Can you make a job offer contingent on the results of a test?

Answered by Debra Thompson, President, TG & Associates

The recruitment process seems to be fairly time consuming. I understand and believe one should be thorough, but sometimes you see an applicant that you feel you should grab before someone else gets them. What can you shortcut? Can you make a job offer contingent on results of a test?

Your question is a frequent one. It’s our nature to want to cut the hiring process as short as possible when we find a candidate that "looks great." We’re usually in such dire need of their breathing, standing body, that we just want to bring them on board NOW!

As I am sure you already know, the problem is that sometimes this works, but in many cases it doesn’t. Within months, or sometimes only weeks, we realize that they sure aren’t what they said they were. If only we would have investigated a little more.

Therefore, in regards to grabbing a candidate fast, there are only two steps of the hiring process that you can defer until after the offer is made. But it must be clear that the job offer is contingent on the results. Those are the reference and background checks and, when it is appropriate, passing a drug test or getting a security clearance. This doesn’t mean that you skip these steps. It only means that if after you make the job offer and the checks come back with pertinent information that would keep you from hiring this person, then your job offer would be null and void.

The key to ensuring that there will be no surprises on the reference or background checks is to ask the candidate what the references are going to say when you call them. Ask if there is anything in doing the background check that they would like to share with you ahead of time. These questions let the candidate know that you are serious about doing the checks and you are giving them an opportunity to let you know if there might be some issues out there.

If you are interested in having a process to follow for hiring, go to my web site and download a free copy of the Hiring Process Chart that I follow. Please let me know if I can assist you further or if you have any other questions.

Good luck,

Debra Thompson is President of TG & Associates, specializing in Human Resources for the Graphics Industries. She can be reached at 877-842-7762 (toll free) or Visit for FREE Tip Sheets on Managing and Motivating people. Debra is now offering individual HR Forms for printing industry personnel including the New Employee Orientation Checklist at
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