Background checks are invaluable for staffing agencies. This is because, given the nature of their business, staffing agencies cannot afford to hire the wrong people. Conducting thorough and accurate background checks is essential to ensure this.
However, in most cases, accuracy isn’t the only thing staffing agencies need to worry about. The length of time taken to conduct the background check also matters. The reason for this is simple: in most cases, background checks need to be carried within a fixed time period.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes, there are delays in background checks. Now, a typical background check takes anywhere from 3 to 7 days. Anything beyond that is considered a delay. These delays can turn out to be extremely costly – especially in situations where recruitment needs to be carried out within a fixed timeframe.
To reduce disruptions caused by background check delays, it is critical to understand the possible causes of these delays. This is because some of the causes can be eliminated through proper planning and preparation. The most common causes of background check delays are the following:
1. Incomplete Background Check Request Forms
The most common cause of delays is when staffing agencies submit incomplete or inaccurate background check request forms. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) stipulates strict guidelines which must be followed when requesting for background checks. Two key requirements include issuing a written disclosure to, and obtaining a signed authorization from the applicant.
Legally, background screening companies are mandated to receive these signed authorizations before beginning to conduct the background check. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines permit employers to request background checks, then get the disclosures/authorizations within three days.
The problem is that most staffing companies don’t get the written authorizations within the legally stipulated time-periods. They submit their background check request forms without including the disclosures and authorization documents. Due to the flexibility given by the FTC, most background checking companies carry out the checks.
However, they do not give the results until the staffing companies submit the signed authorizations. When staffing companies delay to submit the authorizations, they delay to get the results. In this case, the delays can be avoided if staffing companies get the signed authorizations in time.
2. Incomplete or Inaccurate Applicant Information
Another common cause of delays is when staffing companies submit incomplete or inaccurate applicant information. When critical applicant details such as name, date of birth and social security number are missing, background screening companies find it difficult to trace the individual. As such, they take longer to locate the individual.
Sometimes there are inaccuracies in applicant details. In some cases, the inaccuracy isn’t deliberate. For instance, say the applicant is called Steven. Common variants of the name include Stephen and Steve. If, for instance the applicant writes Steve instead of Steven, the background checking company may find difficulty finding records – especially if the records exist under the name Steven.
The bottom line is that when applicant information is false or incomplete, it makes finding applicant records more difficult. This forces the background screening companies to double-check every result in order to locate the accurate information. This inevitably leads to delays. The best thing staffing companies can do in this case is to ensure that they supply the background screening company with as much detail about applicants as possible.
3. Legal and Institutional Restrictions
At a basic level, background checks involve retrieving information from a variety of sources. Such sources are mostly housed in certain institutions. In most cases, the institutions place restrictions on the amount of time in which any information can be accessed.
For instance, most background checking companies use the FBI to check applicant’s’ criminal history. Now, the FBI has its own timelines in which any information on its databases can be accessed. For example, FBI fingerprinting takes between 3 to 5 days and a holistic FBI check can take up to 30 days.
When background checking companies have to access information from institutions which have their own timelines, this can lead to delays. This is true especially in situations where timelines stretch beyond the normal 3-5 days.
Besides institutions, some restrictions are legally based. There some jurisdictions which place restrictions on how soon certain public records can be accessed. For instance, in the State of Texas, getting a driving license report or state-wide criminal report takes a minimum of 48 hours.
In a nutshell, institutional and legal restrictions can limit how fast background checking companies can access information. This can ultimately lead to delays in the background checking process.
4. Archaic Institutional Records
The nature of record keeping in the places which contain an applicant’s information can have a direct impact on the speed of the background check. If the records are kept in an organized, state-of-the-art digitized system which offers computerized access, then retrieving the information can be done fast. However, if the records are stored in archaic, paper-based files, then accessing information is much slower.
The challenge is that some educational institutions, organizations and public institutions e.g. courts still use archaic methods of record keeping. They keep vital information in files, which are then stored in archives.
When background screening companies have to access information from such archaic records, it inevitably leads to delays. This is because the information has to be manually searched for by individuals. The only challenge is that the institutions are sometimes under-staffed. In the end, accessing information which could have taken a few hours on a digitized system takes many days.
5. Unforeseen Disruptions
Sometimes, delays are caused by disruptions in the background checking process. An example is unfavorable weather phenomena like blizzards, storms or flooding which limits access to sources of information. Such phenomena can make courthouses inaccessible or cause outages which render record-keeping systems inaccessible.
Other disruptions occur when persons who have critical information delay to respond to requests. For instance, if an employer or referee fails to return phone calls, delays to reply emails or ignores correspondences requesting for info; the background checking process can be severely slowed down.
In a nutshell, those are the 5 major reasons why background checks sometimes delay. Others include international challenges, poor timing of submissions (e.g. submitting background check requests on a Friday) and contracting a poorly equipped background checking company. The bottom line is that there are numerous causes of background check delays. However, some of them can be mitigated by proper planning. For those which are unavoidable, the only remedy is to hire a decent background checking company. Such a company will at least keep the staffing agency informed on any possible delays.