Slow Chicago-Area Background Checks Lead to Hiring Delays

With many businesses facing a shortfall of available employees across industries, a swift and effective hiring process is more important than ever to fill those gaps. However, the process has gone in the opposite direction for one county in Illinois — bogging down with delays. At the root of the problem is an outdated methodology for conducting background checks that has created a bottleneck for employers trying to participate in the system.

In Cook County, home to the city of Chicago, background checks previously took about a week to a week and a half to process and return results. Now, according to area employers, some applicants have seen their wait times balloon to over a month and beyond while waiting for the clearance they need to begin work. At issue is the availability of the records and the county's chosen methods of processing employee background checks.

With no reliable remote access to the systems containing the data, third-party service providers such as cannot instantly query these records and receive results. Permission to remotely access the criminal history repository must come from the Chief Judge in the county himself, which creates a backlog of approvals. The only other option is to physically visit the courthouse and conduct record searches directly on in-house terminals. 

Those delays have led some employers to seek to hire more individuals who have no residence history in Cook County, thus opening the door to sidestepping the problems. While delays can be costly and frustrating, especially when a business has a pressing need to increase its staff numbers, that doesn't mean that background checks should fall by the wayside. Not only are such delays not the norm, but they obscure the true value of a thorough background screening process.

Consider how much a thorough background check can reveal, especially when you include results beyond your immediate local area. A candidate that seems like a perfect fit for the job could turn out to have a past checkered with criminal charges that bear a relationship to the duties of the job you've offered. 

On the other hand, you can use these tools to verify what applicants have voluntarily told you. Some job-seekers may speak freely about the potential for uncovering past criminal records when you implement their background check. Verifying these records and using that information as a conversational starting point can lead to valuable, productive discussions that ultimately result in a completed hire.

That's not to mention the importance of meeting legal requirements to conduct background checks for positions when required by law, such as those working with children. Although delays can and do happen in some jurisdictions, other products, such as the instant and nationwide US OneSEARCH by, pave the way to a streamlined and reliable hiring process. Consider the tools your business uses and evaluate your hiring turnaround time. Are there background check bottlenecks you could eliminate today?

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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