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How Long Does a Background Check Take For a Job?

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You sent in your resume and nailed that interview for your dream job. Now you've gotten word that you made it to the last step: the background check. So, why a background check? Employers do background checks to protect themselves from potential risk. In the new position, you may have access to financial or personal information about customers, or other such sensitive data. Employers use a background check to determine whether you’ll handle that information appropriately. The length of time a background check takes depends on the type of background check they’re doing.

What Is a Background Check?

Potential employers may look into your history and use the information found to determine whether you’re a good fit for a job offer or promotion. Background checks vary depending on the type of job involved. They typically include a criminal background check and a credit report. Employers may also confirm your educational background, check your driving record and review your social media posts. For government jobs, employers may also interview friends and family to get a more thorough sense of your background.

What Shows Up on a Background Check?

What shows up depends on the type of background check being done. A criminal background check, for example, will typically include any criminal convictions. It may also include arrest records, depending on the state. Civil court proceedings can be included for up to seven years. Criminal convictions can be reported indefinitely in most states.

A credit report shows your credit history. It may include entries like late payments, accounts in collections, bankruptcies and defaults on student loans. Bankruptcies can be reported for 10 years, and accounts in collection can be reported up to seven years.

If your potential employer checks social media, then any publically available posts will be visible. Anything about you that can be found in an online search will be visible to a potential employer.

If you have concerns about what might come up during a background check, you can get a sense of what employers might find by doing your own research. If you have past court proceedings, you can get a copy of court records and ensure they’re correct. You can also get copies of your credit report and confirm that the information is accurate. If there is inaccurate information, report it to the credit bureaus to have it corrected. Review your social media presence and hide or delete posts that may be offensive or misunderstood by a potential employer.

How Long a Background Check Takes

When you’re ready to start a new position, it can feel like torture waiting for your background check to come back. Typically, background checks don’t take very long. A basic criminal background check and credit check can be completed in two or three days. Many employers hire outside firms to complete these checks, so it may take an additional day or two to get the report back from the outside agency.

Background checks can take longer if the employer has trouble getting the reports. They may have mistyped your birthdate or Social Security number, for example, or they may need to wait for court records. If your potential employer or the outside agency it hired is conducting interviews with friends or family, this can extend the length of time to a week or more.