How Long Does Background Screening Take?

May 2017

Thorough Screenings — The Time Taken Is Time Well Spent

It’s tempting to take people at their word: No one is perfect and minor record blemishes may not adequately convey the motivations and character of an applicant. Property and hiring managers also have numerous responsibilities, and it can be difficult to find time to complete the steps necessary to make sure an applicant is a good fit. Understanding what’s involved in background screenings can help take the stress and guesswork out of selecting the best tenants or new hires.

Tenant Screenings

Considering a potential tenant without investigating the applicant’s background can be a disaster for all parties involved. The  most accurate tenant screenings include collecting information on the tenant’s rental history, criminal record, credit score, eviction history and credit history.

A landlord usually looks for tenants whose backgrounds are free from evictions and other evidence of an otherwise unstable rental history. The ideal tenant is someone with excellent credit who has also lived responsibly in one location for several years. Unfortunately, not all applicants will fit into these criteria.

Tenant screenings can take a few minutes to several days, depending on the information requested and the past residency locations of the prospective tenant. Credit checks can be done in a matter of minutes; criminal background checks can be completed in real time or near real time. Gathering information on work and rental history can take the most time. This type of screening involves contacting former landlords and employers. If these people answer or return calls quickly, then the screening process can go more quickly. Though in cases where it can take several tries to reach an applicant’s former contacts, the process can continue for days.

Employment Background Checks

Compared to tenant screenings, job application screenings can be somewhat more involved. As with tenant screenings, compiling a complete and accurate picture of an applicant’s history requires searching multiple databases, all of which need specific information in order to generate quality results.

As expected, the time it takes to conduct a thorough job applicant screening depends on the type of job for which applicants are applying. Entry-level job application screenings can be completed in one to three days. Screenings for professional jobs can take anywhere from three days for minimal searches to one week or more for more detailed results. Certain screenings — such as verifying college degrees or legal certifications — can take 2-5 days. Some jobs require an FBI check. These checks can take up to 30 days before results are made available to employers!

Again, contacting former employers and personal references can take the most time. Properly performed database searches produce results relatively quickly. Person-to-person contact can take longer depending on the personality and schedule of the person or organization you are trying to reach. Even though the time frame for this type of check can be unpredictable, it is an important step that should not be overlooked.

Drug Screening

Compared to job and tenant screenings, results from workplace drug test screenings are usually quick. While there are rapid tests that can provide same-day results, the turnaround time for most drug screens is one to three days (depending upon whether or not an organization utilizes a Medical Review Officer as part of its methodology). The turnaround time for drug screens often depends on the outcome of testing. Because the applicant is not tested again, drug screens with negative results return the quickest — often within 24 hours. Positive screens require further testing to rule out false positives and may take a few days up to one week. Tests that report positive for more than one substance can take even longer.

1. Most labs can process urine drug screenings in one to two business days.

2. Hair testing can detect drug use up to 90 days before the date of the test. These results are made available in five to 10 business days.

3. Testing an applicant’s blood for drugs is most expensive and invasive but some jobs do require this type of test. Results are made up to 48 hours after the test.

Screenings may seem like a lengthy process, but making the best choices based on quality results will save you time and trouble in the long run.

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