How Long Does a Pre Employment Background Check Take? Not 2 Days

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | May 16, 2024

How long does a pre employment background check take a man wonders while looking at a calendar and a man in an office building holds a background check document explaining the different procedures involved in how long does it take for results of a pre employment background check for a job like a nursing background check.

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Just how long does a pre-employment background check take, anyway? And what makes someone fail a background check after job offer?

With a pre-employment background screening, what shows up?

These are common questions for anyone entering the job market after a recent hiatus. And although 2 days is a common answer to how long a pre employment background check should take, this is not always the case.

In fact, there are a number of factors involved that can lengthen or shorten the time it takes to get a background check report back. Just a few include:

  • What level of background check is required for the job?
  • What state is the background check being run in?
  • What employment position is being considered?
  • What kinds of records are included in a criminal background check?

Understanding what’s involved is the first step to knowing the answer to ‘how long does a pre employment background check take.’

Hint: It’s not always two days.

How Long Does a Pre-Employment Background Check Take?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer to the question: How long does a pre-employment background check take? In general, it depends on a number of factors such as the industry, company, and position being applied for.

However, the vast majority of background checks will take no more than 2 weeks to complete and most will be completed in 1 – to 3 days, which is where the 2-say rule comes from.

But, the reason that there is a range is that not all background checks are the same.

There are tons of different varieties of background checks that are performed these days and in many cases, they can be performed in many ways. For example:

And more…

What databases and information an employer chooses to check is what will play the biggest part in how long the background check takes. The more liabilities the job carries, the more checks will be performed, and the longer the background check will take.

Each job and industry will require slightly different checks for its employees. Since the main purpose of a background check is to protect the company financially and legally, each company will run different checks based on what their employees have access to, what service the business provides, and a number of other factors.

However, the average job does not carry a whole lot of liability from the point of view of the business.

Cashiers, waiters, and even most desk jobs will simply not have access to a lot of information or be put in many situations that can damage the company or its employees in many ways.

This is why the majority of background checks are completed so quickly: only a few basic databases are checked to ensure the employee is not a blatant risk to fellow employees, customers, etc.

How Long Does It Take for a Pre-Employment Background Check To Search Criminal Records?

A criminal records check is the second most common check that is performed as part of a pre-employment background check, only behind the verification of the applicant’s identity.

The vast majority of jobs will run a basic criminal record search on all of their applicants.

Assuming the business is using a third-party background check service to perform checks on their applicants, the criminal history check will be completed in 1 – 3 days.

Generally, the background check service will first verify the applicant’s identity and social security number, assuming the employer got written permission to do so which is required by the FCRA.1 With the identity verified the service will then use the individual’s name (and social security number) to run a name-based check through a variety of criminal databases, generally, those maintained by the state police, local law enforcement, and federal criminal databases.

The other common method for performing criminal background checks is the state police or FBI performing a fingerprint-based check of the individual.2

In this case, the individual’s fingerprints will be taken and sent to the proper agency and checked against a fingerprint database.

This results in a more thorough check of the individual’s criminal history, however, the fingerprinting process and the check itself will take longer, adding up to a week to the total time the background check will take.

What Impacts a Pre-Employment Background Check?

There are tons of different factors that will affect the answer to the question: How long does a pre-employment background check take? Below are some common factors and how they will affect the timeline of a background check.


The company that is performing the background check will play a major role in how long the check takes. Each company will perform its checks slightly differently as well as provide different kinds of checks.

Whereas some companies may make it their focus to provide background checks as soon as possible, others may specialize in more thorough checks that subsequently take an extra few days to complete.

Types of Checks

The types of checks that the company chooses to perform will be the biggest factor when it comes to how long the background check will take.

Although criminal databases are largely digitized and can be searched instantly, other checks may still take longer for various reasons.


The job that is being applied for will also make a big difference when it comes to “How long does a pre employment background check take?” Many jobs will require individuals to undergo certain background checks because of company policy and even state and federal laws.

For example, individuals working in child care are required to undergo extensive background checks including checks of fairly unique databases such as child abuse and neglect registries.3 These checks are required by federal law and many must be carried out by a specific government agency, putting the applicant at the mercy of one agency.

