Last Updated on 2024-05-21

How Long It Takes To Get Hired for Instacart — It's Not As Simple As You'd Think

We worked with these active, experienced gig-workers to write this article and bring you first-hand knowledge.

author image

Faith McLaughlin

8 years of experience working across DoorDash, Instacart, Postmates, Uber, and Lyft

author image

Catherine Meyers

5 years of experience working across Shipt and Instacart

author image

Joshua Merritt

4 years of experience working across DoorDash, Instacart, Shipt, and UberEats

author image

Kate Romain

Experienced writer/researcher in the gig industry working alongside our gig-workers

The time it takes to get hired by Instacart depends on your location and the amount of work available there. Because of this, it can be hard to accurately predict the time it takes to start earning with Instacart. Nevertheless, gaining insight into the hiring process will maximize your chances of having a smooth and profitable Instacart experience. 

In locations where demand for shoppers is high, Instacart typically hires quickly. If there’s not enough demand to justify bringing on new shoppers, however, you might end up getting placed on the waitlist for quite a while. 

One note before we get started: Instacart hires for a variety of roles, ranging from corporate roles to shoppers. This post will cover how long it takes to get hired as a shopper. Most shoppers are hired as self-employed independent contractors, not employees (in-store shoppers are employees, but that role is very rare). 

How long does it take to sign up for Instacart? 

Not long at all. You can sign up for Instacart in a matter of minutes. All that’s needed is your driver’s license (you’ll need to take a photo of this), your social security number, and bank details for a direct deposit. 

In addition, to get work, you’ll need access to a smartphone. 

Though sign-up is quick, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to start work as an Instacart shopper immediately. To begin earning money, you’ll also need to pass a background check. And, if the number of shoppers in your area exceeds the number of job openings, you’ll also need to move through the Instacart waitlist.

Breaking down the Instacart hiring process  

It’s helpful to think of this as a two- or three-step process (the number of steps depends on how your application goes)

Step 1: Sign-Up 

The first step of the hiring process is simple: start your Instacart application (apply here). 

Make sure you meet the four Instacart hiring requirements

  1. Be eligible to work in the US
  2. Have access to a smartphone and vehicle
  3. Over 18 years old 
  4. Able to lift at least 40 pounds

The only exception to the vehicle rule is in NYC, where you can be an Instacart walker.

You’ll need to enter your first name, last name, phone number, and email. There is also an option to add a referral code if you have one. 

Once you’ve completed this step you will be prompted to download the Instacart app and log in using your phone number.

Step 2: Instacart background check

Next, Instacart will prompt you to complete the Instacart background check. For this, it uses two third-party services, Checkr and Sterling. You do not have to pay for the background check. 

How long does it take for the Instacart background check to go through?

Generally, the check is completed within 10 business days.  Though factors such as the availability of records can sometimes delay the process, Instacart shoppers have reported that the process is often a lot faster than 10 days. You will be able to access and review the background check to ensure everything is correct.

The check looks for criminal convictions and driving violations. Checking driving records can be the most time-consuming part of the process. 

NOTE: If additional information is needed for your background check, either the background check provider or Instacart will reach out to you directly. 

A felony record won’t necessarily disqualify you

If you have a felony on your record, you might worry that the background check will be a problem. Although it can be an issue, Instacart hires felons on a case-by-case basis. Instacart does not disclose the reasons for a rejected application — if you are rejected, it may be for other reasons than your felony, if you have one. 

There’s no drug test

Instacart does not require drug tests — you’ll still need to comply with all applicable laws though.

Step 3: Get off the waitlist (if applicable)

For many, getting started with Instacart is a two-step process: sign up and wait for your background check to be approved. Others will be placed on the Instacart waitlist. Whether or not you end up on the waitlist will depend on the demand in your area. 

Unfortunately, there is no way to check your place on the waitlist or get an estimate of when you’ll get off. You’ll just have to keep a careful eye out for an email from Instacart letting you know that work is available.

It’s not clear whether the waitlist works on a first-come first-served basis — some shoppers report that they know people who applied after them but got hired before them. 

Once you’ve left the waitlist, you’ll be able to keep working as an Instacart shopper indefinitely, without being placed back on the waitlist. 

Catherine Meyers, who has been on Instacart for 5 years, shares that she took a break from the platform for a full year without any issues starting work again. “The only re-verification thing that Instacart does is requiring you to take photos of your face from multiple angles to verify it’s really you," she says. "You can’t shop until you take the photos. But they do this even to active shoppers every now and again."

If I end up on the waitlist, what is the average wait? 

There’s a significant degree of luck here. It really depends on your location and the supply and demand within that location. 

These factors are beyond Instacart’s control, and so, unfortunately, they cannot provide an estimated wait time. Some may be on the waitlist for a day, others for a few months. Applicants are not given a waitlist number. 

In some cases, sending an email to Instacart support can help you get off the waitlist, but there’s no guarantee that it will do anything. If you do reach out to support, let them know the zip codes in your area that you could work in — there might be more demand in one zip code versus another.

If you find yourself on the waitlist for longer than you’d hoped, consider signing up for other apps such as DoorDash or Shipt. Working on multiple apps (“multi-apping”) is one of the best ways to maximize your gig work income. You can always cancel your Instacart shopper application further down the line if you find yourself with too much work or want to streamline your work through one app. 

Catherine emphasizes the benefits of multi-apping with DoorDash, Shipt, and Instacart. “They’re all the main grocery delivery services!" she says. "Instacart and DoorDash have pretty similar store selections, whereas Shipt is more directed to Target.” 

If you change location while you are waitlisted and are still interested in becoming a shopper, let Instacart know. The need for shoppers is location-dependent, and you might have greater success in your new town or city. Even just a zip code within your city change can be enough to get off the waitlist. 

If you find yourself waiting for long amounts of time to get started with Instacart, it’s worth hanging on. Your acceptance may come at another point in the future when you’re looking to make additional income. And who doesn’t enjoy their past self doing something that supports their future self?

NOTE: There’s no Instacart interview process for full-service shoppers. 

Instacart has two roles available: in-store shoppers and full-service shoppers. In-store shoppers are very rare and likely not what you think of when you think about Instacart. Neither role requires a traditional interview. 

Full-service shoppers are shoppers who purchase and deliver groceries through Instacart.

For full-service shoppers, there is no interview process. Only a sign-up and background check are required (and possibly the patience required to hold out on the waitlist). 

In-store shoppers work in one specific grocery location and only pick groceries (they don’t do the deliveries). Depending on where they’re based, they can either be part-time employees of Instacart or the grocery store itself. In most cases, they will be required to attend an in-person hiring session. 

One potential hold-up here is that there may not be hiring sessions scheduled when you sign up to be an Instacart Instore shopper. If this is the case you will need to wait for an email from Instacart informing you a hiring session has been scheduled.

In areas where in-store shoppers are in high demand, this training may be waived. 

Why is Instacart not hiring me? 

It can be frustrating to feel like the process of becoming an Instacart shopper is moving so slowly that it’s not even happening. But it’s important to remember the problem isn’t you or Instacart, it’s the ebbs and flows of market supply and demand. 

Instacart is always accepting new applicants. If you’re stuck on the waitlist, there are simply more shoppers than jobs in your area. 

If you've been rejected, it's because Instacart deemed that you didn't meet their hiring criteria in some way. Unfortunately, there's no way to find out why you didn't get hired. Even if your application was denied, sometimes applying again in the future will lead to a different outcome — some shoppers report they were rejected the first time they applied but accepted the second time. 

Get started

Can you see yourself as an Instacart Shopper? Apply now to get on the road.

Keep Learning...