Pros and Cons of Drug Testing Your Applicants

urine sample container as part of the discussion on the pros and cons of drug testing your applicants

Drug testing your applicants can be an integral part of your company’s hiring process. Pre-employment drug testing is the most common type of testing. There are many benefits to administering a drug test, including workplace safety, the safety of your employees, and complying with laws and regulations. However, drug testing has several potential downsides, such as cost, effectiveness, and adverse effects on a candidate’s experience. Several different types of drugs tests are available to companies, and each one has different time frames and levels of invasiveness. As an employer, you must weigh the pros and cons of drug testing your applicants to decide what route is best for your company. 

Types of Drug Tests

Different types of drug tests can be administered. The most common specimen types are urine, hair, blood, and saliva. Urine is the most common type of test and is mandated for regulated drug tests. Illicit drugs are detectable for about six weeks when tested in urine.

Hair drug tests can detect illicit drugs for up to 90 days. Blood drug testing is also very effective but may only detect illegal drugs up to 72 hours after use. In addition, this type of testing can be costly and invasive. A saliva test, also known as an oral fluid test, is less invasive than other tests but has a short detection period of three days.

Drug tests usually test for methamphetamines, THC, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine, and other substances if an employer prefers. It is up to you as the employer to decide if there is a specific substance you are looking to detect and research which test is best for your company’s needs. 

Pros of Drug Testing

The benefits of drug testing your applicants can vary depending on the workplace; however, the safety of your company and employees should be your top priority. 

Risk Mitigation

Avoiding potential risks when it comes to an applicant should be most important when making any adjustments to your hiring process. For example, applicants who may be required to drive, operate heavy machinery, or work in dangerous conditions, such as a construction site, should potentially be drug tested. Drug testing will keep themselves safe and avoid unnecessary injuries, in addition to keeping other employees safe as well.

Maintaining Safe and Healthy Workplace

Keeping all employees safe and healthy is incredibly important when hiring new employees. Ensuring that all employees can take care of themselves and be the best they can be will allow a workplace to foster a positive, strong company culture. If an individual is unable to do their part as an employee, then they have the potential of letting the rest of their team down. Drug testing applicants can aid in keeping the workplace as positive of an environment as possible. 

Federal and State Regulations and Laws

There are many federal regulations and laws that require drug-free workplaces. Federal contractors, as well as jobs that can pose a safety risk, often require drug testing for applicants, as well as regular drug testing for employees. If your company falls under one of the categories of the companies needed to drug test, it is non-negotiable if your company must test your applicants and employees. 

Cons of Drug Testing

Drug testing can have many downsides. While some of these may not be an issue for your company, it is crucial to be aware.


Drug testing can be very costly, especially when performed on many applicants at one time. The price is something to be aware of, especially for small companies that may not have the funds to order many drug tests for applicants. 

Candidate Experience

While drug testing may be essential for the application process, it always has the potential of negatively affecting a candidate’s experience. In reality, most individuals do not particularly enjoy doing a drug test, whether they are clean or not. Therefore, the candidate’s experience is something to consider when deciding to require drug testing or not for your applicants.  

Slow Down Hiring Process

While drug testing may be a necessary part of your company’s hiring process, it is crucial to keep in mind that it may slow down the speed you can bring in a new employee. If your company is trying to hire and onboard someone in a short period, opting for a drug test that is administered later may be a better option. 

Margin of Error

There is always the potential of a false positive or negative with any medical test. It is important to note that several drug tests may be needed to achieve the most accurate result. While multiple tests may be necessary, they can cost a company excess time and money. Additionally, certain tests have a wide time frame and only let an employer know if an applicant has used a particular substance at some point in this time frame, not if the applicant is a regular user. 

Tips to Remember When Drug Testing Your Applicants

Drug testing your applicants can be a crucial part of your hiring process and can aid your company in staying as safe as possible. However, companies must remember to receive informed consent from applicants and assure them that their information is confidential. Employers should also clearly justify the need for a drug test to their applicants. Additionally, while this is up to the company, an employer can allow an applicant to defend a positive test and allow them to be tested again if necessary. 

Need Help With Your Hiring Process?

Canal HR is your company’s human resources. We can provide drug testing, physicals, and background checks to aid in hiring new employees. Contact us today to learn more about what Canal HR can do for your company.