License Checks

Certain jobs will require license and certification checks, such as construction or real estate jobs. These professional license search reports can add to the timeline as well because they often require the person performing the background check to contact somewhere specifically to get the information verified.

Level of Check

The level of the check can also be a factor. Although most states do not make legal distinctions when it comes to background check levels, many background check companies will provide different levels of checks.

For example, a cashier at a company may only undergo a level 1 background check which is usually just identity verification and criminal history information, whereas an executive may undergo a level 2 check to ensure they have not recently declared bankruptcy or things of that nature.


Verifying certain information on an application can also add a few days to a background check. For example, a job that wants to verify an applicant’s education history will be at the mercy of that institution to confirm that the individual attended and received a degree as their application states.

Other Factors

There are other smaller factors that can play a small role as well. Things like holidays, system crashes or a large influx in background checks can all cause delays in completing a background check.

What Does a Pre-Employment Background Check Consist Of?

Pre-employment background checks vary by company but the following checks are all considered fairly standard.

Although it is natural to feel nervous about background check processes, knowing what to expect and being able to answer questions like “how long does a pre-employment background check take?” will help make the ordeal a little less stressful.

Frequently Asked Questions About How Long Does a Pre-Employment Background Check Take

How Long Does a Background Check Take for Pre-Employment?

A pre-employment background check should usually take 1 – 3 days to complete. However, there are many factors involved so it can sometimes take up to 2 weeks or more.

How Long Does a Pre-Employment Background Check Usually Take?

Most pre-employment background checks should only take 1 – 3 days to complete. Fingerprint-based checks should take less than 10 days to complete.

How Long Does a Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Background Check Take?

Law enforcement pre-employment background checks take much longer than most background checks. Some law enforcement background checks can take 60 days more to complete.

How Long Does It Take for Results of a Pre-Employment Background Check?

The results should be available within 1 -3 days of the background check being initiated. Results are usually delivered via email or mail.

How Long Does a Pre-Employment Background Check Take for Nurses?

A background investigation for a nursing job will take longer than most jobs. Since additional databases are checked, the background check will take close to two weeks in most cases.

How Long Does a Background Check Take for a Job?

A typical pre-employment background check will take 1-3 days and will usually include a name-based criminal history check as well as basic identity verification.

What Does a Pre-Employment Background Check Consist Of?

A pre-employment background check will include identity verification and a name-based criminal history check. Other common checks include credit checks, education verification, and employment verification.

Why Are Background Checks Taking So Long 2021?

Since background checks are completed by individuals, things like staffing issues at background check companies can lead to a backlog of checks and subsequent delays.

Does Pre-Employment Mean I Got the Job?

A pre-employment background check costs the company money to have completed, so they are normally only performed if the company intends to hire the individual.

How Do I Know If My Background Check Is Complete?

The hiring manager will likely notify the individual if the background check is passed, however, if the background check is failed it will likely be the background check company that makes contact.

What Makes You Fail a Background Check?

What causes you to fail a background check will depend on the company. Although many companies will still hire felons on a case-by-case basis, a felony conviction is the most likely to raise flags besides lying on the application.

Will Background Check Show All My Jobs?

A background check will now show previous employment. New employers can usually only find out about past employers from the individual’s application, assuming they included past employers on the application.

Will a Job Tell You If You Failed a Background Check?

In general, the background check company will notify the individual of the failed check. This is generally required by law and the reason for the individual failing the check is also information that must be disclosed in writing.

How Long Does a Background Check Take for a Government Job?

How long a background check takes for a government job depends on the job in question as well as the job’s security clearance. Higher security clearance jobs will require different and more extensive checks which will of course take longer.


1Fair Credit Reporting Act. (2022). Federal Trade Commission Protecting America’s Consumers. Retrieved May 16, 2022, from <>

2Identity History Summary Checks. (2022). Retrieved May 16, 2022, from <>

3Background Checks: What You Need To Know. (2022). Retrieved May 16, 2022, from <>

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