When is the Best Time in the Hiring Cycle to Perform Physical Abilities Testing?

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 18, 2015 8:00:00 AM / by Deborah Lechner

Interviews, work history, and references don't always make it easy to tell whether or not a person can handle a physically demanding job. And if a mistake gets made, that new hire will be at risk for injury. Even if injuries don't happen, candidates who are poorly matched to the job aren't likely to stick with it, leaving employers looking for yet another replacement in short order. Pre employment Physical Abilities Testing can change all that. So when is the best time in the hiring cycle to have candidates tested to enable better decisions?

The best time to perform pre employment physical abilities testing (PAT) is after a conditional offer of employment has been extended to a candidate. Why? Perhaps the most important reason is regulatory compliance. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), doing your testing before an offer has been made can open your company to the hassles and expense associated with running afoul of federal employment regulations.

How so? Because a safe and effective physical ability test for jobs in strenuous industries will include monitoring of biological factors during testing – heart rate and blood pressure, for instance – that are considered medical tests under the ADA. Medical examinations are forbidden until the post-offer stage of the hiring cycle. In fact, according to ADA guidelines, employers may not even ask questions related to disabilities or medical conditions before a conditional offer of employment has been made.

Another good reason post-offer is the best time to test physical abilities is that it makes sense to reserve the time and resources involved in testing for serious job candidates – people who have already checked out in terms of experience, references, and other screening measures and have made a good impression during the interview process. The most cost-effective way to handle physical ability screening is to make it one of the last hurdles for candidates who have already proven themselves otherwise well-suited for your workplace.

So what happens if candidates found promising enough to move to the post-offer and testing phase fail physical abilities testing? Provided your testing program is designed with regulatory compliance in mind, you can withdraw a conditional offer of employment. To be in compliance with federal, state, and local employment regulations, and therefore legally defensible, your physical ability tests must be job specific, evaluating a candidate's ability to perform the essential functions of the job as determined by a thorough job analysis. Additionally, it is important that testing is done with evidence-based and validated methodologies and is consistently applied, required of all potential new hires for a given position in the post-offer stage. A candidate who fails a test that adheres to those guidelines can be screened out of the hiring process without fear of legal reprisals for your company.

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Topics: Pre Employment Screening

Deborah Lechner

Written by Deborah Lechner

Deborah Lechner, ErgoScience President, combines an extensive research background with 25-plus years of clinical experience. Under her leadership, ErgoScience continues to use the science of work to improve workplace safety, productivity and profitability.