Pre Employment Screening Reduces Post Employment Problems

What Basic Pre-employment Screening Looks Like

You have a small restaurant and want to hire a dishwasher/busboy. You put an ad in the paper and several people apply, but you find a nice college boy who looks perfect and more importantly, he’s affordable. Fast forward a couple of weeks: Everything is going well until he assaults one of your waitresses after closing. You then find out that not only has he never attended college, but he has never worked in a restaurant, has a long history of physical crimes and is a known drug user. While at first glance this may seem improbable, this type of scenario occurs on a regular basis.

Pre Employment Screening Reduces Post Employment Problems

If you are this business owner, you are facing a huge lawsuit. The wrongful hiring claim filed by the waitress will probably put you out of business. This could have been prevented had you completed a basic pre-employment screening. Basic pre-employment screening includes a work-background check, drug testing and a criminal check.

Work-Background Checks

Why do a work background check? Most people remember the case of former Notre Dame coach George O’Leary. O’Leary was hired as the coach of Notre Dame after several successful years as Georgia Tech’s head football coach. Reporters started digging into his background and found out that he lied about having a master’s degree. Notre Dame was forced to fire him within two weeks of hiring him. A pre-employment background check would have caught this issue.

Employers need to make sure the person they think they are hiring is really who they say they are: That he worked where he said he worked when he said he worked there. That he has the degrees and certifications he claims to have. These background checks should be done before the person starts his new job.

Drug Testing

Why do a drug tests? Well, 25% twenty-five percent of all applicants for employment in the United States fail a simple five-panel urine drug test. That’s right, 25%! The five-panel test looks for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines/methamphetamines, opiates, and PCP. There are seven- and nine-panel tests which test for most every drug known to man, and there is also a hair test that catches drugs which may no longer be present in a person’s urine. If you openly advertise that you conduct drug tests pre-employment, a portion of the population won’t even apply for the job, saving you a bunch of time.

There are those candidates who use drugs but employ any number of tactics to mask or hide their drug use. These “beat the test” techniques are known by most drug testing services and have met with little success. It is imperative to make sure the drug-testing company you use is a certified collection location. Most employers are surprised to find that a drug user will go to a testing facility expecting to pass or fool the test. Another reason for drug testing pre-employment is that drug users have been shown to have a higher likelihood of stealing or causing a workplace injury. Either of these would cost your business much more than the cost of an initial drug test. A drug test can usually be administered and scored within 24 to 48 hours so it would not slow down the hiring process for a business that is desperate for help.

Criminal Checks

Lastly, there is the criminal check. The busboy example at the beginning of this article is a real-life situation. His assault of the waitress would have been prevented had a criminal background check been conducted. Businesses doing criminal checks ask on their application whether the candidate has any past crimes and usually look for crimes occurring within the last five to seven years. Some companies have a policy of not hiring former felons but will hire candidates with misdemeanor convictions. The key to a policy in this area is consistency.

If your business hires drivers, some misdemeanors may be important. A DUI case can be pled down from a felony to a misdemeanor. If your company’s policy allows candidates with misdemeanors, you could end up being trapped by your own rules. All three of these pre-screening tools are helpful in preventing an employer from hiring someone who could potentially harm others or your business itself. Be sure to use the right resources when putting these policies into place.

The adage rings true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

(C) 2010 Jerry Ballard, Perfect People Solutions

About the Author

When not golfing, cooking, or fixing his kids’ flat tires, Jerry Ballard is the president and lead consultant at Perfect People Solutions, a cutting-edge consulting firm that provides businesses with creative solutions to their people problems. Feel free to contact him at if you have any questions regarding this or any other people issue. While people aren’t perfect, your people solutions should be.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Yonica Pimentel says

    Great information! It sounds all too familiar, because many small business owners have the tendency to hire individuals who seem harmless. The candidate may not appear to be felons, but they can still leave a company with a huge amount liability and even litigation costs.

    Great post!

  2. Gene says

    A criminal history, background check and drug screen on every dishwasher? Really?! Who is paying for that? My consulting business certainly can’t afford hair testing on every prospect. While I understand what you are trying to say, the dishwasher example really seems to work against your point here.

    I’m a highly-desired IT professional working in the BI space so your mileage may vary, but I have turned down gigs due to drug screening requirements, background checks (if results are not provided to me), and draconian non-compete or IP agreements. Apologies to Lucas but “the more you tighten your fist, the more talent will slip through your fingers.”

    If your business is looking for the best-of-the-best and is not subject to industry legal indemnification or compliance issues I recommend you concentrate on a contract-to-hire approach and make full-time offers based on performance, rather than on bodily fluids.

    many small business owners have the tendency
    to hire individuals who seem harmless.

    As opposed to those that hire the ones that seem dangerous? I don’t understand what you are trying to say here.

    If you are running a business, candidate screening should be a *business* decision based on the threats and risks involved. Think flight traffic controller vs. dishwasher.

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