What is drug testing?

It's pretty normal to be nervous, but in an effort to make it a little less painful for you, here's what to expect from your drug test.

Amy White |
Categories: Applying

The good news: if you've made it to the drug test and you haven't been participating in any illegal activities, you've got the job.

The bad news is: it can be a stressful process even if you've been on your best behavior.

What shows up on drug tests?

Even when people walk nothing but the straight-and-narrow, there is always some fleeting thought about poppy seed bagels and whether Tylenol or Advil shows up on a drug test. It's pretty normal to be nervous, but in an effort to make it a little less painful for you, here's what to expect from your drug test.

When do they drug test?

Depending on when you're offered the job you may be presented with paperwork and testing facility information immediately following your job offer . Should you receive your job offer via phone, the hiring manager may request you come back to the location to pick up your paperwork.

There is usually a narrow window of time in which you'll be able to complete your drug test. Usually it's about 24-48 hours. The window is usually accommodating enough to allow you to re-arrange any plans so you can get to the testing facility, but narrow enough so that anyone who might test positive for illegal drugs can't wait for them to clear their system.

The paperwork

Most testing facilities will require at least one form of identification (usually a photo I.D.) and your testing paperwork given to you by your employer. They just need to verify that you are the person who is supposed to be getting a drug test (that you aren't trying to pull the ol' switcheroo).

Types of drug tests

The three most common types of drug tests used for employment are urine, blood and hair. A urine test is nothing more than what you'd have at a doctor's office. No one watches you, but someone will stand outside the door. After you've completed the test, they will test the temperature (again, trying to avoid the switcheroo). For a blood test, a nurse or medical assistant will take your blood. For a hair test, they will cut a small amount of hair from somewhere on your body. Usually head, but other options are leg hair and armpit hair if you're a head shaver.

The results

Under most circumstances, you won't get the results of the test at the testing facility (but you should already know them). Most specimens have to be sent off to a lab and analyzed, and the results are sent directly to your employer within a few days. From there, the employer will usually follow up with you shortly after that to let you know the results of your test. They typically only see a "pass" or "fail" designation. Specific details aren't usually available, though in some instances results may be "inconclusive." This usually only occurs for urine tests, and means the test is too diluted and must be taken over.