Covid-19 has left a significant impact on every facet of life including business and the economy. A pandemic-like situation will always be on the checklist of businesses while creating future strategies to ensure business continuity. Just as healthcare services became the lifesaver for people, information and communication technology (ICT) emerged as a savior for businesses. Workplaces were restored to remote working and work from home became a norm. The world went virtual, where biological viruses have no authority.
As the world began to go under lockdowns, businesses were quick to respond and operate under these extraordinary circumstances. Essential services and other non-essential businesses that could be operated remotely were able to navigate through the pandemic.
Businesses rely heavily on their workforce to operate, and recruitment is an ever-going process to maintain the equilibrium of total human capital in a business. Background investigations or background checks play a vital role in making a hiring decision.
Just like most other business aspects, Covid-19 also impacted recruitment and background check processes taking place around the world. As a response, recruiters also restored to virtual interviews and onboarding, however, conducting background checks was still challenging as it required comprehensive investigation from different sources, which may or may not be available using virtual means.
Waiting for background check report? Here is how long it may take.
There are several types of background checks that may be performed in different combinations. How long a background check will take depends on the type of check required and the type of sources available to conduct that check. It also depends on the amount of information required to be fetched. As a thumb rule, more invasive types of background checks tend to take longer.
A background check may be as instant as a web search if the data sources are easily accessible via the internet. On the other hand, some types of background checks may take a few days or even longer complete, especially when they require manual procedures to follow e.g. manual searches in paper-based records or cooperation with other organizations. Background check delays are caused if records that are required to be verified for performing the checks are not easily accessible or organized.
How long do criminal background checks take?
Criminal background checks are common in applications such as permits, licensure, employment, etc. You may have to apply for criminal background checks from different agencies such as your local as well as a national agency if you are looking for a comprehensive report. In the United States, federal background checks and state-level background checks have to be performed separately as federal background checks do not involve state-level criminal screening.
A criminal background check may screen your identity for criminal records, sexual offense records, terrorist watch lists, etc. Criminal background checks may take 1 to 3 days. If your background screening request only involves federal background checks, the standard turnaround time for it is one day.
How long do employment background checks take?
Employment background checks involve different kinds of checks such as verification of your education, past employers, criminal history, medical history, credit record checks, drug screening, etc. Some employers may even consider checking your social media profiles and your posts on online platforms. Since there are several types of checks that have to be performed, employee background checks typically take at least five working days. They may take even longer in some cases, in which information provided by the candidate is easy to verify with the data sources.
How long do firearm background checks take?
Purchasing guns from a federally licensed firearm dealer or manufacturer requires the seller to conduct a background check on the buyer. In states where universal background checks are applicable, buying firearms from anyone requires background checks. Gun background checks are done using the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is available online (aka NICS E-Check) as well as via the phone. NICS’s E-Check, as well as phone based system, can return results in a couple of minutes.
How long do fingerprint background checks take?
Fingerprint background checks are prominently used by law enforcement for criminal identification as well as civil background checks. In the United States, the FBI offers fingerprint background checks for civil applications by submitting your fingerprints to the agency. The FBI compares the submitted samples with the biometric records maintained with the IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System). Though the entire process of fingerprint matching is automated, it still takes time as your prints are compared with millions of records maintained by the FBI.
A fingerprint background check is a common requirement in many employment types. If your job profile includes providing care to children, the elderly, patients, or other vulnerable groups, you will most probably have to go through fingerprint background checks as a part of employment background checks. Government jobs, some financial positions, law enforcement officers, and military personnel also have to go through fingerprint background checks as a part of their employment background checks.
In a best-case scenario, in which the quality of your prints is good and the FBI is not overloaded with background check requests, fingerprint background checks take approximately three days to return results. If the quality of your prints is bad or there is an overload of requests, it may even take longer.
Why do job background checks take so long?
Employment background screening may involve different types of background checks, which have different turnaround times. This is also the reason why job background checks take so long. Sometimes, depending on the type of information requested by your employer may take longer as it may require manual searches or cooperation from the organization that holds your records, which may not be available or cooperative at all times. Since there are several factors involved, job background checks take longer to complete.
Why is my background check taking so long?
