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What is a Psychological Screening Examination?


Because safety-sensitive employers desire dependable and professional psychological evaluations as an integral part of the applicant hiring process, we thought it best to clarify the accepted terms used by police and public safety psychologists. We hope this information will be helpful as our state public safety entities create guidelines.

Psychological Screening Examination, Psychological Screening EvaluationPre-Employment Psychological Evaluation, Post-Conditional Offer / Post-Offer Psychological Evaluation are all recognized terms used and understood by psychologists specially trained in the field of police and public safety psychology. To non-clinical persons, these terms can become confusing. This is particularly true regardless of the safety-sensitive position since intellect, consistency, absence of predatory behavior, absence of bias, and integrity are all important facets when determining general suitability.

 “Psychological suitability” pertains to competencies, traits, and attitudes, and pre-employment psychological screening evaluations are much more in-depth and focused than simple determination about the absence, or effects, of psychological problems for the particular safety-sensitive position. Carefully conducted pre-employment psychological screening evaluation provides strong probative evidence that the employer has shown due diligence in meeting the duty to investigate a candidate’s psychological suitability (Shaffer & Schmidt, 1999).

Determining the psychological suitability of a safety-sensitive applicant requires “more than psychological testing. It requires that test scores be interpreted in the context of other information gathered from clinical interviews, observations of behavior, reviews of psychological and other relevant records, as well as information provided by third parties” (Peace Officer Psychological Screening Manual, 2018).

The responsible, legal, and ethical use of psychological test instruments is also an important consideration. The test must be used responsibly by the examining psychologist and according to test authors and publishers’ mandates. As examples:

  1. The manual of the MMPI-2-RF, and within months of this document, the MMPI-3, states the following about pre-employment use, “…should always be used in concert with one or more other psychological tests (at least one of which measures normal personality), a clinical interview, and a review of personal history (background) information.”
  2. The Inwald Personality Inventory-2 manual states, “A comprehensive post-offer evaluation should include a battery of other testing instruments and a clinical interview, and when applicable, a background investigation or other protocols deemed appropriate or necessary by the state in which the evaluation is conducted.”

Whether referencing as a psychological screening examination, evaluation, or pre-employment psychological evaluation, competent and defensible psychological assessment of applicants for safety-sensitive positions requires psychologists’ interviews in addition to reviewing all reasonably available historical information and several types of standardized psychological tests.

In 1992 a criminal justice advisory group was formed in North Carolina to define a psychological screening examination, and they agreed there should be:

  • “The two parts of the Commission’s proposal program are (1) testing, and (2) clinical interview. The proposed Commission screening program features REQUIRED testing and reporting, and clinical interviews for all criminal justice applicants” (Planning Committee of the Commission, 1992).
  • Minimum standard for effective psychological screening of criminal justice officers

Comprehensive evaluations of safety-sensitive job applicants are critical steps to ensuring our state and federal employers hire vetted individuals in these positions of authority over fellow citizens. No employer, psychologist, or administrative commission wants to employee indefensible hiring processes or, worse, be seen as abandoning professional psychological guidelines in the hiring process, especially in the current and reasonably foreseeable cultural and legal climates.

The FMRT Group recommends, “listening to the experts in this unique field.” Dr. Warren recommends using Post-Conditional Offer Psychological Evaluation as the term that most accurately captures the professional, legal, and ethical components of a psychological evaluation for use in hiring. This phrase brings clarity to decision-makers about when these should be conducted and takes out words that confuse the general public.

As providers of medical and psychological support to safety-sensitive employers, we welcome your questions and ideas for ensuring that psychological evaluations for applicants in safety-sensitive professions are conducted at the highest level of professional, legal, and ethical competence by psychological providers and employers alike. Done responsibly, this creates the best outcomes for the safety of the public, the employee, the employer, and the jurisdictions served.


Elizabeth Morris, M.A.


Phone: 336-761-0764 ext. 1011

Email: elizabeth@fmrt.org 

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