How Long Does Background Check and Drug Screening Take?

Filling open positions quickly is a priority for many employers, but you can't afford to cut corners on due diligence. When you prepare to order a background check and drug screening for your candidate, how long will it be before you can expect results? Discover how long these processes take and what influences their turnaround times.

How Long Will a Background Check and Drug Screening Take?

A background check and drug screening are routine parts of the hiring process that most job applicants anticipate before applying. For employers, this can simplify things—with less confusion about what conditions job seekers must satisfy to have their application fully considered. However, it can also lead to applicants wondering how long they will wait to hear your final decision. Some potential employees might walk away if the process takes too long, especially if they're well-qualified.

For employers, delays in the process can also be troublesome for other reasons. Keeping an open position unfilled costs money in lost productivity and the potential for added stress in the workplace. There might be a pressing need to add staff to respond to a surge in demand or another business need. With that in mind, knowing what to expect about background check and drug test turnaround times is important. Let's consider each in turn and explore what influences the timing of their results.

How Much Time Do Background Checks Require?

The answer to this question can vary considerably depending on the type of background check we mean. You may instantly receive results on your candidate for a routine criminal background check. This lets you review results right away. However, there are many counties and metro areas where local laws or procedures preclude such instant results.

Such check results could take as few as two to three business days or a week or more to return results. Likewise, if you must use an FBI fingerprint background check, it can take as many as 5 days for online requests or more than two weeks by mail. In these cases, you must submit a request and await a response.

Other kinds of background checks can add extra time to the vetting process. This can include employment or educational verification, reference checking, or screening motor vehicle records. Gathering all this additional information manually on your own could add many days to the process. Working with a proven consumer reporting agency removes those stresses. By offloading all this legwork to a team of professionals, you can trust in a comprehensive report ready for you to review as soon as possible.

Factors That Impact Background Check Turnaround Times

Several factors could delay a background check or cause it to take longer. The most common cause is a backlog in the state offices responsible for handling such vetting requests. This problem is very common in areas where a large volume of mandatory background checks must undergo processing around the same time.

Applicants can also cause delays. They might provide you with inaccurate information that makes it challenging to verify any of their associated records. Similarly, they might take a long time to provide you with written authorization to conduct a background check. Consider setting a deadline for submitting such hiring materials to prevent unnecessary delays.

When conducting verification checks, it is also possible for delays to develop when it’s difficult to contact a target organization. This could be a school, a past employer, or an important professional reference. When you must place extra weight on these factors, be sure to factor additional time into your processes to account for communication with outside organizations.

How Much Time Do You Need for Drug Testing Results?

Drug tests aid employers in maintaining a safe and sober workplace. Apart from some cities and states that now ban testing for marijuana or denying jobs based on a positive marijuana test, these procedures are up to the discretion of the business. How long will it take to complete a pre-employment drug screening? The answer can vary based on a few factors, including the types of drug tests you choose. For example, a large 10-panel test will take longer than a more common 5-panel test.

After your applicant submits a sample for laboratory testing, it will typically be between 1 and 3 business days before you get your result. Some types of testing, including saliva, can return results even faster. However, there could be delays due to a problem with the sample or an issue at the laboratory. In general, you can expect drug test results relatively quickly in most situations.

The Elements That Influence Drug Testing Times

Like background checks, many factors can influence pre-employment drug testing turnaround times. For example, when you require laboratory testing through a sample method such as urine, the applicant could be a source of delays. Lab testing typically requires taking time out of one's day and traveling to a location to provide a sample. Not everyone may be able to make it to these locations quickly.

In some cases, evaluating a potential positive result could result in a delay. Lab delays during periods of high volume are also possible. Usually, a medical resource officer, or MRO, will review a more detailed analysis of a positive result to ensure it indicates illicit substance use. 

Can You Speed Up the Process Overall?

In most cases, you must simply wait for the systems involved in these processes to work as designed. However, there are ways that you can streamline the process. For example, collecting an applicant's consent for a background check and a drug test early in the process will make it simpler to order these products when needed. Submitting a background check request as an applicant submits their drug test can help. When both orders process concurrently, you can reduce the likelihood that one or the other will cause a later delay.

Choosing the right partner agency to support your screening procedures makes a difference, too. Especially when you must conduct extra verification, having a professional on the job while you remain focused on the business is an asset. This way, even if there are delays, your background check partner can manage the process and communicate information as needed. Keeping everyone in the loop is the best course of action when delays may occur. 

Building a Framework for Safe and Effective Hiring

While employers can control many factors around the background check process, the timing of results is not always one of them. By understanding how long it typically takes to get the answers you need, you can factor this time into your hiring workflow. The result is an improvement in estimating how long it will take to fill a position or replace a worker.

The background check and drug screening play key roles in hiring. In some industries, such as transportation, they're mandatory. Take the time to understand how to build a streamlined and repeatable vetting process today. Explore our Learning Center for more information or get in touch with our team today to discuss endorsing an effective screening solution with our help.

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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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