November 29, 2012

Drug Testing

Drug testing is the last thing you think about when you interview for a job but it is the first test you will take upon receiving an offer. The job market is heating up after a four-year recession. Companies are definitely hiring, and for some candidates, job offers are coming in much sooner than they expected. That’s a good thing, but there can be some speed bumps along the way.

Rare is the job seeker who has not been exposed to recreational or bodybuilding drug use. The FBI had to alter their drug screening policy to be able to hire young agents. To be considered for employment recruits must have no marijuana use for the past 3 years and no other illegal drug use including steroids with in the past 10 years. Even the last three US presidents have admitted occasional drug use in their youth.

In the midst of your college days, it is hard to think about the consequences of your recreational activities. After all, most people in college are young, on their own, and responsible for no one but themselves. But at a certain point, everyone has to grow up and stop engaging in high-risk behaviors. 

Employment prescreening includes drug tests, as well as credit, DMV, and criminal record checks. Breaking a leg snow boarding; getting arrested for drunk driving or texting while driving; or being rejected from a job after testing positive on a drug test are sobering and maturing experiences.

Just because everyone else does it does not mean you should or that you will get away with it. Things have a way of catching up with scuff laws.  Although you are not running for president, you are applying for jobs with companies who want to hire responsible people to represent them in a positive light.

A positive drug test is a deal breaker. No one will hire you after you test positive. The risks are just too high. After you are employed, you can be fired for drug use. No company wants to incur the costs of having a drug user on board and many test their employees randomly.  Same thing with drunk driving and texting while driving.

 It is not just about your performance at work- it is also the risk you pose to projects and the job site. And they also have to worry about the cost of your health care if you are going to endanger yourself.

Even if you are not using drugs, you can get caught in the net. Companies are testing for drug use and they are using increasingly sensitive tests to detect, not only your drug use, but also your exposure to drugs at parties.

I counseled a candidate to reject a fabulous offer from one of the most sought after multinational corporations: Bechtel. He was given an offer and told to go within a day to a local medical lab to submit for a drug test. It happened so fast that his head was spinning. He knew he would not pass the test, but he really wanted the job. I suggested that he didn’t need the stigma attached to a positive drug test.

Here is how it will happen. You think it will be weeks before you are hired. You meet with a company at a job fair, there is a positive connection and you go for an interview. You interview well, and you are given an offer on the spot or in a day or two. All of a sudden, you are in a dilemma. As soon as you accept the offer, you will be required to go for a drug test. You were at a party and you smoked marijuana last weekend, and Bam! It strikes you. You will not be able to pass the drug test.

It is hard to say with certainty how long drugs will remain in your system. A lot of things factor into the positive drug test equation – the type of drug used, the amount used, frequency of use, body fat and metabolism of the user. It also depends on what type of test is administered: urine, saliva, hair, blood, or sweat patch. Residuals from some drugs show up in sophisticated tests months after use.

You should expect to have your urine, your blood and your hair tested. Even if you are not using marijuana yourself, your hair can retain the drug if you are present where it was being smoked.

What should you do right now? Grow up! Stop taking drugs! Stop hanging around people who do! If you drink, do so in moderation, and under no circumstances should you drive, even if you have had only a little alcohol. Stop texting while driving!  These things are all within your ability.

There is no reason to mess around unless you like the idea of being longterm unemployed.  Companies will cut you no slack on stupid behavior that can cause accidents on the road or liability in the office. For an employer assessing whether or not to hire you past behavior is a strong predictor of future activity.  Get caught once and you are in for a whole lot of heartbreak for a long time to come.

If you do have an immediate situation that is going to give you heartache, find a career counselor immediately who will help you troubleshoot the best course of action. There are things you can do before you accept the job offer. Once you have accepted the offer, things move way too fast to salvage the situation.