Survey Shows That Majority of Employers Are Using Criminal Checks, Drug Screenings

By Michael Klazema on 8/8/2017
Most employers are conducting criminal background checks on candidates, and most have implemented drug testing procedures. These findings and others were recorded in a recent Employers Resource Association survey.

The ERA is an organization that provides employers with resources on “HR advice, training, compensation data, legal updates, news, and information.” As the ERA explained, the survey looked broadly at recruiting and hiring processes rather than focusing exclusively on background checks. The most common type of pre-employment check remains the criminal history background check. Per the ERA survey, 91% of employers use background checks as a standard part of their hiring processes.

While background checks have the widest adoption rate among employers, drug tests were not far behind with 72% of all survey respondents reporting that they run drug tests on new hires.

That finding runs counter to a 2015 Washington Post article in which a headline proclaimed, “Companies drug test a lot less than they used to – because it doesn’t really work.” That piece detailed the decline of drug testing in the workplace, citing American Management Association studies to back up its claims. The cited studies illustrated a spike of employment drug testing from the late 80s to the mid-90s. In 1987, only 21% of employers were testing their workers. By 1996, the percentage had jumped to 81%, but it dropped down to 62% by 2004.

A 2011 study from the Society of Human Resources Management aimed to confirm that downward trend, noting that only 57% of survey respondents were running drug tests on their job applicants. If the ERA’s numbers are accurate and representative of the overall business population, drug screening may be on the upward swing once more.

The ERA survey found that less than a quarter of employers were spending time or money on things like personality tests (22%) and credit checks (20%). As coverage has explained, a growing number of cities and states do not allow employers to legally request or check a candidate’s credit history, a fact that some experts link with the drop in employer adoption. Per business owners, the EEOC is picky when it comes to credit checks, pushing back against their use when financial history is not strictly relevant to the job at hand.

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