3 Things to Know About Pre-Employment Drug Tests

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Oct 15, 2018

Oct 15, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

Applying for jobs can be stressful for some people, but not for the usual reasons. Besides being evaluated on their skill and compatibility, employers also tend to use pre-employment drug tests.

These tests are meant to reveal if a person may be under the influence while performing their job. It's one of the many ways employers try to keep the workplace safe.

Some states even require employers drug test employees. Yet, laws on employment drug testing vary throughout the country.

Tests are also more common in some fields than others. If a person is hired to do transportation, it is more important that they don't abuse substances than if they do data entry.

Keep reading below to learn about pre-employment drug tests, and why they can be so stressful.

1. They Usually Test for Five Different Drugs

Most tests are only looking for the presence of five different drugs:

  • Amphetamines
  • THC
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Phencyclidine

This means they should pick up on any medication you may be taking as prescribed by a doctor. Since medical information is considered private, you probably don't need to mention if you are taking medication.

However, as this post mentions, it is best to notify your employer and the testing agency. If you take over-the-counter medication, your test may end being a false positive.

2. Employers Usually Use Only Two Different Tests

The most common type of pre-employment drug tests are urinalysis tests. These are the infamous pee tests. They have applicants urinate into a cup which is then tested for the presence of different chemicals.

The urine is first tested through a quick and easy process immunoassay. However, the process doesn't pick up on opioids and can send back false positives. If it does come back positive, the urine is tested again. Only, it's tested with a GC/MS process.

It's rare for the second process to give back false positives. So if it comes back positive, the applicant may not pass.

There is also a hair test, which looks back longer in time for substance abuse. Since hair takes longer to process and grow in the body, evidence of substance abuse remains in it longer.

However, it's an expensive test. For the most part, only corporations handling extremely sensitive products and the government use hair tests

3. Results Follow Applicants Beyond Their Potential Employer

Employers look at applicants' histories when considering hiring them. They can collect all sorts of information in a background check, including drug tests.

This means that failed drug tests may preclude potential applicants from ever getting in the door. If an employer sees an applicant failed a test in the past, they may not even bother testing them again.

A failed drug test doesn't mean applicants can't find jobs, though. Knowing how to sell yourself is the first step towards the interview. After getting the interview, applicants can explain why they failed a drug test and demonstrate they're the person for the job.

Pre-Employment Drug Tests Keep the Workplace Safe

Employers have an obligation to keep their employees safe. Failure to do so can lead to federal lawsuits. That responsibility extends to when they are hiring new applicants.

Employers will be asked why they didn't adequately vet a person before hiring them if an applicant causes harm. That can include running pre-employment drug tests. Ultimately, they help employers avoid accusations of negligence.

But that can be stressful for applicants. Even if they know nothing will show up on a test, it's easy to be stressed about it. Applicants should just keep in mind that if they have nothing to hide, everything will be fine.

And if they don't get that first job, they'll always be able to use our tool to find another. So applicants have no excuse to get started looking for their next career step today!