Where Do Employers Do Background Checks

Where Do Employers Do Background Checks?

They Start By Turning to a Verified Consumer Reporting Agency

For employers, the importance of using a verified Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) for employment background checks cannot be overstated. CRAs are regulated entities, often overseen by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), ensuring that the information they provide is suitable for employment purposes. This compliance with regulatory standards is crucial since many companies selling background checks are not CRAs, and the information they provide may not be legally viable for employment decisions​​.

Understanding the Background Check Process

  1. Initiating the Background Check:
    • Employers typically start the background check process after a candidate has applied for a job and given consent.
    • The process is initiated through a request to a background screening provider.
  2. Turn Around Time (TAT):
    • The average TAT for most background checks is 24-48 hours. However, this can vary depending on several factors such as court access, the depth of the check, and the locations where the applicant has lived or worked​​.
  3. Depth of the Check:
    • Employers can request different depths of background checks, such as 10-year, 7-year, 3-year, or 1-year criminal history checks. The TAT depends on these factors, along with the applicant’s previous residences, including international locations​​.
  4. Court Capabilities:
    • The speed of obtaining results also depends on the capability of the courts. Courts with direct electronic access can provide quick results, whereas offline, clerk-assisted, or manual courts might take longer due to the need for physical file retrieval and manual recording​​.
  5. Nationwide Database Limitations:
    • Contrary to popular belief, there is no single, comprehensive nationwide criminal background check system due to the lack of centralized reporting across the over 3800 criminal jurisdictions. Employers often rely on private databases, which might not always be fully accurate or up-to-date​​.
  6. Verification of Records:
    • Any criminal records identified in databases need to be verified at their local originating source, typically the county court, to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)​​.

Using Completed Background Check Reports

  1. Decision Making:
    • Once the background check is completed, employers use the information to make informed decisions about hiring, promotions, or reassignments.
  2. Compliance with Legal Standards:
    • Employers must ensure that the use of background check information complies with employment laws and regulations.
  3. Record Retention:
    • While the FCRA doesn’t specify a retention period for background check reports, it’s advisable to keep these records for a significant duration due to potential legal actions. Many employers retain reports of hired employees for three years and non-hired applicants for six years from the decision date​​.


Employers conduct background checks through specialized screening providers, ensuring compliance with legal standards. The depth of the check, court capabilities, and legal compliance are key factors in this process. Employers must judiciously use and retain the completed reports for legal and organizational purposes.

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