The purpose of a pre-employment evaluation is to provide a consistent measure by which a job candidate is evaluated. The focus is on their suitability for the unique demands of a particular career.
Pre-employment assessments are fairly common in law enforcement and public safety. This is typically one component of several requirements in the overall hiring process. These evaluations should be conducted by a licensed psychologist (or in exempt settings under the supervision of a licensed psychologist), who has specific training and experience in conducting such evaluations. It is imperative that the evaluator has in-depth knowledge of the inherent stress and job responsibilities associated with the particular position. Additionally, the evaluator should have extensive knowledge of law enforcement culture to be able to better conduct a risk assessment.
When conducting these evaluations, I follow the guidelines established by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).
The evaluation process typically includes:
- Review of background history
- Psychological testing
- Semi-structured interview
- Review of records (if applicable)
- Detailed report sent to hiring agency regarding suitability for the position
It is important to note that recommendations regarding suitability are not based on a single source of data. Rather, all of the above are integrated to support the decision.
From the perspective of the job applicant, it is understandable that they may feel nervous regarding the overall process. However, it is important to simply be honest and provide any requested documentation.
These evaluations are conducted when a law enforcement officer or other public safety personnel has displayed signs of an emotional issue impacting their ability to complete their job tasks in a safe and efficient manner. If the behavior does not appear to be a psychological factor, disciplinary procedures should be implemented, instead of a fitness-for-duty evaluation. Some examples of common behaviors prompting a fitness-for-duty evaluation include:
- Chronic lateness/absenteeism
- Excessive sick leave
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Violence/threats of violence
- Alcohol and/or drug related issues/treatment
- Relationship issues, including incidents of domestic violence
- Psychological hospitalization
Typically, personnel are not automatically ordered to undergo a fitness-for-duty evaluation after being exposed to a traumatic event. Generally, personnel should only be referred for an evaluation if they are displaying some type of behavior (such as those listed above) which prompts concern.
Fitness for Duty Evaluations are beneficial to the employer as it reduces liability and allows continued focused on the police department/company. It is imperative that such personnel evaluations be conducted by a psychologist familiar with the specific demands and responsibilities associated with law enforcement.