How Long Does a Background Check Take?

Employee background checks — ranging from, or combining, items like credit history, criminal record checks, and public record searches — are increasingly common for employers in North Carolina. While some larger businesses have the resources to handle background checks in-house, many SMBs and private individuals who are diligent about the people they hire are turning to private investigators like Barefoot Professional Investigations for employee background check services. Here’s the timetable you can expect, and a few tips for your part in the process to avoid delays on our part.


Average Times for Background Checks

Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule for how long any part of the background check process takes. Assuming that all of the information with which you’ve furnished us is accurate, some components are fast; credit reports, for instance, can be run in a day or two. Some record checks need to be run locally because the information we require won’t be readily available online; this can take a few business days. A records check involving the FBI can take up to 30 days — or longer, in certain circumstances. And other services, like examining an applicant’s social media history or conducting background interviews where appropriate to provide context for certain activities, will take time not just for information gathering, but also for interpretation based on your unique needs (and will require more input on your part). So while three to seven business days is common, this should be viewed only as a guideline and not a number that’s carved in stone.


A Word on Instant Background Check Services

Perhaps that sounds like a long time — longer, in fact, than you’d like a background check to take. You may be tempted to enlist one of the many instant background check services you’ve come across. We suggest proceeding with caution; these services draw from databases that are often outdated, inaccurate, or both, which can result in a perfectly safe applicant being turned away or a dangerous individual slipping through the cracks.


Can You Speed Up a Background Check?

At this point, you’re probably wondering if there’s a way to make this whole process go a bit faster but maintain accuracy. The answer? It depends. As we’ve already seen, some of the time constraints that come with background checks are baked in. 


However, there are some things you can do to keep that process from taking longer than it should. When we encounter delays, it’s most often because the information we’ve received is either incomplete or inaccurate. While the steps we’re listing below would seem to be primarily the responsibility of the subject of the background check, a fair amount of responsibility also falls on the person requesting the background check; after all, they’ll be the ones communicating the expectations and helping to ensure that the right information is collected in the first place. 


  • Budget enough time for background checks in your hiring process, with the understanding that accurate results take time on our part and yours as well. The process isn’t going to move faster simply because you’ve waited until the last minute.
  • Start with the proper forms, since compliance with state, local, and federal laws is the backbone of a reliable background check.
  • Ensure that the proper release and authorization forms are signed by the applicant.
  • Check the accuracy of all information gathered, including SSNs, full names, nicknames/alternate names, addresses, work and educational history, and any other information relevant to your background check.
  • Make sure the agency conducting the background check has the same paperwork you do, since we cannot do our work without it.


We find that businesses and private individuals that are new to using employment background checks are the ones most likely to encounter difficulties. With that in mind, if you’re incorporating background checks into your hiring process for the first time — or if you feel your processes could be streamlined and made to work more efficiently — contact Barefoot Professional Investigations today.