Should You Wait for Drug Test Results?

When hiring a new employee or starting a new job, should you wait for drug test results before moving ahead? Sometimes a company feels the need to start a new employee before the results are back, even though we advise them to wait.

Recently, one of our recruiters submitted a candidate–let’s call him Don–to a client. After the usual string of interviews, the company decided to move ahead and hire Don right away, even though he had not yet undergone drug testing. Don gave his notice at his old job, we facilitated the hire, and Don began working immediately, taking the drug test after he started.

Don had assured us that he himself had not taken any drugs. However, he’d wondered if he’d pass the drug test because a couple of weeks before, he had gone to Las Vegas with friends and had been in the room with them when they did drugs! (That was a BIG red flag, but Don promised that he hadn’t done drugs!) Our recruiter assured him that it would be impossible for him to test positively for drugs unless he’d taken them himself.

Can you guess the end of this story? Yep…Don’s drug test came back positive. Apparently, blood tests can be tricked, so the client used a hair follicle test, which is more accurate and reveals what’s been in a person’s system for quite some time. As you can imagine, the client had to fire Don and start screening new candidates. It’s no surprise that they’d prefer to have a clear-headed, fully contributing employee on their team! Fortunately, every offer letter we write for our clients is always contingent upon the results of drug tests as well as background and reference checks.

For employers, there are two obvious lessons to be learned from this story:

1) Candidates sometimes lie. This makes it all the more crucial to use behavioral interview questions (past behavior is the best predictor of future performance), conduct reference and background checks, and wait to complete the hire until drug test results arrive.

2) It’s worth the wait to hire the right person. The client company in this true story wanted to save time by starting Don right away, but in the end, they not only had to start the hiring process all over, but they lost a week’s time, energy, and money spent starting Don off right in his new but short-lived job.

For candidates, the lessons are even more obvious:

1) Drugs will harm you. If you’re applying for jobs (or even if you’re not), doing drugs only hurts your chances at improving your life. That recreational weekend could cost you your career–not to mention the relationship you just developed with your recruiter. (You can bet that Don won’t be sent out on more interviews any time soon!) Of course, doing drugs puts your entire life at risk for damaged relationships with family and friends, impaired mental and physical health, physical endangerment, and even a criminal record. Why risk it?

2) Drug tests don’t lie, and neither should you. Save everyone time and effort. If you know you’re not going to pass the drug test, please be honest enough to admit it and stop wasting your recruiter’s time–not to mention the time of what could’ve been your future employer. Being truthful up front will also spare you the embarrassment of getting fired and having to ask for your old job back!

Employers, should you wait for drug test results before rushing into a hire? Our experience confirms that it’s worth the wait. There’s always a cost to making a bad hire. Candidates, should you wait for drug test results before starting a new job? It only makes sense–when in doubt, wait it out!

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