The hiring process often is all about the details. Prospective employees start by turning in applications, resumes and cover letters, but further into the interview process or closer to the final selection, applicants may need to complete a number of pre-employment tests. Let’s take a look at some of the most common tests and what they can mean in the hiring process.
Employment laws seem to be neutral when it comes to pre-employment tests. However, the administration of the tests must not involve explicit or implicit discrimination on the basis of race, color, age, gender, sexual preference, religion, disability or national origin. For example, if a drug test is required for potential hires, it should not include a screening for pregnancy, which is only applicable to female candidates.
The laws concerning drug testing vary widely by state. Some states prohibit them outright, while others allow them for any type of position. The concept behind drug testing is to avoid hiring people who take drugs that could affect their ability to work effectively and safely. It also addresses liability issues if a worker were to be accused of wrongdoing. Drug testing laws may be further complicated in the future as more states adopt laws allowing the recreational use of marijuana.
Offering skills tests is a common pre-employment practice. Employers want to be certain that applicants are capable of performing the main tasks required in the position. For example, a graphic designer might be asked to create a design using the drafting tools provided by the company. There are not as many legal concerns in regards to skills testing as there are for other types of pre-employment screenings. The main thing to ensure is that the skills being tested are pertinent to the job and that applicants are given the resources they need to perform the test.
On a related note, people with disabilities can be required to perform skills tests in the pre-employment context. However, employers must make reasonable accommodations to ensure disabled people can take the test in a way that meets their needs. For example, if an applicant with a visual impairment applied for a position as transcriptionist, he or she might need the written source material to be printed in a large font size.
Tests that measure aptitude, intelligence, personality traits or psychological profiles may be administered by employers looking to find a skilled worker whose personality would match that of the existing employees. Unfortunately, these types of tests can be problematic. Many job candidates have complained that personality tests are discriminatory toward certain groups, and others have said intrusive questions in psychological tests have crossed the line into illegal territory.
Companies whose employees handle large amounts of cash may be able to justify credit checks in pre-employment screening. Applicants must give written permission for the employer to run these tests. Bank or casino employees are prime candidates for credit checks.
Some pre-employment tests are only allowed for certain types of positions. Here are a few screening tools that are appropriate only in a limited number of industries:
- Background checks: Although many jobs, such as armed guard or casino cashier, might be able to justify a background check, other positions, such as warehouse worker or sanitation staff, have no relation to criminal backgrounds.
- Medical tests: An applicant can be subjected to medical testing only after being hired, and even then the screening is limited to specific job requirements. Medical privacy laws prevent any additional health information from reaching the employer.
- Polygraph tests: Lie detector tests are rarely allowed as pre-employment screening tools. Exceptions would be for health and safety personnel who work with the public.
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