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Types of Pre-Employment Testing

Updated on October 22, 2020
There are strict laws surrounding polygraph tests.
There are strict laws surrounding polygraph tests. | Source

Companies often use testing as a condition of employment or for internal promotion. The various procedures can be very effective employers. This testing allows employers to quickly find out whether or not an individual is suited for a particular task or position within their company.

Different procedures obtain different information about an individual, so many employers use a number of different tests to gather the information they deem necessary.

While companies find testing procedures effective, they must be careful not to violate federal anti-discrimination laws. These laws are set in place to protect employees from potentially invasive and/or unethical hiring procedures. In addition to this, some pre-employment tests are controversial.

Drug Tests

Drug testing is perhaps the most commonly used pre-employment testing procedure. Many employers only hire on the basis that employees aren't under the influence of illegal drugs. Some tests even test for alcohol consumption.

There are different laws in each state surrounding drug testing. In Canada, drug testing as a condition of employment is illegal under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Medical Screening/Physical Exams

Another common pre-employment test is a physical exam. A physical exam can legally only relate to whether or not an individual is physically suited to a particular job.

The physical exam will usually cover a check-up of specific groups of muscles that will be used for a specific task. For example, if a job requires heavy lifting, the doctor will examine the muscles commonly used when lifting.

If an employer also requires drug screening, this is usually done at this time.

Polygraph Tests

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act prohibits the usage of polygraph tests in most of the private sector. However, there are a few situations where private companies can legally require polygraph testing.

Testing can be required for individuals applying for positions at companies such as security firms, pharmaceutical companies, or weapons manufacturers.

Another case where testing is legally allowable is where an employee is suspected of injuring another person (when acting on behalf of the company) or a crime that resulted in economic loss for the company.

Polygraph testing is more commonly used in the public sector, particularly for jobs in security such as a position with the secret service.

Positions which require working with large amounts of money generally require credit checks AND background checks.
Positions which require working with large amounts of money generally require credit checks AND background checks. | Source

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing can be used to find whether or not an individual is genetically predisposed to particular health issues. This form of employment testing only recently became illegal in the United States. When this law came into effect, a number of US states already had laws in place preventing employers from genetically testing their workforce.

In 1991, Wisconsin was the first state to make it illegal for employers to genetically test their staff.

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Background/Criminal History Check

As with drug testing, a huge number of employers run criminal history checks. Employers cannot legally run a background check without the applicant's written consent.

In many states, applicants also have the right to request a copy of the background check. This allows the applicant to check and see if there are any discrepancies in the report.

What's contained in a background report varies from state to state. In some states, certain information "expires" and does not show up in reports.

Credit Checks/Financial History

Credit checks are becoming an increasingly popular tool for companies when hiring new employees. According to a study done by The Society of Human Resources Management, 60% of companies check the financial histories of some applicants.

Positions, where an applicant is most likely to be subject to a credit check, are those where the individual would have access to large amounts of money (or valuable assets.) For example, a bank teller position would likely require a credit check.

Sample Job Tasks

Sample job tasks are a screening method used to see how a potential employee handles real work tasks.

Not only is this a way to allow employers to quickly tell whether or not an applicant can perform tasks required of the job, but can also help place applicants in a position better suited for their abilities.


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    • poetryman6969 profile image


      5 years ago

      I have never had genetic screening or the polygraph but I certainly have had the rest of it.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      8 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      With the exception of drug and genetic testing, I had all of the other tests before I was hired by the federal government in 1980. The polygraph was an experience because it was repeated three times while I was strapped in a big chair sitting motionless. Voted up and sharing.


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