Turnaround Time

Turnaround time — also referred to as TAT — refers to the length of time it takes for a background check to be completed


In the background screening industry, the general industry average TAT is three to five days for a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) to deliver results to the end user.  At Reference Services, Inc. (RSI), our average TAT is much shorter at 31.5 hours on average across all jurisdictions.  We do understand that time is of the essence when our clients have a good hire on the line.  Even an accepted TAT can feel far too long of a wait.  It gets even worse when, even for good reason, a background check takes upwards of a week, 10 days, or even two weeks.

Turnaround times can be a frequent source of dissatisfaction with a CRA.  Long TAT’s can also negatively impact applicants who are waiting for clearance to start their new jobs.

It is important to remember that it is not the mere length of time something takes, but it is the lack of transparency into the process that makes TAT’s so frustrating.  Understanding what drives those turnaround times is key.  Let’s look specifically at TAT’s for criminal records research.


4 Factors That Impact TAT:

  1. Availability of Online Records:

In cases where we can run an online search of a court’s records, the TAT’s can be very fast.  In jurisdictions where online records are not available or only partially-available, the turnaround will increase.

  1. Scope of Search:

TAT is naturally impacted by the scope of a research request.  A search that goes back seven years is typical, but, when that time-frame extends to 10 years or longer, the turnaround time might have to extend.  As the look-back period extends, it is common that the research will require covering multiple jurisdictions, and the further back the records go, the greater chance the records may have to be searched by hand as opposed to online.

  1. Redaction/Removal of PII:

A growing trend in some jurisdictions is the redaction or removal of Personally Identifying Information (PII).  This impacts turnaround time for criminal records screening by making it more difficult or sometimes impossible to match a record to an individual with 100% accuracy.

  1. Diversity within the Supplier Network:

By diverse, we mean having more than one researcher or at least having a large enough team in place to ensure demand can be met.  If your research provider lacks a diverse network, you will experience the pain of slow TAT’s at some point in time, whether due to a researcher getting sick, a sudden uptick in volume, or some other unexpected factor.


Transparency is key.

Transparency and accuracy around estimated TAT’s leads to fewer misunderstandings, greater efficiency, and an all-around better customer experience.  At RSI, we strive every day to bring our clients premier customer service and expedient, compliant results.  In order to maintain one of the lowest dispute rates in the industry of .03%, we utilize any means necessary to verify that all records are accurate and compliant with state and federal laws.  The majority of our searches complete on average within 31 hours.  There are, however, occasions when a search can take longer than the average.  This is generally due to circumstances beyond our control such as clerk assisted searches or specific county court regulations.  While we cannot guarantee a turnaround time on these searches, there are instances in which a ‘rush request’ can possibly expedite the completion of the search.   Please keep in mind when requesting a rush for a pending search, this may or may not speed up the process depending on the cause of the delay.  RSI works hard every day to ensure that all searches are completed in as timely a manner as possible.


Reference Services, Inc is headquartered in Evansville, IN and has remained one of the premier employment background screening companies in the country. Clients representing almost every industry imaginable rely on RSI to provide fast, accurate and legally compliant background checks on their applicants so they can hire a more productive, safer, and reliable workforce.

Our Difference

Our scope of services, investment in extensive data resources and skilled team members ensure you’ve got the power to
make informed hiring decisions and make the best hire – the first time. You need it ALL and we’ve got it.