Will I have to take a drug test?
March 12, 2011 1:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm unemployed and living in Philadelphia. I'd like to get an idea of how likely it is that I will have to pass a drug test in order to get a job.

I am four years out of college and have a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and music composition. My last job was as a marketing manager for a healthcare company and did not require a drug test. I'm currently looking for jobs in the copywriting/editing/marketing/PR fields.

I recently interviewed for a technical writing position through a staffing agency and was told midway through the interview that employment was contingent on passing a drug test. I use marijuana regularly. To the extent that this is possible, I'd like to get an idea of how commonplace drug testing is for the sort of jobs I'm looking at.

Any other suggestions on finding employment in my position would be appreciated as well.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total)
It's common enough that you should probably stop smoking weed for the time being.
posted by something something at 1:32 PM on March 12, 2011 [11 favorites]

In the last two years I haven't heard of anyone who has had a job interview that didn't require a drug test, and I've known lots of people who are on the job hunt.

I agree with something something that you will probably be best off if you quit at least until you get a job (although more and more jobs are doing random drug screening too.)
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:38 PM on March 12, 2011

Here's the question to ask yourself: is this a small business, or is it a large business or in a highly critical field?

I've never been drug tested at a small business, and I know very few people who have been. At large businesses, nearly everybody I know was tested pre-employment and has the threat of continued testing hanging over their head.

So, if I were you, I'd prefer small businesses over large ones. Not that you won't find small businesses that test, but they're far less likely to than large ones.
posted by Netzapper at 1:43 PM on March 12, 2011

Very unlikely in your field, very unlikely in general but I have heard of some companies doing more of this (Sprouts grocery store for some reason). I would stop smoking weed if you are hurting for a job, if you are just floating along then wait for a job that doesn't. Also in particular to your question, while I haven't seen drug testing with many direct hires, staffing agencies seem to do it all the time, maybe avoid them if you can.
posted by boobjob at 1:44 PM on March 12, 2011

You should absolutely count on having to pee for pay. It sucks, it's wrong, it's unfair, but it's reality. You could always switch to something that metabolizes faster, like incredibly addictive and debilitating legal narcotics, crack cocaine, or huffing paint thinner.

It makes me furious that the drug least likely to have any impact on one's work performance is also the one most likely to keep one from getting the job in the first place, because in most states MARIJUANA = HEROIN BECAUSE DRUGS ARE BAD M'KAY?

Gah. I'll get off my soapbox now. Good luck in the job market.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:53 PM on March 12, 2011 [13 favorites]

Small companies tend not to test for drugs; larger ones do.

Most temp agencies usually test for drugs.
posted by dfriedman at 2:06 PM on March 12, 2011

If you're going directly to employers, it's not all that common, but employers are entirely within their rights to impose such screenings, and the labor market is soft enough that most can do it without hurting their applicant pool much.

If you're going through staffing agencies, it's almost unheard of for there not to be such a test.
posted by valkyryn at 2:23 PM on March 12, 2011

One thing to keep in mind is that drug testing is more of a first pass filter than anything else -- are you sufficiently a problem user that you can't stop even knowing that you'll likely be tested.
posted by rr at 2:54 PM on March 12, 2011

Just go to your headshop, buy fake urine and be done with it. Don't dick around with cleaning fluids and another things that don't work.

Also, unless you're very overweight and just sit and smoke bowl after bowl, it is highly unlikely it'll take a month. I would be surprised if you were a heavy smoker, and failed after two weeks of stopping.
posted by geoff. at 3:07 PM on March 12, 2011

Just quit right now. I've successfully past a drug screening three days prior by dilution methods without any problems.

/stoner whos past previous drug screenings
posted by handbanana at 3:10 PM on March 12, 2011

I agree that your main problem here is the going through a staffing agency. I haven't used one that DOESN'T require a drug test. Most professional offices I know do NOT test, so if you are applying directly the chances are probably lower. The exception to this is any office that has a retail component (like working in the HQ of a grocery store), they are more likely to because the procedure is already in place.

Like everyone else says, I'd quit for now. It really is your best option.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:13 PM on March 12, 2011

Apparently my earlier comment was deleted without explanation. Yes, submittor, you're going to have to deal with it. More placement agencies test than do not (by which I mean asking you to sign on a dotted line if not an actual chemical test), especially in your position. STOP TAKING DRUGS for a while until you're hired. Look, I don't care if you smoke pot. I have NO problem with it (and I don't know why my earlier comment was deleted). But if you're looking for a job, yes, stop now. It is more likely than not that you'll be tested.
posted by carlh at 7:07 PM on March 12, 2011

I agree on the staffing agency factor brought up by valkyryn and magnetsphere.

One summer in college, I interned at a company that didn't usually have interns. Since they weren't set up for it in HR, they decided to just have me go through their normal staffing agency as a temp.

Even though I had a pre-agreed contract, wasn't going to be on their rolls afterwards and was vouched-for by the destination company, I still had to go through the drug test for the temp agency. I didn't have to do any of their other tests/interviews/etc, but I did have to pee in a cup. My internship supervisor was a bit dumbfounded, so it definitely wasn't at the company's request.

I've never been tested at any workplace since (all professional positions).
posted by clerestory at 3:54 AM on March 13, 2011

(and I don't know why my earlier comment was deleted)

Because it was pithy rhetorical posturing rather than you actually saying what you mean in a straightforward manner. Your new answer is far better. That said, in-thread is not the place to talk about moderation; if you want to discuss the deletion, write to us at the contact form in the bottom right or bring it up over on Metatalk, but metacommentary needs to stay out of the asker's thread itself. Thank you.

posted by cortex at 7:57 AM on March 13, 2011

Anything through a staffing agency is likely to come with a drug test. Beyond that, it depends on where you're working.

Can you really afford to find a job and then lose it because of a failed drug test? Why not just take a break from smoking until you're employed again?
posted by J. Wilson at 9:56 AM on March 13, 2011

Here is a list of companies that drug test, viewable by state.

I'd like to point out that the question was about how common drug testing is in a certain field. "STOP TAKING DRUGS" is not an answer to that question. None of us knows why the OP uses marijuana.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 12:08 PM on March 13, 2011

Try this?
posted by jitterbug perfume at 12:23 PM on March 16, 2011

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