How Long Does a Background Check Take?

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Good news! You’ve completed the interview process and your potential new employer has now let you know that they will be running a background check. This likely means you’ve been shortlisted as one of the top candidates for the job. 

Companies run background checks to ensure that their new employees don’t have a criminal record that conflicts with a position’s level of responsibility, exposure to assets, and other considerations. Some background checks also verify your work and education history.  ResumeSpice editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

But how long will this background check take? And when can you expect to hear back from the employer?

Check out our top answers for these questions (and discover why your background check results might be delayed!).

Curious what employers will see on your background check? You can run your own background check and social media search with services such as Global Background Screening.

How long does a background check take?

The timeline depends on the type of background check and the information needed, but a pre-employment background check typically takes two to five business days to complete

how long does a background check take

Example of a background check

Several factors determine how fast your background check comes back. For example, if the employer is working manually with a university to access your education records, you might have to wait on the process. 

What shows up on a pre employment background check?

Curious what employers will see on your background check? You can run your own background check and social media search with services such as Global Background Screening. Here’s typical information that employers can legally review in your background check:

Past employment history

Employers want to make sure that you worked where and when you say you did on your resume (hint: never make this information up!). 

They also sometimes check with past employers on your past performance and completed tasks. 53% of all job applications contain inaccurate information so be sure that your resume is always accurate to avoid being disqualified for a position. 


Employers will check to ensure that education information matches your resume. They will review things like your diploma, degrees, and years of study with your listed academic organizations. 

As with past employment history, ensure that your education history is truthful. You might be surprised how often applicants, even senior leadership, intentionally falsify their resumes and lose their positions as a result. 

According to Yahoo News, Kenneth E. Lonchar, chief financial officer at Veritas Software, resigned after it was discovered he lied on his resume about receiving an MBA from Stanford University and accounting degree from Arizona State University. 

Similarly, George O'Leary, head football coach at Notre Dame University, was let go after only five days on the job in 2001. His resume falsely claimed that he had earned a master's degree from New York University and three varsity letters from the University in New Hampshire. 

Sandra Baldwin, former president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, resigned from her position after a reporter uncovered that Baldwin had earned her degree from ASU and not the University of Colorado. Baldwin was aware of the discrepancies, but was too nervous to change the information. 

The takeaway? It pays to tell the truth. 


Criminal records

Criminal history is normally critical for an employer to review, especially if you’re applying for a position in childcare or with the government. 

criminal background check

Example of criminal background record

Any type of criminal activity will show up in a background check so be upfront about felony and misdemeanor criminal convictions with your potential employer before the check is run.  


Credit report

A credit report is typically most relevant if you’re applying for a financial position. Here’s what your credit report might look like to the employer:

credit report

Example of employment credit report

Negative credit history such as a series of bankruptcies can quickly suggest to an employer that you might be a risk in a financial role.


Work eligibility documents

Employers need to ensure that you are who you say you are, so will ask for documents like a copy of your driver’s license and SSN card. They also want to see if you’re authorized to work in the U.S. 

Providing all of the appropriate documents when requested can speed up the background check process so be sure to complete as quickly as possible. 

Hint: Other background check information can include driving records and social media accounts. It depends on the position and employer.

Why is my background check taking so long?

Has it been a couple of weeks and you still haven’t heard back about your background check? Don’t panic. Here are a few possible reasons for the delay:

  • The third-party background check company has been delayed. 
  • The potential employer HAS received your background check, but hasn't made the final hiring decision. 
  • Some records (e.g. employment info) aren’t matching in your background check and the employer is verifying the information. 

For the first reason, the background check company might be waiting on, for example, a pending county courthouse record. 

For example, if a company needs criminal records from a county without digital resources or a courthouse that’s understaffed, the process could take longer and you just have to play the waiting game. 

It’s also a waiting game if the employer is completing background checks for multiple candidates. You might have passed your background check with flying colors, but the employer is looking at other factors like skill set before hiring. 

Finally, the employer may contact you if there are problems with verifying your information or if a photo of an ID, driver's license, or SSN card is missing. Be sure to check your email (including spam!) to avoid missing background check questions.

Will I be contacted if I pass my background check?

Your employer will normally email or call you if you successfully pass your background check. Another way you know you passed is if you receive the job offer!

But what if you don’t get hired? If negative information from the background check impacts the hiring decision, the employer is legally obligated, according to The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), to provide two notices. You are also entitled to a copy of the failed report.

The good news is that, if you believe your background check to be incorrect, you can contact the background check company. The FCRA also says that employers must provide the candidate with the name, phone number, and physical address of the agency producing the background check report.

Provide evidence to the third-party company and ask for re-investigation. If your evidence checks out, you can send the background check to the employer. 

Have patience with your background check

A background check is another step in the hiring process that takes time so don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear back immediately. Wait a week before contacting the potential employer to inquire about your background check. Curious what employers will see on your background check? You can run your own background check and social media search with services such as Global Background Screening

For more guidance on the hiring and interview process, check out our professional resume services here at ResumeSpice.