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Pre-employment screening is a critical part of the hiring process that helps employers verify information provided by job applicants and assess their suitability for roles. However, candidates often wonder how long this process takes.

In this blog post, we will explore the average time frames involved and factors that can affect the duration of pre-employment screening.

The Average Screening Process

Generally, the average pre-employment screening takes two to four weeks from when an offer is extended to when a candidate begins their new job. This timeframe can vary depending on the type and complexity of screening required.

Here’s a typical breakdown:

  • Application Review: 1-3 business days for employers to review applications and select candidates to move forward in the process.
  • Reference Checks: 1-2 business days once references are provided. Employers will typically contact 2-3 references for each candidate.
  • Education/Experience Verification: 1-3 business days to verify candidates’ education credentials and employment history as listed on their resume and application.
  • Background Checks: average 5-10 business days for standard background checks like criminal history, driving records, and education verification. Drug screens typically take 1-3 business days.
  • Assessment Testing: 1-3 business days for skills or personality assessments.
  • Contingent Offer: Once screening is complete and the candidate is cleared, a contingent offer is extended within 1-5 business days.

Factors Impacting Screening Timeframes

There are some key factors that can lengthen or shorten the time it takes to complete pre-employment screening:

Type of Screening Required

More in-depth screenings like fingerprint-based criminal history checks or client reference checks take longer (1-2 weeks) than basic checks. Screening for jobs requiring security clearances or licenses can also add time.

Volume of Applications

If an employer has a high volume of applicants to screen concurrently, it will take longer to complete the entire process for each individual.

Holidays and Weekends

Screening steps requiring contact with third parties like references or past employers won’t progress on weekends or holidays, thus extending the process.

Candidate Responsiveness

If candidates are slow to provide required info like references or consent, it holds up the entire screening timeline. Employers need information promptly to keep the process moving.

Verifying International Credentials

If a candidate lists education, licensure, or work experience from another country, international verification often takes longer (2-4 weeks).

Contingent on Drug Test Results

Jobs requiring drug tests will be contingent on the test results being returned, which takes 1-3 business days on average for standard urine analysis.

Expediting the Process

There are a few things candidates can do to help speed up the screening timeline on their end:

  • Provide all requested information and documents promptly as soon as an offer is extended.
  • Proactively provide references’ full contact details upfront rather than making the employer track them down.
  • Give consent for background and credential checks immediately so they can run concurrently.
  • Be available for assessments or follow-up questions if needed, rather than delays due to unreachability.

Employers should also communicate clearly with candidates throughout the process to set expectations and address any issues promptly. Expedited screening options could also be considered in some circumstances, such as rush fingerprint checks. Overall, cooperation and quick responses on both sides are best for optimizing timeframes.


Most standard pre-employment screening processes can be completed within 2-4 weeks of extending an offer. However, various factors, from screening requirements to volume to candidate responsiveness, can potentially impact timing.

By understanding average timeframes and proactively managing expectations, employers and job applicants can ensure screening moves as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Clear communication throughout the process also helps keep it on track.

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