A background check is a highly efficient tool to manage the risk posed by individuals gaining access to different resources. For example, employers conduct different types of background checks to manage risks that may be posed by an individual being hired as an employee. In recent times, especially after the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease Covid-19, candidates across the world have experienced unexpected background check delays. Let’s understand how Covid-19 delays background checks and are it the sole reason for such delays?
Covid-19 delays background check
Most businesses, including the background verification service providers, have operating with reduced capacity and working remotely since the global outbreak of Covid-19. Background verification agencies rely on several resources to process the background check requests and not all of them may be available online.
Similarly for drug screening, you have to provide a physical sample, which poses the threat of infection and these samples have to be processed carefully. It requires the lab technicians to wear Covid-19 protective gear, which affects their ability to process the number of samples in a day.
When all these factors come together and things get delayed at every level, it delays your background check report to be finalized.
Covid-19, however, may not be the sole reason why your background check may have been delayed. There can be several other reasons that might delay your background check results, discussed in subsequent sections.
Error or omission in the submitted data
While you fill out the forms and upload documents, errors or omissions might take place. In some cases, these errors might even be intentional. Errors in the information provided by you might cause your background checks to delay. For example, in the case of employee background checks, it may take a while to acknowledge that information provided by you is incorrect as the verifier at the background check agency might try different attempts before acknowledging the information to be incorrect or incomplete. So the errors and omissions cause unnecessary background check delays.
These online systems are either background check agencies’ systems or your employer’s systems integrated with background check software. The information you provide and the documents you upload are transferred to the background check agency, your employer has collaborated with.
During the recruitment process, employers ask candidates to provide their identity, education, and work experience-related information. Earlier, physical forms were used for the purpose, however, now physical forms have been replaced by online systems.
Delays at the background check agency
Background check agencies provide their services to different clients and there may already be applications queued up to process before yours. Covid-19 has presented additional challenges to the equations. Even if your background check is complete, the service provider may choose to send out results in batches, which may also cause background check delays.
Delay at the employer’s end
Generally, employers process several candidates concurrently, especially in large recruitment drives. The background check agency may have submitted its findings, however, your employer may take time to reach out to you as it may also be doing that part in batches.
Does a background check expire?
So, there is no formula for calculating the expiry of a background check. However, what organizations can do is conduct background checks periodically, aka rolling background checks. Taking your employees through background checks periodically can give you some assurance about its objectives’ intactness.
A background check is valid as long as it fulfills the objective of conducting it. For example, you hired a candidate and ran a drug test, which your employee passed with flying colors. However, if your employee starts consuming drugs after a few days, it will invalidate the objective of running the background check. The same is also true for other types of background checks.
How often should you perform periodic background checks?
If your employees provide care or work in close contact with children, the elderly, or patients; it would be a good idea to conduct background checks every year. If an employee’s work profile changes or he/she has been given additional responsibilities that he/she was not initially screened for, he/should be taken through relevant background checks.
So what should be an ideal period for conducting periodic or rolling background checks? Unfortunately, there is no perfect time and this requirement will differ from organization to organization. If your organization operates in a regulatory environment, in which a regulatory body has prescribed an ideal period for rolling background checks, it should be considered the ideal timeframe for conducting periodic background investigations.
As we discussed above, there is no formula to calculate the validity or expiry of a background check. It entirely depends on the behavior of your employee once hired. He/she may be able to maintain a clean background throughout his/her life or may fail to do so after a week.
An employer might conduct thorough background checks at the time of recruitment, in fact, most employers do. But how long the results of these checks should be considered valid? What if an employee, who passed the background checks at the time of recruitment, stays for the next 15 years? Does your recruitment-time employment background check still stand valid?
The global consulting and market research firm also reported that as much as 68% of background check executives faced challenges in completing background checks during the Covid-19 lockdown and 36% were unable to complete the checks.
According to a survey conducted by EY, like most other business processes, digital background verification became the new normal during the Covid-19 pandemic. It made as much as 32% of background check executives switch to information and communication technology as an alternative means to perform background checks during the lockdowns.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Businesses around the world have been relying on information and communication technology-powered virtual means to operate. During this extraordinary situation that is unparalleled in recent history, employee background checks are among the many challenges that businesses have been facing.
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