5 Frequently Asked Background Check Questions (And Their Answers)

May 17, 2019
Checkr Editor

The world of background checks is a complicated one to say the least. Between managing the different types of searches and complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there’s a lot to remember and keep track of.

To help you stay up to date, we’ve compiled 5 of the most common questions about background checks we hear from our customers:

1. How long do most background checks take?

The industry average turnaround time for most background checks is between 3-5 business days, but they can take longer than expected depending on the depth of the search, geographical location of your candidates, or county courthouse operations. Based on these factors, they can be completed in as soon as a few minutes, or longer than two weeks. Learn more about the factors that go into turnaround time here.

2. Why is the background check taking longer than expected?

The main reasons behind this usually are:

  1. The background check is pending a county search. In many cases, the Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) must verify records at the county level. County criminal searches may take several weeks if we’re searching for criminal records in a county that lacks electronic resources. Some counties are understaffed and overburdened by thousands of search requests each day. Because criminal records are public information, court researchers must wait in line with other parties requesting information. Most county searches take 2-3 days to complete, but searches of 3+ weeks do occur in a minority of cases.
  2. The candidate has not responded to the CRA’s request for additional information. Here at Checkr, in certain cases, we require additional documentation such as a photo of an ID, driver’s license, or SSN card to complete a background check. When these exceptions arise, we email the applicant automatically to collect more information. Learn more about these main reasons here.

3. What happens when there’s a “hit” on the National Database Search?

Checkr runs a National Criminal Database search as a routine step in background checks. This search queries 1,800 databases and over 30 million records to cast a wide net and find potential offenses. However, the records returned are often incomplete, lacking identifying information and/or the final disposition of what actually happened—for example, whether the case was dismissed. Because these records are often incomplete, CRAs like Checkr and end-users of background reports must perform additional steps when processing results from a National Criminal Database search.

Namely, they must either:

  1. Pull the record from the reporting jurisdiction (usually a county courthouse), or
  2. Alert the subject of the report (the candidate) that potentially adverse information exists and may be delivered to their would-be employer

Unlike other CRAs, Checkr surpasses the requirements by both pulling the court record and notifying the candidate that potentially adverse information exists. The notification that we send is known as a “Contemporaneous Notice” or “613 Notice.”

Additionally, once a “hit” is identified in the National Criminal Database, Checkr automatically upgrades the report using County Level Verification. This means that Checkr dispatches researchers to the county where the national criminal search shows a possible record to obtain:

Additional identifiers to confirm it belongs to the individual in questionComplete and up-to-date case information (e.g., disposition, status)

You can learn more about National Database Searches here.

4. How are independent contractors treated by the FCRA and other employment laws?

If your company engages contractors, you have certain obligations under the FCRA and EEOC guidelines:


According to commonly accepted interpretations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), purchasing and reviewing background checks as part of the screening process for independent contractors or volunteers falls under “Employment Purposes,” making reports for contractors/volunteers subject to the same FCRA guidelines as for employees.

EEOC guidelines and state/local laws

Each state and local law (such as “Ban the Box” laws that are becoming more common) takes a slightly different position on how it applies to independent contractors. That said, the spirit of the EEOC guidelines and the guidance they provide on non-discrimination is intended to cover all types of employment relationships.

Learn more about laws that govern independent contractors here.

5. Why do I need to be credentialed before I can request background checks?

Credentialing refers to a process where we collect certain information from new customers before we can begin the background screening process for you. We need to credential you to ensure compliance with the FCRA, applicable state laws, and contractual obligations. This helps ensure that consumers’ privacy is protected. Learn more about credentialing here.

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