A quick background check process empowers companies to staff up faster and respond to industry demands. Still, delays can happen. Keep reading to discover why your background check order might still be pending.

Running a criminal background check during hiring is standard procedure in every industry. While some jobs don’t require a background check, applicants are more likely to encounter them than not—and with good reason. For your business, background checks are about more than seeking a deeper understanding of a job applicant. They are also critical for protecting your assets, staff, and the business.

Background checks that take too long are detrimental to your company and can scare away job applicants. Someone who needs to start earning a paycheck quickly to afford rent likely won’t have the time or patience for a hiring process that takes weeks. Knowing that it can be a significant source of stress if the check you ordered still says, ‘pending.’

Can you do anything about a pending background check? What if background checks reveal pending charges? The answers to these questions highlight an essential element of the vetting process: time management. Let’s look at what you need to know.

What Does a Pending Background Check Mean?

If an employment background check is pending, the background check service is still in progress and has not completed all aspects. A background check in progress means the same thing as background check pending. It means the company is still searching through criminal records and analyzing employment histories to find information about the job candidate.

Do Instant Background Checks Exist?

Yes, it is possible to order a background check to provide almost instant results for your candidate. For example, our US OneSEARCH product uses a proprietary database of professionally compiled records from county and state systems across the nation. Because we update these records as frequently as possible and maintain our own access, we can quickly find criminal convictions and generate reports.

US OneSEARCH users enjoy detailed background reports generated minutes after you submit your official request. However, there will be times when you wish to drill down to a more local level to review specific records. A deeper dive—and many other circumstances—might leave you staring at a background check that reads pending. When this happens, you’re stuck waiting – what is the cause?

Common Reasons for Background Check Delays

Why is my background check taking so long? When faced with a pending or in-progress status, this question affects employers and job seekers alike. There are several reasons why a delay can occur during background checking. As frustrating as it may be, some of these delays are out of your hands. Some of the most common causes of delays include the following:

  • Incomplete information. We may need additional information about your job applicant (full names, social security number, etc.) before we can finalize processing your report.
  • High volume. Some background checks, like those requiring state police or another agency, can suffer from backlogs due to request volumes.
  • Court delays. When you need to review someone’s county court records, we may not always have access to digital information. This lack of access can drive delays because of the need to manually locate and examine relevant documentation. Courts can also suffer from cascading delays due to quantities.
  • Verification. Matching records to ensure they correspond to the correct individual can take time, mainly where state laws restrict matching methods. For example, in California, using date of birth to search for criminal charges is illegal.
  • Delays caused by ongoing trial activity. The most up-to-date information may not be immediately available if an applicant is in the midst of an active court case. It takes time to produce and file the relevant documentation.

General Turnaround Time for Criminal Background Checks

When your background check is pending, you might wonder whether the wait is typical or if other factors delay the process. So, what’s the longest a background check can take? Background checks have different turnaround times. Generally, the longest you should wait is 14 days before following up with your potential employer or background screening company.

Do Pending Charges Show Up on a Background Check?

Yes, pending charges will most likely show up on an employment background check, but not in every state. Still, records related to active charges and ongoing activity are fair game in many jurisdictions. However, a pending charge does not automatically disqualify you. Employers should be careful about assuming the applicant is guilty just because they are in court. This approach is crucial for avoiding workplace discrimination.

Even so, an active case is a red flag that requires investigation. Using a county background check to access these local records can help you evaluate whether the event should be a disqualifying factor. Remember, if you intend to act against an applicant because of pending charges on their background check, you must issue them with a pre-adverse action notice. Regardless of whether you base your decision on a pending charge, you must follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act rules.

Upon rejection, a job seeker can request a copy of their background check report, giving them more insight into your hiring decisions.

How Can I Make My Background Check Process Faster?

When your employment is pending a background check, you cannot do much to speed it up. Although, as an employer, you have more control over the timeframe. There are steps you can take to ensure your background check process runs smoothly. There will always be occasions when forces beyond your control introduce delays. Transparent communication with your applicant can help manage stress and avoid lost opportunities.

Here’s how to run a background check faster to mitigate delays:

  • Have a written, well-defined process you can follow step-by-step. Always know your next action.
  • Stay current on local, state, and federal laws for background screening and the requirements you need from your candidate.
  • Partner with a proven consumer reporting agency. With our comprehensive services and in-depth understanding of the nuances of the vetting process, we can be a trusted partner for your company.
  • Know the employment screening services you must use on applicants and factor in their wait times. Ordering a credit report takes longer than accessing driving records, for example.
  • Be ready to move on to the next steps as soon as you reach a final decision based on an applicant’s results.

While you cannot control what happens in small county courts or as a result of new regulations, you can build a process capable of consistently producing swift results. When delays occur, understanding the delay can make encouraging patience from eager job applicants easier. Start learning more about the intricate details of background checks and the best practices for using them today. Visit our knowledge center for more information.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

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

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