Drug Testing as a Job Prerequisite

This topic comes up often enough online that I figured it would be more convenient to just lay out my thoughts on the subject once and point people to it. So here goes:

  • Most companies use pre-employment drug testing to filter people out because they don’t have any good performance-based measurements they can use. If they knew how to directly evaluate a potential employee, they wouldn’t need artificial criteria.
  • Some companies have a legitimate need for pre-employment testing: hospitals, pharmacies, chemical labs. Jobs where people will have unusual access to drugs or their components.
  • There are some jobs where you clearly don’t want someone working under the influence: bus drivers, teachers, etc. But if you’re going to make that argument, doesn’t it make more sense to do random screenings after they’re employed?
  • Some jobs have an inherent conflict with drug use: law enforcement. Enough said on that one.
  • As a job candidate, I would prefer that a company’s policies aligned with my own. But I recognize that most HR policies are about balancing various legal liabilities, and have little to do with the day-to-day business culture. So yes, I’ll take a test if they want one.
  • As a potential employer or hiring manager, I prefer not to know what an employee does when they’re away from work. But if my employer’s HR department requires a test, that’s the policy I’ll tell any candidates.