July 20th, 2015 | Sterling

How to Speed Up a Background Check

3 Tips Faster Background Checks | Sterling

You’ve pulled out all the stops to recruit, interview, and narrow down your hiring decision to one or two skilled candidates that could be good additions to your team, only to have the fruits of your labor brought to an alarming halt with a delay in the background check. A lengthy background check can be one of the most frustrating aspects of the hiring process for a business. According to our Background Screening Trends & Best Practices Report 2015, over half of employers say that their biggest screening challenge is the time it takes to complete a background check. So, how to speed up a background check?  And what causes a delay in a background check? Let’s explore these questions and top solutions below.


What causes some background checks to take longer than others? And how long does a background check take? This is usually the first question employers ask when there is an unexpected delay in a background check. Unfortunately, there isn’t one specific answer to this question. While some background checks are delayed due to backlogs at the county or state repository, other cases might be caused by incorrect or missing information. Understanding each of these situations can help you figure out how to speed up a background check and identify the best course of action for your employment program.

  1. Types and Depth of Criminal Search
    There are different types of criminal searches you can conduct, each with a different level of diligence. It’s important that when you analyze or compare the various searches that you also understand the significant differences between them. While “instant” databases are quick and convenient, they are not complete nor compliant with the FCRA as a standalone service. Instant databases simply do not provide the same level of detail as county criminal record checks based on address history and often contain data which has not been broadly updated within the past 30 days.

    In most cases, employers are opting for more than just one search. Employers that have previously relied on only county searches are now expanding their investigations to include state repositories or national locator databases. There has also been a significant increase in the use of sex offender registry searches. These added searches provide employers with much more comprehensive results; however, with that more thorough, wider net approach comes a greater chance of delays in the investigation and screening process.

  2. How Records Are Stored at Courthouses
    There are many jurisdictions that are late jumping on the digital bandwagon. These jurisdictions still rely mainly on paper records and a court clerk who will sift through them to retrieve the results.
  3. How Records Are Accessed by Screening Providers
    There are a number of screening providers that are not digitally integrated with courthouses to access records. Instead, they rely heavily on physically sending court runners to the majority of jurisdictions to retrieve criminal record results. If a court runner has a particularly large workload or is working in an area with bad weather, it can mean untimely delays for employers who are anxiously awaiting the results.

These certainly aren’t the only contributing factors to turnaround times, but they are the most common. Thankfully, there are things that employers can do to reduce the frequency of these delays. and ensure the fastest background check possible.


The second question that employers ask – what can I do, if anything, to speed things up? Let’s look at how to speed up a background check below.

  1. Select the Right Provider
    One of the biggest mistakes employers make when selecting a background screening provider is basing their decision exclusively on cost without considering turnaround time. What these employers fail to realize is that they may face significantly higher costs as a result. If the cheapest provider also happens to be the slowest provider, how much does that delay in the hiring process cost the company in the long run? This dollar amount quickly escalates when you factor in the loss of productivity and increased time-to-hire. Employers should also select a provider that is highly integrated directly with courthouses to get faster criminal record check results. faster background check and accurate criminal record results.
  2. Opt for Online
    Utilize your Provider’s online candidate collection process as often as possible. However, work with your Provider to identify where their collection process is not asking for all required information. Establish a process to collect in parallel so there would be no time delay. An online ordering process or integration with your applicant tracking system can significantly reduce background check delays. If you’re still sending paper forms to your provider, they likely struggle to read illegible writing or decipher the candidate’s SSN. Online ordering will make things simpler for both you and the screening provider. In many cases, you can also enhance the candidate experience with a seamless online interface – just one more of the many benefits of switching to an online process.
  3. Make a List, Check it Twice
    If you submit directly to your Provider, have a checklist on hand and review it before sending an order to your screening company. Take a few moments to ensure that the candidate has included the necessary information, such as their SSN and legal name including middle name so that the screening company will have everything it needs to perform the background check.

You can learn more about what causes background check delays, measures you can take to figure out how to speed up a background check, and the importance of conducting a thorough background check by attending our upcoming webinar, Criminal Record Checks: Why Do They Take So Long?

Sterling is not a law firm. 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.