Okay, I admit this is an article I should have written a long time ago since it is a question I answer daily. The internet has put the world at our fingertips so it makes sense that we should be able to do high quality background checks instantly. Unfortunately, the background screening industry is guilty of perpetuating the myth of instant background checks. Don’t believe me? Do a quick online search on volunteer background checks or tenant screening and everything is instant, cheap and packaged as a “national background check.”
As a matter of fact, I just got off the phone with one of our partners, John Halverson of Human Resource Support, and he asked the million dollar question: how long does it take to do a background check? John knows that instant does not work but he needed a little more information before confronting one of their clients who is relying on 1 hour “pre-checks.”
What happens if the “pre-check” is clear (which it will be)? Are employers putting this person to work? Allowing them to volunteer with kids? I hope not.
A 1 hour “pre-check” sounds slick but it will get organizations in trouble.
The simple truth is we live in a country where the criminal records systems are extremely fractured. Criminal records are still recorded in books and not in databases in some jurisdictions. And, even if they are stored electronically, the data is often not shared with state repositories or proprietary databases.
So I confirmed for John what he already knew: Instant background checks are junk. I know, for some of you, that is not what you want to hear. I understand. It would be a perfect world if we could offer high quality instant background checks. But we can’t. Maybe some day, but not today.
There is not a single database (FBI, state repository or proprietary) that is complete enough to be a stand-alone screening program. Sorry.
Background screening firms have peddled instant background checks for years because they are extremely attractive to fast-paced hiring managers, the price is appealing to cash-strapped volunteer organizations and they are huge revenue generators for the screening firms.
Now let me say this again: Instant background checks always = junk data. If you have been told otherwise then you are being subjected to traditional marketing which is built upon smoke screens, no transparency and telling you what you want to hear.
We practice “inbound marketing” based on truthful content and transparency. We want you to make informed decisions which sometimes means a potential client will select cheap and instant over quality. That’s okay. We will not sacrifice quality for revenue.
So how long does it take for a background check? The honest answer is 2-3 business days. Why? Because quality criminal records checks require the checks and balances of criminal databases AND county criminal record searches. You cannot divorce these two searches.
I’ve heard from potential clients that screening firms have told them they do not need a county criminal search because the state where they reside receives updates from all the courts. Might be true but:
- How do I verify my applicant has lived in this state his whole life?
- How do I verify that my applicant has never traveled outside this state on business or vacation?
- How do I know if my applicant’s criminal record pre-dates the database?
- How do I comply with the FCRA’s requirement to use up-to-date information for employment purposes?
So where does that leave us?
Instant background checks don’t exist. Criminal databases are tools not screening programs.
I understand that the county criminal records checks slow the background screening process and take from 24-72 hrs to complete. However, it is one of the most critical steps in the background check. So don’t skip this. You might not pay for it today or tomorrow but you will at some point.
We have focused on reducing turnaround times for county criminal searches and recently created an integration which allows us access to more than 800 county courts in the U.S. This is a great tool that has allowed us to reduce our turnaround time to as little as one or two days in these counties.
The bottom line is safety and security is the ultimate goal of a background screening program. Never compromise quality for speed.
Is it worth waiting 1-3 days to prevent a child molest, rape or embezzlement?
So ask yourself:
- Do you want to do background checks correctly?
- Are you focused on the safety and security of your people?
- Are you an organization that strives to be the best you can be?
If you answered yes to all 3 questions, then contact us today. We only partner with the best of the best.