Background screening reports are an essential part of the hiring process. As an employer, you also have a moral and legal obligation to provide a safe work environment. Conducting a thorough and accurate background check gives you a solid foundation for making the hiring decision while improving the quality of the new hires and protecting your organization.

As a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), Reference Services, Inc has strict guidelines under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to ensure the accuracy of our reports. We are also required to have procedures in place to make sure we are reporting on the correct person and provide dispute resolution for the applicant when necessary.

As a CRA, we understand the importance of turning around criminal reports in a timely manner. However it’s also important for the employer to understand what can cause delays. Working together to achieve the best turn-around time (TAT) possible and getting applicants hired is of the utmost importance.

For most CRA’s, a criminal background report will return in under 24 hours on average. This would mean reports with no records could return in just a few hours while reports with a record or incomplete data could take much longer depending on various circumstances. The most common causes for a background check to be delayed are:


1. Incomplete or incorrect Personal Identification information

One of the most common causes for delays is when employers submit incomplete or inaccurate applicant information. When critical data like name, date of birth, social security number, and address are missing, screening companies find it difficult to report on the proper individual.  Therefore, delays in the reporting process are a result.

At RSI, we have a Common Name Policy where we must have 3 personal identifiers (PI) in order to return a report. This ensures accuracy to make sure we are reporting on the correct person. As an example, the first name and last name would be one PI, the middle initial or full middle name would be a 2nd PI, and the date of birth would be the 3rd PI. If any of these identifiers do not match, or are ordered incorrectly, the reports are delayed while we investigate.

At RSI our Quality Assurance (QA) team will call the applicant or employer to verify data and then rerun the report(s).


2. County Courthouses do not have Public Access Terminals (PAT) and require clerk assistance

In today’s world of high-tech computers and big data, you would think all criminal records reside in one easy to access database. This is far from the truth. The most accurate record keeping still exists at the local county court clerk’s office.

While many county clerk’s offices have Public Access Terminals (PAT) to review records, many still do not and require a clerk to pull the records manually so that researchers can view and validate information.

In these cases, CRA’s are at the mercy of the clerks as to when they have time to pull the records.

“If you experience delays beyond 24 hours, it’s highly probable your applicant has a record or personal identification we are validating.”


3. County Clerks offices are closed

Courts can be closed for many reasons, and access to records is impossible until they reopen. Here is a list of the most common reasons for closing:

  • Limited employees on staff or employee sickness (COVID)
  • Natural disasters (damage to the court due to flooding, tornado, etc.)
  • Public Access Terminal or management system is down
  • Courts no longer allowing access to records based on recent state law changes


4. Backlog of requests at the County Court Clerk’s office

While dealing with COVID, many courts were closed or limiting access. While most have reopened, there is still a severe backlog of searches that need to be completed.


5. A record on the Nationwide criminal report must be validated at the County Court level

At RSI, there are over 2200+ national databases checked in our Nationwide Criminal reports. While this data is extremely valuable, it is only one piece to a comprehensive criminal records search. The records collected must be validated with the county court records. Unfortunately, there are many examples where the records reported to the national databases are flawed, incomplete, or simply incorrect.

Since most criminal activity is recorded first at the local county court, it is the county courts that have the most accurate data. The validation of the records at the county courts provides accuracy, protects the applicant, and reduces the risk of lawsuits to the employer.


In summary, these are the top 5 reasons we see delays for criminal background checks. As a professional background screening agency, RSI works very hard with our researchers to limit or reduce these interruptions.

We see approximately 20% of all our reports return with a record or need some type of QA follow up. That also means that 80% of reports are returned very quickly because there are no records to report. If you experience delays beyond 24 hours, it’s highly probable your applicant has a record or personal identification we are validating.



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.

Give us a call at 812-474-9000 or email

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