly.

Delayed responses from employers or references

Standstills in the background check process can often occur when a previous employer or referee is slow in their responses.

You should always make sure that your referees are diligent and organized individuals!

Volume of background checks being processed

Background checks are a part of everyday life and therefore will be required by most people at some point.

Sometimes the agency conducting the background checks might become so overwhelmed with verification requests that they may not get to yours for a while!

This is especially true for certain times of year, such as college graduation when many students will be seeking new employment all at once.

Technological or database issues

Let’s face it: Sometimes, technology just doesn’t work! Technical glitches or database issues can significantly delay the background check process, just like they can significantly delay your next DoorDash delivery.

How To Speed Up A Background Check?

Unfortunately, you can’t just wave a magic wand and hope for your background check to arrive tomorrow!

However, there are multiple, practical steps you can take to speed up the process. Even doing a few of these can greatly increase your chances of a speedy background check process.

Provide accurate and complete information

Do everything in your power to double-check and then triple-check your documentation to make sure all the information you’ve provided is up-to-date and accurate!

If you haven’t done something as simple as spelling your name correctly, this could delay your check for weeks.

Promptly respond to requests for additional information

Check your emails and respond to phone calls!

Sometimes the relevant agency may need you to provide further information or to fill in the blanks, requiring you to do so before they can verify your history. Make sure to be quick and comprehensive in your responses.

Ensure references are readily available and responsive

Whether it’s your mom or your pastor, make sure that your reference of choice knows that they will be contacted for further information.

If your reference is on vacation when you knew they would be phoned, this will delay your check further.

Be transparent about your background and history

Just like Abraham Lincoln, you must be honest at all times!

If you are not upfront about your details, your background check may never be completed. Discrepancies or lies in your documentation are not acceptable.

Check for errors or discrepancies in your records

Check your records twice! If Santa can do it, you can too. Further investigation may be necessary if your records are littered with inaccuracies.

Follow up with the background check provider if there are delays

Background check providers are here to help. They’re also human and can make mistakes!

If it has been an unusually long time since you submitted a request for a check, you may need to contact them for an update.

Verify and update your personal information if needed

Have you changed your name from Dan to Dynamo Dan?

Any update to your personal information must be made on your record to avoid the checking agency hitting a wall when cross-matching your identity.

Comply with any required documentation or authorizations

Make sure that you have filled out all the necessary forms before proceeding with the background check. Ask your local agency for help confirming what documents or rules you must follow!

Do Different Types of Background Checks Take Longer Than Others?

Yes! Different types of background checks take longer than others.

For example, criminal background checks are often same-day because files on police databases are efficiently stored and accessed frequently.

On the other hand, employment background checks can take much longer as multiple past employers may need to be contacted.

What Is The Longest Wait For A Background Check?

background check taking too long

Happy to wait? Depending on the type of background check, you might have to! The longest wait for a background check is up to several months.

Although this is quite rare, it can often occur with checks for high-level security clearances or industry-specific screening requirements.

This is because the examination process must be more extensive and done with greater accuracy than some of the other, lower-risk checks.

Background checks are governed by a complex web of laws and regulations. Understanding these legal frameworks is crucial for both employers and job seekers to ensure compliance and protect rights.

Federal and State Laws Governing Background Checks

At the federal level, the primary law governing background checks is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This act regulates how background screening companies and employers must conduct background checks. It mandates that employers must obtain written consent from the job applicant before conducting a check and provide certain notifications if the check results in adverse action.

Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides guidelines to prevent discrimination in the hiring process. These guidelines ensure that background screening does not disproportionately affect candidates based on race, color, national origin, sex, or religion.

State laws can also impact how background checks are conducted. Some states have laws that limit the use of criminal records and credit checks in employment decisions. For instance, ‘Ban the Box’ laws in various states prohibit employers from asking about criminal history on an initial job application.

Moreover, some states require specific background check request forms and have their own rules about what can be included in a background check report. Employers must be aware of these state-specific regulations to ensure they are not only compliant with federal laws but also with the laws of the state where they operate.

Compliance Issues and Employer Responsibilities

For employers, compliance with these laws is not just a legal obligation but also a matter of maintaining financial stability and reputation. Non-compliance can lead to legal disputes, fines, and damage to the company’s image.

One key area of compliance is ensuring the accuracy of the information gathered. Under the FCRA, employers must use a consumer reporting agency that takes reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of the background information checks. This includes verifying criminal history, educational institutions, and employment details.

Another important aspect is the handling of adverse action decisions. If an employer decides not to hire a candidate based on the background check, they must provide a pre-adverse action disclosure that includes a copy of the report and an explanation of the candidate’s rights under the FCRA. This gives the candidate an opportunity to review the report for any inaccurate applicant information or incorrect spellings that may have influenced the decision.

Employers also have a responsibility to protect the privacy of the information they obtain. This involves secure handling and disposal of sensitive personal information to prevent unauthorized access or data breaches.

In summary, legal compliance in conducting background checks is a multifaceted responsibility. Employers must navigate federal and state laws, ensure the accuracy and fairness of the checks, and protect the privacy and rights of the candidates. By doing so, they not only adhere to legal requirements but also foster a fair and respectful hiring process.


There you have it: You now know all there is to know about why your background check might be taking so long. Awesome!

Everything from inconsistent or hard-to-verify references to the various legal requirements and regulations could be the reason behind a background check becoming delayed.

However, you must remember that there are practical steps you can take to prevent this from happening. It is extremely important to not only provide accurate and complete information but to check for any errors or discrepancies in your records.

Now go! Now that you have all the information provided by this helpful guide, contact the agency conducting your background check to see what’s going on!

FAQs Section

How long does a typical background check take?

A typical background check usually takes anywhere from a few business days to a couple of weeks. The duration depends on the type of check, the efficiency of the background check company, and the responsiveness of educational institutions or past employers being verified. Delays in background checks can occur due to incomplete data records or background check backlogs.

What can cause a delay in my background check?

Background check delays can be caused by various factors, including inaccurate applicant information, slow responses from references, or issues with accessing criminal records or electronic records. Sometimes, federal courts or educational institutions may take longer to provide necessary information, contributing to the delay.

Will a minor offense on my criminal record affect my job application?

This depends on the potential employer and the nature of the job. While some employers may overlook minor offenses, especially if they are not relevant to the job, others may take any criminal history into account. It’s important to provide accurate information and, if possible, explain the context of the offense.

Are background checks required for all types of jobs?

Not all jobs require background checks, but they are common in many industries, especially where financial stability, security, or trust are paramount. Jobs in government, education, finance, and healthcare often require comprehensive checks, including criminal history checks and employment verification.

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