Background checks are essential for HR departments to ensure the hiring of suitable candidates. Turnaround times are a crucial factor to consider when evaluating the efficiency of a background check – and for good reason. If your HR team is experiencing delays in background check results, you may want to be aware of some of the common causes for delays and what you can do to minimize or prevent them entirely.
1. Incomplete Background Check Request Forms
The most common cause of delays is incomplete or inaccurate background check request forms (typically authorization or consent forms). Though the FCRA allows background screening companies (also known as “consumer reporting agencies” or “CRAs”) to rely on certifications that employers will provide and obtain the disclosures and authorization required under the law, certain exceptions can arise. For example, certain state criminal and driving record repositories require specific forms to be completed prior to releasing record information. If a form is not completed correctly, it may be rejected by the repository. In this case, the CRA will have to work with the applicant or employer to obtain correctly completed forms, which will often cause delays to the overall turnaround times.
2. Incomplete or Inaccurate Applicant Information
In order for CRAs to properly process searches, customers must provide accurate information about the applicant during the ordering process. Most record repositories only provide names and dates of birth. Because the FCRA requires CRAs to establish sufficient identity matching between the record and the applicant, inaccurate information can lead to criminal records going unreported. If a CRA does happen to flag a record that it believes could match the applicant, despite the discrepant identifiers, the CRA will often try to work with the applicant or employer to double-check the information provided in an attempt to match the record. It may be helpful to remember that spending a few extra seconds reviewing your order before submitting it can save you some substantial time delays on the back end.
3. Consumer Privacy Movements & Common Names
Protecting consumers’ personal data is a growing concern across the US, and there have been increased movements in various states to remove certain information from public view. In these states, extra research is often required to obtain the full identifiers needed to make a match. Additionally, searches for records under common names (John Smith, for example) will typically result in a large number of initial “hits” for potential records. When this happens, the researcher will have to look for additional information on the record that indicates it belongs to the applicant in question. Either of these situations will require some extra time to process, and some even require working with court clerks to physically obtain the information.
4. Court Closures and Delays
In some cases, delays in background checks can be caused by court closures or other delays in the legal system. For example, court closures due to COVID-19 have caused delays in processing background checks. HR departments can minimize the impact of these delays by planning ahead and allowing extra time for background checks in cases where known court closures or delays are likely to be involved.
5. Slow Response Times from Past Employers or Schools
Most background checks involving past employment or education verifications will depend on information being returned from a third party, such as the past employer or school. As verifying past employee records is not typically a priority for past employers, CRAs may experience slow response rates when requesting their information. This can be exasperated during the holidays or summer breaks when closures are frequent and inevitable. Again, the best thing employers can do here is take these factors into consideration ahead of time when planning and prioritizing various aspects of their background screening programs.
Background checks play a crucial role in the HR department’s hiring process, and a prompt turnaround time is essential to evaluate its efficiency. HR professionals can take proactive steps to minimize or prevent these delays by ensuring complete and accurate forms and certifications, providing accurate applicant information, and allowing extra time for background checks in states with privacy movements or for applications with common names. Additionally, employers can anticipate slower response times from past employers or schools, as well as during holidays or after widespread events that cause courthouse closures.